American Psychosis

The recent release of a manipulated video to justify the exclusion of a journalist from the press corps provides yet more evidence that we have passed, possibly irretrievably, from a world of facts into a world of delusions, dreams and projection. The inability to distinguish between reality and fabrication suggests the presence of psychosis, whether at an individual level, or as evidenced in collective behaviors such as political rallies.

Now comes filmmaker Amanda Zackem, with excerpts from an interview in which she discusses her recent film with its title descending from an essay by Chris Hedges, who has been identifying critical pathologies within the American body politic for many years. On the big picture:

 

 

On gutting the Humanities within our education system:

 

 

On toxic masculinity:

 

 

The entire film is worth close viewing/listening, and is freely available on vimeo:

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In the essay predating the film, Hedges refers to Dr. Joost Meerloo, in his pioneering research on the psychology of mass mind control, menticide, and brainwashing. Excerpts below, with images added by DP:

 

 

HYPNOPHILIA UNHINGED

 

 

FAT ON CONFUSION

 

 

WAVE OF TERROR WRAPPED IN FLAG

 

 

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Deterrence By Narcissism

This week, we urge consideration of a timely and insightful commentary by historian Timothy Snyder, whose outstanding On Tyranny we featured in a previous post. Two salient excerpts below, with an image from Otto Dix.

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The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”.

The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.

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Naturally, the president denies responsibility when people take him at his word and draw instead from the conspiracy thinking he himself spreads. Trump blames the press for attempts to murder members of the press. He seizes the occasion, as always, to present himself as the true victim. The facts hurt his feelings.

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out.

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The Ultimate Famine

This week, we simply relay an excerpt from a recent keynote address delivered by “commoner” David Bollier at The Land Institute:

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I want to start with a blunt and perhaps jarring statement, that we are embroiled in a deep and serious war – a war against the imagination. This phrase comes from Beat poet Diane di Prima, who wrote:  

The war that matters is the war against the imagination

all other wars are subsumed in it….

the war is the war for the human imagination

and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you

The imagination is not only holy, it is precise

it is not only fierce, it is practical

men die everyday for the lack of it,

it is vast & elegant.

“The ultimate famine,” di Prima warns, “is the starvation of the imagination.”

When an artist-friend shared these lines with me, I realized how profoundly they speak to our times. In today’s world, there seems to be very little room in respectable circles for wide-open dreaming and experimentation, or for stepping off in new directions to explore the unknown. But the realm of the unknown is precisely where we really start to see and live. 

In today’s world there are certain presumptions that serious people aren’t supposed to question, such as the necessity of economic growth and capital accumulation, and the importance of strong consumer demand and expansive private property rights. The more of these we have, the better, we are told.

These dogmas have sucked all the air out of our public life and politics.  Which is one reason that I have come to see the commons as a precious patch of ground — an important staging area for thinking and living our way past the prevailing orthodoxies. The commons is a space from which an insurgency might be launched – indeed, it IS being launched, if you train your eyes to see it. 

In the next few minutes, I’d like to suggest how the commons paradigm can help us develop a new social and cultural vision, and new strategies for practical change. Paradoxically enough, redirecting our attention away from conventional politics and policy may offer the most promising possibilities for developing a transformational vision.  

We’re surely reaching a point of diminishing returns within the existing system. Real change and regeneration are going to require that we jump the tracks somehow. We need to start imagining different ways of being, doing, and knowing – and we need to invent new institutional structures to support such a paradigm shift.

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A video version of Bollier’s entire talk is available by clicking the image below:

 


Last Holiday

Now comes a guest essay by our roaming poet-correspondent Jon Swan, with images added by DP:

An ancient film – it came out in 1950 – called Last Holiday and featuring Alec Guinness, tells the story of a modest farm-equipment salesman who, diagnosed as having a fatal form of cancer, withdraws his life’s savings, buys a set of handsome second-hand clothes and a car, and drives off to spend his last holiday at a posh resort, where he meets and charms influential people, falls in love, and encounters a cancer specialist who assures him that he has been misdiagnosed and has years to live. Overjoyed, our hero hurries back home to prepare for his new life and, swerving to avoid a dog lying in the middle of the road, crashes, and is killed.

