cornel_west2

Cornel West on The Obama Presidency

From an interview in Salon with Cornel West:

“No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free.

And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life.

You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility. That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln. And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. …

I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything.

I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep.”

Full interview (image from the article) http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/

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This Is The Police State

A cop writes an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying:

“here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

A commenter on Metafilter responds:

“No. Absolutely not. I refuse to recognize the legitimacy of any police force that says this. My rights aren’t niceties too delicate for the real world. The right of the citizens of Ferguson to assemble is not something the police or anyone else has the authority to revoke arbitrarily, either.

But this is the conventional wisdom right now, and it’s deeply, irreparably pathological. This is antithetical to a free society, it’s morally indefensible, and as we know, even complete, humiliating submission to a thug with a badge doesn’t guarantee a goddamn thing about my safety, or yours, or anyone’s.

The police in America have always brutalized Black people and non-Whites disproportionately, and they’ve always brutalized some White people. But since the federal military surplus program started in the 90′s, and especially after 9/11, they’ve become ever more paranoid, violent, lawless, and have replaced their imperative to serve and protect citizens with a mission to viciously stamp out any and all perceived disobedience, no matter how unthreatening or justified it may be, to state authority. This is the mentality of the authoritarian state. This is the police state. We can stop dreading its arrival because it’s here. Now let’s do something about it.”

http://www.metafilter.com/142029/Escalating-Tensions-in-Ferguson-Missouri#5693518

Photo from an ABC News story on the Ferguson shooting http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-deploy-tear-gas-impose-ferguson-curfew-25011848

cicero-race-riots

The Cicero Race Riot of 1951

From Metafilter:

“White people would be, and have gotten, furious and have rioted over much smaller things. Isabel Wilkerson writes about the Cicero Race Riot of 1951 in her book The Warmth of Other Suns. This occurred when this young black couple tried to move to Cicero, IL, a Chicago suburb. 

4,000 whites attacked the building that the couple, the Clarks, were moving into. The 60 police officers sent to control the situation did not do so. In fact the police chief told the Clarks “You should know better. Get out of here fast. There will be no moving into that building”.

The rioters threw rocks, destroyed the building, set fire to it. Firefighters called to the scene were met with bricks and stones by the mob. The Illinois National Guard moved in, and rioters fought with them. This went on for 3 days after $20,000 (in 1951 money) was done to the building. Cruelly, the rioters threw a piano, which Mr. Clark had save for for years for his kids, out the window, destroying it. 

The riot was front-page news in Asia and attracted worldwide attention. The Cook County grand jury did not indict a single rioter. Incredibly, the Clark’s attorney from the NAACP, the owners of the building, and the rental agent, were indicted on charges of inciting a riot and conspiracy to damage property (though the charges were dropped after widespread criticism).”

http://www.metafilter.com/142108/the-constant-traffic-of-foreign-objects-through-this-womans-body#5698098

Image is a screen cap from The Sunday Herald http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1066315?zoomLevel=1

irish-abortion-protest

Irish Hypocrisy on Abortion

“I love Ireland. I really do. But fuck this shit. This shit makes me so angry.

So here’s the thing. If you are a middle-class woman in Ireland, you can get an abortion without any problem. You tell everyone you’re going to London for the weekend to do some shopping or whatever, you fly to Stansted, you have your abortion, and you fly back home. Even if you’re not middle-class, you can probably find a way to afford it: it’s 40 euro round-trip on Ryanair, and the abortion itself is free. It’s a perfect Irish solution to an Irish problem: Irish people get to feel good about the fact that no sinful abortions are being performed on their soil, but everyone who matters still has access to abortion. The only people who can’t get abortions are people who don’t matter anyway: refugees, foreigners, kids in state care, that kind of person. Basically, what this is about is that Irish people are willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable women in their communities so that they can feel pure and virtuous without sacrificing anything themselves. It’s vile and it’s hypocritical and it makes me incoherent with rage.”

From a thread about the forced c-section of a rape victim http://www.metafilter.com/142108/the-constant-traffic-of-foreign-objects-through-this-womans-body#5698027

Photo from coverage of the protests in Ireland

https://twitter.com/oconnellhugh/status/502138055596453888/

Hannah Goff on Body Autonomy

From a Metafilter thread:

“There is a concept called body autonomy. Its generally considered a human right. Bodily autonomy means a person has control over who or what uses their body, for what, and for how long. Its why you can’t be forced to donate blood, tissue, or organs. Even if you are dead. Even if you’d save or improve 20 lives. It’s why someone can’t touch you, have sex with you, or use your body in any way without your continuous consent.

A fetus is using someone’s body parts. Therefore under bodily autonomy, it is there by permission, not by right. It needs a persons continuous consent. If they deny and withdraw their consent, the pregnant person has the right to remove them from that moment. A fetus is equal in this regard because if I need someone else’s body parts to live, they can also legally deny me their use.

By saying a fetus has a right to someone’s body parts until it’s born, despite the pregnant person’s wishes, you are doing two things.

1. Granting a fetus more rights to other people’s bodies than any born person.
2. Awarding a pregnant person less rights to their body than a corpse.

Hannah Goff quoted http://www.metafilter.com/142108/the-constant-traffic-of-foreign-objects-through-this-womans-body#5698023

Pennywise

Why Clowns Are Scary

From Metafilter:

“In all seriousness, though, there’s something elementally unnerving about the sort of unrestrained jouissance that clowns represent. I’m not quite willing to say it’s universal, but we go way out of our way to set limits to enjoyment, pleasure, happiness, joy—and you don’t have to agree with me, but this doesn’t strike me as absurd. Every primal force is terrible. At some point silliness and happiness and fun and joy start to transgress itself and display its horror: the snake eats its own tail.

