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I’ve always been torn on Rousseau and Locke. The social contract is a noble concept, probably one of the noblest, but even the most cursory glance at current events and back at history will make it plain that natural rights are a sham. Nation states and the contract of rights they grant and/or deny to their citizenry are based on a foundation of violence either explicit or implicit, directed toward its own citizens or outwards towards perceived foreign enemies.

One of my favorite examples is Turkey’s republican democracy: it’s marked with multiple occasions on which the military, whose command structure is largely staffed with scions of Turkey’s highly educated, secular intellectual class, has directly intervened in elections to depose presidents with Islamic fundamentalist leanings. They do this on the claim that key to Turkey’s constitution is a section forever establishing the republic as a secular state. Are the rights of the citizenry–the right to govern themselves, being violated by their military? I would say yes, but not condemn the act. After all, they are violating the democracy in order to depose people who would more than likely erode the democracy much more dramatically had they been left in office.

The firewall between the military and politics is largely a Western, First-World conceit. Imagine if the U.S. military weighed into elections to depose any religious fundamentalists who happened to make it into office.

This is all pure speculation.

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Mark I. Pinksy of The New Republic has beaten me to the draw with my own hypothesis for the future of journalism: a government-subsidized central trust, with a strong preservationist/legacy bent to render appearances more benign, around which the surviving private enterprises all orbit, picking up/freely exchanging information and aspiring talent along the way.

WNYC’s On the Media program interviewed Pinsky and profiled the Federal Writers Project. The latter was treated rather fondly–Pinsky’s reception was somewhat harsher. Fair enough, there are legitimate concerns and risks associated with the state funding of any industry previously the sole domain of private enterprise.

Honestly though, I’ve sensed a knee-jerk reaction in not just the brass, but much of journalism’s rank-and-file against the idea of BBC-style “journalism handouts.” An assumption, absolute in its faith, that integrity can only be maintained in the trade through the continued existence of the fiscal wing of the office building as a private entity.

It never ceases to amaze me how eager modern journalists are to help out the blades sawing at their own wrists and jugulars.

Having already been beaten to the chase by Pinsky on one front, I will preempt the other and declare myself what the journalists described above would be wont to call me if I mattered: “Defeatist Journalist.” I won’t give them the satisfaction of having coined that term.

This is all pure speculation.

If most Western liberal democracies have taken the view of von Clausewitz that wars are an extension of politics, rendering a military’s commanders subordinates to the civilian government, and that total war is an untenable military or political posture, then does that not render a conversion to full-on libertarian, Athenian direct democracy a geopolitical impossibility (short of majority-mandated nuclear hellfire)?

Of course, the libertarian response, and it’s as good one, would be that nation states would play a much smaller part in each others’ domestic affairs than they do now. But still assuming there has been a full return to direct democracy (my conceit here is the assumption that the advancement of libertarian ideals would involve the overhaul of representative democracy/republicanism), then I highly doubt that there would be no highly influential, highly populous voting demographics in the U.S., much less any other nuclear-equipped nation, that won’t harbor a knee-jerk, button-press approach to foreign affairs. In that sense, libertarianism then faces the same problem Marxist-Leninism did: the justification that communism cannot work unless the entire world is communist.

Republican Spain had a democratic army. George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia speaks of it positively, primarily for the fact that it worked as well as it did, but of course we all know how well it panned out for Republican Spain.

This is all pure speculation.

[20:00] Sync: there’s only one forecast I have that I can say with utmost certainty

[20:00] Sync: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:00] _____: how is that even possible?

[20:00] _____: American media is already crap

[20:14] Sync: it’s possible

[20:14] Sync: man

[20:14] Sync: if that journalism outsourcing actually takes off soon

[20:14] Sync: Asia could stand to make a fucking killing in the next decade

[20:15] Sync: (as in killing me and my career)

[20:24] Sync: well, to refer back to the original point

[20:24] Sync: just look at the state of american journalism’s command structure as of right now

[20:25] Sync: the current aging dinosaur bosses and owners of media outlets seem to have little desire or initiative to change up and vastly overhaul the business model of modern journalism into something that will actually work

[20:25] Sync: and the next generation coming to replace them?

[20:27] Sync: They seem to be happy being eternally happy-go-lucky about blogging and the unfettered nature of the Internet, not bothering to be very concerned about how online journalists will make any money

[20:28] Sync: I’ve described them essentially as sitting there with their emo glasses and dumb grins on their faces more than happy as they stab themselves repeatedly in the belly

[20:28] Sync: slitting their own hamstrings

[20:28] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

[20:30] Sync: so there will be a gazillion free-to-access, free-to-work for online sources of reportage

[20:31] Sync: “staffed” almost entirely by part-time “citizen reporters,” ie: people already connected tenuously and questionably to the stories they have leads on in their local areas

[20:31] Sync: who almost certainly work other jobs totally unrelated to journalism to make a living and aren’t trained as professional journalists

[20:32] Sync: hence: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:33] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

“Periods of transition are always periods of mismanagement; thus the predominant demand of the time was for efficiency. Acutely conscious of the prevailing insecurity, that small section of the populace which exercised its influence was in general prepared to accept any government which could guarantee peace and order.”

“Few men are so disinterested as to prefer to live in discomfort under a government which they hold to be right rather than live in comfort under one which they hold to be wrong.”

