Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Don't Mess with a Man's Spinach

Although no proof has yet been offered, I am convinced that al-Qaeda is behind the recent attack on the nation's spinach supply. If I am proved right, this will confirm my thesis that al-Qaeda is truly waging a war against American liberals. Think about it. Did the terrorists deliberately attack and poison America's storehouse of spare ribs? Our stockpiles of Twinkies? Our reserves of cheetos, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, or bratwurst? They did not. No, they attacked our spinach. And that, my friends, is war. You don't mess with a man's spinach. You don't cavalierly screw around with veggies. You keep your dirty B-rab fists out of my salad! Do you hear me, Osama? You'd better listen. Because you may have evaded the marines, but you damn well won't get away from Popeye.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Your Local al-Qaeda: Deaniacs?

Conservatives often make the claim that messages broadcasted by al-Qaeda bear a resemblance to statements made by well-known American liberals and Democrats, thus not so subtly suggesting that Democrats are supporters of or sympathizers with terrorists. I would like to respond to this by pointing out some obvious deficiencies in this argument. First of all, Osama bin Laden and his global network of mass murderers are not exactly liberals. Does Osama drive a Prius? Listen to Moby on his I-Pod? Is he sitting in his cave, surfing dailykos while he waits for his turban to come back from the dry-cleaner? Isn't this the same outfit that was hosted by the Taliban, that takes its ideology from the fanatical Wahabbist sect of Islam? Politically and culturally speaking, the terrorists would seem to be, to put it mildly, highly conservative. If this fact does not seem immediately intuitive, it only goes to show the effectiveness of the Republican propaganda since 9/11 which has subliminally implanted the notion that the terrorists are liberals who hate us because we are so conservative. In fact it is just the opposite. The terrorists are conservatives who hate us because we as a nation are too liberal. In other words, if we ban gay marriage, the terrorists will have already won. Piss off a terrorist, have another latte. They would like nothing more than to kill not just Americans, but liberal Americans. Note for the historical record that the terrorists didn't attack freaking Alabama, they attacked Manhattan and Washington D.C. They wanted to kill as many liberals as possible. 9/11 was an attack against the bluest of states. Why didn't bin Laden attack the red states? Because he's crafty. He knows how dumb your average redneck is. He wants to keep as many of those Americans alive as possible. Those educated, urban elites? They're the ones he wants to get rid of. I find it puzzling that Ann Coulter is constantly ranting about wanting to kill various people she doesn't like, such as Jack Murtha, Justice John Paul Stevens, and the entire staff of the New York Times, yet she hates the terrorists for trying to do the exact same thing. Wait a second, couldn't they team up on this? I'm sure that bin Laden would love to behead a few liberals, and Coulter could hand him the knife. I mean, couldn't we at least agree that some conservatives are definitely terrorists, like Jerry Falwell? Surely Falwell hates America almost as much as bin Laden does, and for the same reasons. And if Osama is reading this right now? Then he's got his talking points for today.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How You Can Help If You Are a Philosopher

I would hardly presume to tell philosophers how to do their job. However it does seem to me that given the present state of affairs in this country that we can use all the help we can get, and it may be time to at least consider how philosophers could be of some use. To begin with, it seems that philosophers are at least partly responsible for our present condition. In fact I would like to make the claim that the present crisis in America is to a certain extent a failure of philosophy. We live at a time in which post-modernism has become the dominant language of the ruling class. And it is not simply a benevolent elite, but a power-hungry cabal on an apparent arc towards tyranny. This fact ought to raise serious questions about the effectiveness of post-modernism in establishing a cultural standard of discourse. If anything, post-modernism has had a chilling effect on discourse, whose low ebb has been marked simultaneously by the erosion of traditionally democratic institutions, the emergence of rival institutions so remarkably shallow as to invite the spectre of nihlism to the kitchen table, and the rise of a new ruling class with apparently unlimited designs on power. If the task of philosophy is to clarify concepts, dispel errors, and foster the sciences as reservoirs of public knowledge, then post-modernism has certainly failed on all fronts. What is needed are new and more public committments to truth, a robust ethics which challenges the logic of capitalism, and an aesthetics which rejects the wallowing of post-modernism in popular culture. How can philosophers help with this present crisis? They could start by sweeping the floor.