Now, here we are – nearly three quarters of a century later and it seems that all those who can afford to travel are hurrying off to spend one last, or next to last, or just one more holiday – in Amsterdam, for example, which was visited by 18 million people in 2016 (a million more than the total population of the Netherlands); or Barcelona (population: 1.7 million), which last year attracted more than 32 million tourists; or the sinking city of Venice (permanent population: 55,000), which annually attracts 20 million milling tourists; and so on. These massive visitations substantiate the observation of German novelist and poet Hans-Magnus Enzensberger: “Tourists destroy what they are looking for by finding it.”

 

WE FOUND THE CANAL!

 

It’s not only the presence of so many people in such little space that creates havoc with local customs and prices, as well as the costly problem of collecting and disposing of waste; it’s the way the hordes are arriving, especially those disgorged by cruise ships.In a recent report, NABU, Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, pointed out that, while cruise ship companies try to make cruising appear an environmentally friendly tourism sector, “one cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as millions of cars.” The press release explained: “This is because sea-going vessels use heavy fuel oil for their engines, a fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Heavy fuel oil can contain up to 3,500 times more sulphur than diesel that is used for land traffic vehicles.”

Furthermore, NABU reported,cruise ships lack the kind of exhaust- abatement technologies that are standard in trucks or passenger cars, and the stuff they spew from their snow-white chimneys – black carbon, in particular — contributes “massively” to global warming. “Almost 50 percent of the warming of the Arctic is attributed to black carbon,” the report points out. Coincidentally, an August 29 Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell noted: “The Arctic has been heating up faster than any other place on the planet. Last winter, temperatures in the Arctic were 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.” The article bore the headline: “The Melting Arctic Is a Real-Time Horror Story — Why Doesn’t Anyone Care?”

 

CRYSTAL SERENITY ON ICE

 

While the cruise ships befoul the air at one level, the airplanes that ferry the well-to-do to their vacationland dreams are laying down layers of global-warming C02 in the skies above. In July 2017 The New York Times published an article by Tatiana Schlossberg that bore the headline Flying is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better and that starts off by stating:  “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.” According to some estimates, Schlossberg notes, “about 20,000 planes are in use around the world, serving three billion passengers annually. By 2040, more than 50,000 planes could be in service.” Meanwhile, perversely if not irrationally, to encourage “brand loyalty,” airlines reward frequent fliers with so-called free miles.

On July 5 of this year Medium, an on-line platform, published an article by Douglas Rushkoff, a highly regarded media theorist, which bore the headline Survival of the Richest, with the subhead stating The Wealthy Are Planning to Leave Us Behind. It was promptly picked up by The Guardian, which ran the piece under the headline How Tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse. The article describes the author’s surprise at being invited, for a hefty fee, not to give a talk but to take part in a series of one-on-one meetings with hedge-fund millionaires anxious to know, for instance, which region will be safest during the coming climate crisis, or how do I maintain authority over my security force after The Event – this being their euphemism for environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, and so on.  Aware that they would need armed guards to protect their compounds, they wanted to know how would they pay the guards once money was worthless.

They were, Rushkoff writes, “preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with … insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.”

 

SURVIVAL SUPPOSITORY

 

Both those wealthy enough to cruise or fly in pursuit of happiness and the super-rich are, in all likelihood, not unaware of the diagnosis for our survival as a species on planet Earth – doomed unless we radically alter our priorities, including reducing our dependence on fossil fuels — but appear unable to break the habits that have become symbolic of affluence and proof of our standing in society, or are just part of doing business as usual. We have been everywhere, and now look where we are – our foot on the pedal, going faster and faster, unable – unwilling — to swerve in time to avoid the smash-up of our civilization, not to mention the demise of our reckless species.

 

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How Fascism Works

This past week saw the injection of even more toxins into the already stressed American body politic. At a recent campaign rally, the cheerleader-in-chief made the wild claim that insurgent Democrats (led by dangerous extremist Taylor Swift) were planning on implementing an economic plan similar to that of Venezuela. Then yesterday, going one step farther, two Arizona Republican staffers tried to bait a local Democrat’s campaign into receiving a contribution from “communists”.

Such rhetoric and actions are taken straight from the Fascist playbook, as described in an illuminating October 5 interview with Yale professor Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works. The image is from John Heartfield.

 

 

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HAVE NO FEAR – HE IS VEGETARIAN

 

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Also yesterday, speaking on Democracy Now, Stanley listed what he identified as the Ten Pillars of Fascism:

[N]umber one, a mythic past, a great mythic past which the leader harkens back.

