Archive for April, 2007

Probability of one

April 21, 2007

I’m well aware that there are some conversation stoppers. Mention God or the Bible in mixed company and prepare for the apocalypse. And then there’s the law that states, as an Internet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. I read here, about Yann Martel’s site and for me, this discussion has gone on long enough. Really, when the Reform Party Government is handing out huge monetary amounts to Quebec, all that’s left is the charge of power for power’s sake.

In their introduction to First Drafts J.L.Granatstein and Norman Hillmer end the first paragraph with the words of journalist Matthew Halton, “Watch out for the first signs of fascism in your own country and operate on them quickly, because in spite of their seductive exterior virility, they are signs of decay, they are signs that we are despairing of reason, despairing of our fine dreams of a sane world.” Halton was writing in 1933 and the introduction was written in Canada July 1, 2002.

But what are the signs of fascism?

Also I just finished reading Critique of Cynical Reason, (Volume 40 of the University of Minnesota Press’ Theory and History of Literature series (I only mention this because, while this is completely political, it’s also pure literature!)) Sloterdijk writes in the conclusion,

Hence, if in modernity, worldly and self-experience converge in spite of all sundering, they do so under the condition that the struggles of self-preservation of privatized subjective reason inwardly as well as outwardly, psychologically as well as technologically, in the intimate domain as well as in political spheres, have generated the same iciness, the same polemical, strategic subjectivisms, and the same quick-footed denial of high-cultural ethical ideals.

On page 544, in the conclusion, this sentence is packed with meaning, but you can read the modernity in this sentence as the same that spawned Hitler’s rise to power.

So is Harper on the road to Hitler? Those are some pretty big boots to fill. If you are on Harper’s side, the absence of gas chambers is proof enough that your man isn’t evil incarnate. The charge borders on ridiculous. Have you seen Bush’s name written on walls with a swastika where the “s” should be? And if you were in Ontario during the 90s, Harris (another conservative leader) was often shouted down as “just like …”. Harris did a good job of messing things up. I’d blame his policy on welfare for the increase in homelessness across Canada. Harris will take Conservative policy further if he gets the chance. Harper does model himself on Bush, who has become a mass murderer. The military, law and order, and ethics are Harper’s trilogy. Maybe it’d be more fair to compare him to Mussolini?

Either way he’s propped up by voters who believe that the Bible is “the history of the world as we know it, and how we will know it.” These are people who want authority. They want to be led. In Escape From Freedom the character type is describe convincingly by Erich Fromm, who himself fled Nazi Germany. (Fromm also heavily influenced Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason.)

Any dog knows to get nervous when the master starts rolling up a newspaper. And when I see Harper calculating to consolidate power I get anxious. Fascism is a spectre haunting all the people of the world, and whenever power gets mean people start screaming. The Harper Reform/Conservative government is mean. Cutting money from women’s groups, while giving tax cuts to families is calculated meanness. Refusing to apologize for residential schools while spending money on Quebec is calculated meanness. If this government wins a majority, the calculation is gone. There will be meanness in broad daylight.

Please vote for anyone but the Conservatives in the next election. (That’s all I’ve got.)

Critique of Cynical Reason: First impressions

April 7, 2007

“If science too has to earn its daily bread, then at least part of it discovers the coming war as employer.”(Critique of Cynical Reason p.334)

Norman Alcock (1918-2007) was one of those scientists who earned his daily bread working on the coming war. A recent obituary in The Globe and Mail (April 6, 2007) describes his mid-life switch to peace research. He said three years ago, “In 1945, with the atomic bomb, everything changed. You could no longer defend a country. Suddenly the world was turned upside down. It wasn’t possible to defend a country, a city, a region at all. It should have ended war.” He goes on to say rational people would have seen to the end of war, but politicians didn’t get it.

If he’d continued to work on the war machine he’d have continued to make money, but from 1958 the peace researcher slowly went broke. Today there appears to be a lucrative war on. But I’m jumping ahead… What’s interesting is not that war continues to be a hot commodity, but the changes in attitude toward peace-talkers. When Alcock began his vocation in 1961 he was regarded as a commie, the RCMP interviewed his neighbours, but during the protest of the Vietnam War, the perception changed. The recent Lennon biopic shows a glamourous subversiveness in the peace movement. But what? Since Lennon was shot, are we over war?

Reading the Critique of Cynical Reason, which was written in the ten years leading up to its publication in 1983, I’m struck by how we’ve collectively dropped the bomb culture. Remember Prince singing everyone’s got a bomb we could all die any day? Or Ronnie, talk to Russia? (He’s still at it.) Ok, maybe he is still at it. So is it just me? Was it simply because I was so young that I sensed a collective dread? Was it only personal dread? No, I had friends then and they knew what was a pushed button away.

Today things are no better. All those weapons still exist. The U.S. government is far from stable. The Russians are far from stable. And today there are a number of other unstable states with massively destructive weapons capability. But that isn’t our only fear. Anything becomes a weapon in our schools, subways, hospitals anywhere, anytime. Only our consciousness has changed. Our collective consciousness has shifted toward Britney’s pussy.

Watching Larry King Live without Larry King. Meet the man Jennifer Aniston sued and Cher’s boyfriend tried to run over. Do the paparazzi go too far? The hilarious Jimmy Kimmel makes sense of it all. Talking head after talking head says we’ve gone celebrity crazy. Is this what our time’s criers call decadence? In this time, with a war on? Sure it’s all American, but our rapidly Americanizing county is getting shot up in Afghanistan all the same.

Where’s our consciousness of at least the possibility of total global war? Are we too worried about Global warming to feel anything else? Did Gore touch the effects of war in his inconvenient truth? I’d bet an analysis of the effects of war on the environment would be damning. Justin Timberlake is singing about an affair with Scarlett Johansson. He’s upset about her sleeping around, while everyone’s got a bomb we could all die anyday…

My first impression of Critique of Cynical Reason is of a very recent time wiped from memory. The Berlin Wall was still up when Sloterdijk wrote this, and the USSR, propped up by the Cold War, commanded an impressive and frightening military. Sloterdijk was filled with the terror when he wrote about a tendency to will our own destruction.

Who’s your daddy?