Monday, September 22

An email to a colleague about a conversation between Kevin Phillips and Bill Moyers

He is right about many things that he says. In particular in saying both parties are corrupt. Partisans always annoy me. It's all so symbolic. If a Democrat is president people like [an artist we know] and [another artist we know] feel better about the world. It doesn't matter what they do. If a Republican is president people like [an upper middle-class person we know], who cares about taxes more than anything else (because they are not even remotely religious (that's a huge partisan smear BTW)), feel better about the world. It's stupid. Nothing seems any different to me. Nothing seemed different when Clinton was president. Same as it ever was.

We live in an age when opinions matter far more than observations. People hanker after religion. Politics is religion for a lot of people. The problem is that it is a feeble, incomplete and crippled substitute for a real religion. And this is because, as I read someone else say, it does not address the central and primal metaphysical question of death.

But, I also think Kevin Phillips is full of shit. He leaves out a gigantic part of the picture. He is a crypto-nationalist. He hates Wall Street (the men in the pin-stripe suits as he calls them), the financiers. But what he does not acknowledge is that the stunning economic growth in the U.S. and around the world of the past 25 years was engineered by Wall Street (and the other financial centers around the world). Was some of it hot air? Of course! And some people (many ordinary people) do not want the party to come to an end. He is right about all that. But not anywhere near all of this growth was hot air. And he is wrong to insinuate this. Would computers and telecommunications technology be anywhere near as cheap and ubiquitous? Probably not. And it is our global, post-modern and post-industrial financial system that facilitated this transformation. Could the government have done this? Hell no! What a joke. I can not even believe anyone thinks this. Actually I think people who say this want to go back in time to some idealized moment in the past. People like Kevin Phillips want to turn the clock back to 1950. That's what he's getting at with his malarkey. He was a part of the Nixon administration. He's probably pals with Pat Buchanan. Those people have an idiotic nostalgia for the 1950s. It's completely pathetic that the Left in the U.S. is now also talking about how great things were in the 1950s (just look at Thomas Frank). Keep in mind: all this talk is crypto-nationalism. I HATE NATIONALISM in any form. I don't care whether the person is a Leftists or a Rightist. If you ask me allegiance to a state, any state, anywhere in the world is stupid. And nostalgia for a place is just that: nostalgia.

I am willing to bet Kevin Philips also objects to globalization (like Pat Buchanan). But did he mention that? People who object to globalization are ALWAYS nationalistic in their thinking (again, whether they are Left or Right). Fuck that. I'm post-nationalist. I don't care what happens to the U.S. But, that said, I can see with my own eyes that it's the best place in the world. And I'm very lucky to have been born here. And things will have to change way way way more than they have so far for it to stop being the best place to live in the world. The U.S. economy could contract 50% and it would still most likely be the richest country in the world. And if Spenglerian decline takes place (a preoccupation for Europeans for a century now), well, I hope my grandchildren have the sense to move where the opportunity and action is (that is if I have any grandchildren). I can not repeat it too many times but the idea of nation is stupid. If nations continue to exist in the future they should have to compete for people. And in this regard, the U.S. is still the front runner. This is in part because it is more post-nationalist than any other country in the world. People who would be fighting someplace else can live side by side in the U.S. A lot of people seem to have these ridiculous blood/soil thoughts in their head and they will object to what I am saying. The whole world would be a better place if more people moved somewhere else and nipped this empty idea. Would the conflict between Israel and Palestine still be happening? It's entirely about the whole blood/soil thing. And many of the attitudes — on both sides — are Nazi-like. In fact, I tend to think making everyone in that part of the world move somewhere else is just about the only thing that will bring that conflict to an end. Ethnicity (and that blood/soil garbage) is the most bullshit form of identity. It's as meaningful as astrology. Sure, it is fun to play with but is ultimately empty. And it is the true cause of every Nazi or Nazi-like movement in the world — not capitalism like too many fools like to argue. Capitalism does not give a shit about ethnicity or nationality — AT ALL. And this is a good thing. (And by the way, if it sounds like I'm saying the U.S. is a problem-free utopia, well, this is definitely not so. The whole reason I'm voting for Obama is because of the ongoing legacy of one particular thorny U.S. problem.)

As far as the economy is concerned, yes, be prepared for a bad recession. But it will not be the end of the world. And, most likely, the whole world will go into recession. There is some slim hope it will not affect China and India. But I am skeptical of this. I'm personally bracing myself for the shock but I'm not overly worried about it. More than anything I'm curious to see what happens. And besides, there's still opportunities in economic contractions. My grandfather did not believe in the depression of the 30s and he lived through it in New York! He was a working class guy, a plumber. (His wife, my grandmother, was a maid and a housewife.) My grandfather believed that there were always jobs someplace and that you should go where they are. He was not born in the U.S. You just have to keep your wits about you. We may have to work more, save more and be more cautious for a while. Fine. Whatever. All these things happen in cycles. It's not like we haven't been through this before.

The day turns to night. And then the night turns to day. We need both night and day.

I love Erik Satie.

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