Number two, propaganda. There’s a certain kind of fascist propaganda where everything is inverted. The news is the fake news. Anti-corruption is corruption.

So, three, anti-intellectualism. As Steve Bannon said, it’s emotion—rage gets people to the polls. We got elected on “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!” 

Number four, unreality. You have to smash truth. So, reason gets replaced by conspiracy theories. 

Hierarchy. In fascist politics, the dominant group is better than everyone else. They were like the loyal—the great people in the past who deserve respect just for being them.

Victimhood. In fascism, the dominant group are the greatest victims. The men are the greatest victims of encroaching feminism. Whites are the greatest victims of blacks. Germans are the greatest victims of Jews.

Law and order. What are they victims of? They’re victims of the out group, who are criminals. What kind of criminals are they? They’re rapists. Sexual anxiety.

Pillar nine is Sodom and Gomorrah. The real values come from the heartland. The people in the city are decadent.

And pillar ten is ”Arbeit macht frei“—work shall make you free. The out group is lazy. They’re not just criminals; they’re lazy. And social Darwinism. It’s all about winning.

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Once all ten pillars are in place, we are ready for the latent core architecture to become fully manifest:

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MAGABOX

 

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A Wild Sovereignty

On a day when large numbers of people appear to celebrate, endorse and reward malignant narcissism, we turn to the laudably contrarian pages of Emergence Magazine, with excerpts from an essay by Kara Moses, written after an immersion in the last surviving forest wilderness in Europe, Białowieża.

 

 

 

 

 

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Answers to what ails us cannot be found within the human community, and surely not among the delusions and deceptions of the anointed ruling elites; yet elsewhere, among the remnants of the wild, if we can find the courage to listen, observe and be still, we might find some other path through the infinite woundscape of the anthropogenic affliction.

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Something Deeper

During a week that has starkly exposed the ethical and spiritual crisis of our times, and as we continue to consider the implications of fresh data confirming the accelerating death spiral of anthropogenic climate breakdown, let us bend our ears to the soulful voice of Terry Tempest Williams, presently Writer in Residence at the Harvard Divinity School.

Below, excerpts from a recent interview, with images from Bear Ears country.

 

 

 

 

 

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DP commends Harvard Divinity School for taking the lead on forthrightly and compassionately engaging with the deep ethical and spiritual crisis that threatens to envelop us, as human supremacism comes up against its own inherent limits, and as toxic neoliberalism begins to cannibalize itself, having exsanguinated, commodified, consumed and evacuated everything else.

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Absence and Emptiness

This week, we note the death of fellow desperado philosopher Paul Virilio. Below, a montage of excerpts from a 2012 interview, bristling with ideas that have become ever more urgently relevant, as the world careens into dark spirals of toxic algos and avatars.

The images are details pinged from the extraordinary gunpowder paintings of Cai Guo-Qiang, featured at a recent exhibition at the Prado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virilio writes in Open Sky that one day the day will come when the day will not come; that day has come for him, in this fleeting iteration. May his ideass reverberate through the cosmos, jamming the fear.

 

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Child Of That Hour

Today, as Florence makes landfall and releases her vast quantities of water, we offer a poem by Conrad Aiken, Hatteras Calling.

Cape Hatteras defines a southerly coastline for Hatteras Island, among the barrier islands of the so-called Outer Banks and in the path of over one hundred hurricanes during the past century and a half. In August 1889, a surgeon named William Aiken and his very pregnant wife embarked on a voyage along the North Carolina coast. One account reads as follows:

Their ship was caught in a hurricane, floundering against the rocky shore off Cape Hatteras, and William and Anna were handed to safety with the air of a human chain formed by the crew only a short time before a wave washed away the deckhouse where their cabin was located. But Anna suffered no ill effects, and she and her husband reached their new home . There on August 5, 1899, their first child was born . ”

A child they named Conrad, who in 1942 would write the following lines:

 

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On the Brink of Biocide

Now comes law professor Fania Davis, with excerpts from prescient remarks delivered at the 10th Annual Howard Thurman Convocation in San Francisco, way back in 2005. Is it not high time to hear her words with fresh ears?

Images are from an intermedia installation titled Flow: Web of Interconnection, created by Beth Racette and Barbara Westfall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That perilous future has arrived.

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