– C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (pg. 19)

In the past two or three years I’ve grown increasingly skeptical– or simply cautious– of the distinctly modern worldview that views liberal democracy as the best recourse for effective governance the world over. Of course, this was a keystone in the now largely defunct Neoconservative philosophy for foreign affairs, but in another way it seems to have become part of the First World Left’s philosophy (only as much as the First World Left can be said to have a coherent philosophy, which is mostly does not anymore) as well.

The usual example cited in your run-of-the-mill Tyranny of the Majority criticisms of democratic systems is the one of the Nazi Party being democratically elected to office. The important part to remember about the Nazis’ ascension is that the citizenry of Germany had been suffering under the ineptitude and crippled nature of the Weimar Republic ever since the end of the First World War. To say they hungered for efficiency is most likely an understatement– and of course the Nazis marketed themselves as “National Socialists,” socialism being the Platonic image of efficient governance at the time (Market liberalism was not exactly in the hottest of states in the 1930s, was it?) Of course, I am not condoning the Nazi Party or any of their philosophies, but simply look at it from a Machiavellian viewpoint (something more intelligent people should be doing about more issues more often): For much of the 1930s provided one fit the ethnic, social and political criteria for Nazi affiliation, life in Germany was relatively good.

In Turkey, multiple presidents have been deposed by a largely independent military for attempting to betray the constitution of the Turkish state, in particular the clause establishing secular rule. As journalist and author Robert Kaplan describes in his book Eastward to Tartary, the majority of commissioned officers in the Turkish military are progeny of an established intellectual class: committed to democratic ideals, but even more committed to the preservation of secularism. And a majority of Turks support these somewhat systematic coup de’tat moves. Really, can you blame them? I’ve found that I cannot. After all, we’ve seen the effectiveness of theocracies in providing their subjects a stable, prosperous quality of life in the Taiping Rebellion and the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan, not to mention most all of Mesopotamia’s history since Hulagu Khan’s sacking of Baghdad in the 13th Century.

After all, aren’t all governments founded on violence either explicit or implicit? Social contracts are well and good, and I don’t say that sarcastically, but look at it practically: what is a law in its rawest form other than a promise of implied violence attached to a self-evident moral code of culture in which it is established? Again, that’s not to say that laws are ludicrous– I’m more or less through with anarchism– but is it not important to attempt to see things as they really are? (“Reality” is the providence of journalists, “truth” that of philosophers)

There are already books out that imply that the system which governs a polity is more attached to that state’s cultural and physical geography more than impersonal international political philosophies (Neo-Marxists are you listening?) With things going the way they are, I figure more books are on the way.

This is all pure speculation.

Not since Herbie Hancock’s 1963 album Inventions and Dimensions or the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat has there been such an example of a black American exploring the themes of a popular culture outside that which we now call “Urban American.”

Shakyamuni, the pseudonym of Chicagoan Antoine Philhellene, grew up in the outskirts of Chicago quite literally cutting his teeth on his father’s LP collection of innumerable Chicago House pioneers. In a Paris Review-published interview, he revealed that his first conscious memory is of his father beating him “within five centimeters of [his] life,” with a “plastic” when the veteran DJ returned home to find his son teething on the outer rim of a Sterling Void acetate.

It’s only natural then that Shakyamuni should so naturally integrate the classic Chicago sounds into his compositions, rarely, if ever, sounding like a shoe-in concession towards the navel gazer, NME-reader and trainspotter demographics. In the same interview he cites Afrika Bambaataa as one of his chief influences—a claim backed up in his previous work and as well on A Pale View of the Hill Batteries—a great relief for this reviewer and many others on staff. As we are all apt to know, Afrika Bambaataa is the Che Guevarra of contemporary music: adored, eulogized and marketed by hundreds of thousands of impressionable First World youths who haven’t the slightest clue who the man was or what he did.

Of course, A Pale View of the Hill Batteries is about none of this. A Pale View of the Hill Batteries is about territory rarely traversed by today’s popular musician and deserves praise simply for that.

The gestures towards the classics are sweeping, grandiose on this double album. Shakyamuni’s adherence to them is, like I have said, no cosmetic attachment to a preexisting pop shill’s copy-paste formula. He adheres strictly to the tried-and-true conventions of the classic Motown record:

1) Your record must begin with a blast of the brass section on a major chord.

2) Your record must have at least one down tempo ballad.

a. The ballad must be at a tempo slower than 4/4.

b. The ballad must have vocals.

3) Your record must be as much about the producer as the artist(s).

On the ballad “Never Quite so Good as Now,” the live hi-hats, played live by Shakyamuni himself, open up halfway through and sound for all the world like the wracked snorts of a weeping primary school girl sniffing a line of persistent snot back up her nostril time and time again in the most Sisyphus of futile gestures of grief.

A Pale View of the Hill Batteries, that is to say the title itself, is a reference to the experiences of Shakyamuni’s mulatto grandfather in the Second World War. In the title track on the album, Shakyamuni devotes all the tinny vocals of verse and chorus to recounting a story of his grandfather and the rest of his company storming a steep hill, obfuscated with thick thule fog, on which a clutch of Italian artillery guns are reputed to be entrenched. It is the worst song on the album.

Overall, this is an album whose rewards outnumber the challenges, and Shakyamuni is a new aural artist worth paying attention, if not listening, to.