I mean, we hardly know much at all about the Bacchic and Dionysian ecstatic rituals because the first rule about Pleasure Club is that we will fucking kill you if you talk about Pleasure club. A corpse’s rictus grin; la petite mort of orgasm, especially autoasphixiation, where the link between death the pleasure of sex could not be more apparent; DFW’s entertainment so powerful it kills you in Infinite Jest; overdose as outcome of pleasure-seeking; Christ’s suffering on the cross as the representation of God’s love for humankind. And didn’t I read somewhere that disorders that evoke near-constant orgasms are nigh unto unbearable.

I couldn’t say when clowns in particular came to be creepy, but it does seem to me that the link between the pleasurable (the fun) and the terrible has been around a long, long time. So it seems to me only natural that our culture’s archetypal evocation of The Fun should also lend itself to an enantiodromia wherein The Fun gnaws away at itself and shows The Fear within.”

Full thread http://www.metafilter.com/141576/They-Float-and-when-youre-down-here-with-me-YOU-FLOAT-TOO#5666808

Beowulf_Cotton_MS_Vitellius_A_XV_f._132r

How Christian Monks Saved Beowulf

A PhD student in early medieval Old English sounds off:

“[E]ven a lazy reading of Beowulf will show it’s a thoroughly Christian text; it’s also a text firmly in touch with its “pagan” past, since much of Old English poetic convention relied on a tradition that was far older than Christianization… This wasn’t just metrical or linguistic convention; the poetic tropes of Old English poetry generally derive from the hero/warrior/hall-culture ethos, one which there is every reason to suspect was dead as a doornail, certainly by the time the manuscript copy of Beowulf that we have was written; probably also by the time Beowulf was composed…

This convention was so embedded in the culture it distorted how Christianity was portrayed: Christ.. or the Israelites in Exodus, are not portrayed as possessing Christian humility or passively enduring what befalls them; they are invariably recast in warrior-language, as heroes, as going forth with courage and determination to do the things that they have to do. In fact, it can be downright dissonant … Jesus getting nailed to the cross–possibly a supremely submissive act, depending on your perspective–but in terms which unquestionably render him the active agent in that scene. It’s a fascinating look at how the two different perspectives combine in a form of cultural expression amenable to both–but not, you would think, at the same time.

Beowulf is interesting because it’s only about that pagan Germanic past, and the person who wrote it was obviously aware that the characters in this poem have a problem–they are not Christian, and therefore, they are not saved; that problem, and how the poet resolves it (or tries to deal with it, at least) can and has inspired more than one book on the subject; moreover, there is good indication (some of it archeological) that Beowulf is based on a much, much older story. Upon finding this ancient story, the monks (and they were almost certainly monks, because monks were the vast majority of scribes in early medieval England) did not, as you might have them do, throw away this “pagan” nonsense; they recopied it carefully, and it is thanks to their hard work that we can enjoy that poem today.

And all other secular Anglo-Saxon literature–monk scribes are responsible for nearly all the attested Old English we have today; they are almost certainly responsible for all the extant copies of Old English literature that were not made in the modern era. This includes very non-Christian works: riddles (some very rude), Wulf and Eadwacer (a short, chilling poem, and possibly the best in the whole corpus), The Wife’s Lament, etc., etc. And it was Christians in Iceland, like Snorri Sturluson, who copied down Old Norse mythology so that later generations could have it–almost all of what we have of Old Norse people writing on the Old Norse religion comes from Sturluson–and explicitly so that Christian poets, who weren’t raised up with the old myths, could continue to compose the complex, difficult skaldic verses that required knowing who Loki and Odin and Thor were, or who Andvari was, or the name of the serpent gnawing at the root of the World Tree. It was probably a Christian who gave us the even older Poetic Edda–because it was Christians who preserved the culture, who wrote things down.

Though the Runic alphabet was known to them, it was used, it seems, mostly for inscriptions on artifacts or charms; it was not part of a literary tradition. That was oral; it was only Christianity, with its emphasis on literature (and one book in particular) that imported a true literary tradition to the Germanic North; without Christianity, no Germanic literature would survive to the present day–and maybe precious little ancient literature (since most of what we have today was continuously recopied in monastic scriptoria throughout the Middle Ages–yes, even “pagan” texts which had nothing to do with God or Jesus).

… The real tragedy is the Dissolution of the Monasteries; if you want to be pissed at anyone, blame old Harry, because it was in the dissolution that ancient monastic libraries were sold off or outright destroyed (vellum, used to make manuscripts, was labor-intensive and valuable, so there was incentive to recycle these old books; but there are also accounts of manuscripts taken from libraries simply being burned, used as leather scraps, or as toilet paper). Thus, out of hundreds of years of ancient Old English poetic traditions, we have only four books–just four–which preserve any kind of substantial material (but we’re doing better than Old High German, which only has two poems in the ancient heroic style, one of which are scraps of a longer poem which exists in Old English translation). What literary prose we have is mostly translation. To be sure, manuscripts were often recycled, and very old ones that could not be salvaged torn up to use as binding material; after a certain point, doubtlessly, nobody could read these strange old books that used weird letters anymore. I do not think that without something like the Dissolution, the full treasure trove of Old English would have survived–but the reasons it didn’t have nothing to do with the Conversion, and more to do with time; and except for the Ashburnham House fire, the biggest single catastrophic loss of Old English literature was in the sixteenth century, not the sixth or seventh.”

Full thread in context http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/20swv0/tolkiens_translation_and_commentary_of_beowulf_to/cg768dg?context=2

Image from the Wikipedia entry for Beowulf