Aporia Ahead

In an interview on NPR, the other day, historian Howard Zinn made the interesting point that war is an impractical and ineffective solution to contemporary political problems. War has become too expensive, too unwieldy, too violent, and too unpredictable to justify the risk of waging it. This is why all of America's wars since the end of World War II have failed not only from a humanitarian perspective but from a practical perspective as well. None of them has achieved their intended effect. Instead, they have only made things worse. I suppose this may be why some have called for a change in strategy, that the war on terror, for instance, should be a smarter, smaller, and more opportunistic kind of war than the full-scale conflicts of previous generations. It seems obvious, however, that this has not been pursued because it simply fails to fulfill the appetite for war which is nearly always war's primary motivation. Small-scale operations to nab foreign terrorists or neutralize plots doesn't conjure the necessary grandeur of, say, shock and awe. If it's a demonstration of military might that we're after, this won't do. Nor does it get the money flowing in the right direction, because along with good old fashioned blood lust there is no drive to war apart from its potential as a business investment. This has been true of all the American wars since the end of WWII. Are we safer or better off for having fought any of them? Were we ever directly threatened by any of these so-called enemy states? War as an economic strategy is indispensable to American-style capitalism. Put differently, it is the foundation of our way of life. Without war, we could not continue to live as we do. (I believe many conservatives would agree with me on this point.) We are a war-making people, and increasingly, war is our business. I believe that the present ruling elite imagine a future in which America has cornered the market, as it were, on war, a future in which our primary export becomes war, in which our entire economic and political life is defined by our capacity to wage war. We are rapidly becoming addicted to war. To that end, much research is currently being devoted into the future of war-making. New types of violence are currently under construction the likes of which we cannot presently imagine. The future promises to contain a great deal of violence inflicted by America on the rest of the world. Unfortunately for us, this future presages an America in a constant state of insecurity, suspicion, and alarm. Extreme violence against Americans is likely to become a commonplace in the near future, and we will all have to live with it as best we can. All of this is being brought about by American policies towards the rest of the world, which is to say, by our way of life. Terrorism is a particularly evil consequence of our actions, as depraved as it is predictable. It is simply the violence we are exporting to the world, being imported back to us. Parts of the world really do look like Manhattan did on that September day five years ago as a direct result of American policy. Each of us support those policies in specific ways. Please do not misunderstand me. Terrorism, in all of its forms, really is the great evil of the modern world, and I am not ignorant of its dangers. It is a fact which I find tremendously difficult to accept, because it is the future of my country, my family, and my own life which I find to be at stake. It is a matter of intense personal concern. This is why I find it to be so ironic that everyone nowadays speaks of war as being not desirable but only necessary. We have no choice but to wage war, I hear all the time. In response I would say that this is not a war we can win. The metrics are all against us. To continue down the path of the Bush Doctrine is to wage a war of America and a handful of allies against the rest of the world. If we fight that war, we will lose our country. Do we have a choice to wage war or not? Of course we do. The matter in which we truly have no choice is to go on living as we are now. This way of life will come to an end in the near future. It cannot be sustained. The choice is between waging an agonizing struggle against the rest of the world with consequences so severe as to be unimaginable, or to begin to change the way we live. We must cease exporting violence to the world. But that means giving up our way of life, capitalism in the way we presently conceive of it. It means giving up our insane quest to monopolize the world's resources, to dominate the world's economic and financial systems, to overwhelm and obliterate local cultures with the influence of mass media and commercialized propaganda. Not only is it not possible for everyone in the world to live like an American, but it is not even possible for Americans to go on living like Americans. It is an unjust, opportunistic, malicious and blindingly short-sighted way of life. It is slow suicide. It means death for many innocents in foreign countries and now, post 9/11, it means death for ourselves as well. I take comfort in the fact that America has such a strong surplus of moral strength, ingenuity, and sheer bravado that our ability to meet the challenge is nowhere near exhaustion. There is so much to love about this country, and that too is reflected in the peoples of the world who have mostly given us the benefit of the doubt (Not even the French really hate America, because come on, who could?) But this is the challenge, and it is enormous, too big for one generation to accomplish. The struggle is not really with outsiders who seek to do us harm as it is with ourselves and our place in the world community. It is nothing less than deciding what kind of country we are going to be. Perhaps America is only now going through something like a national adolescence, and this present challenge will be our coming of age. Then I hope we will grow up wisely and well, so that we can look back in tranquility on these troubled times.