I Saw Things I Liked

I spent the week after Jonas tending to Ur Takses and Mouse’s emotional health (shout-out to the Center for Psychological Services at Divine Mercy University) and its impact on her school attendance. January was pretty much like that. In between times, I alternated between staring at Facebook, staring at Twitter, and trying to teach myself the basics of Continental philosophy for the heck of it.

During this week, I also found a link to Thing of Things most recent Book Post in my e-mail, courtesy of The Browser (the only electronic publication I pay actual money to read, that’s how good it is). Ozy Franks has figured out how to get free books from people, which is like the Holy Freakin’ Grail of cultural criticism in my opinion. I am inspired. Plus I got ideas for communicating with Mouse about elements of the above-inferred emotional distress she’s experiencing.

My new favorite, Hatch Act-appropriate meme about the 2016 democratic primaries:


And finally, tonight I saw Beyonce’s new video. Boss-yonce.



Today in Alexandria

Today in Alexandria I volunteered with a Presidential campaign phone bank. I was stunned by the power of autodial technology and also by the number of people who (a) did not want to say which candidate they supported or (b) were watching football. I begin to suspect I really am out of touch with the political pulse of the nation. I may need to call in Muppet Labs to study the matter in greater depth.

Today in Alexandria my next-door neighbors are having a party. About once every two or three months the music from next door cranks until the wee hours and we hear sounds of dancing. I am starting to think the music may be live and that maybe our neighbors are hosting house concerts.

This evening (also in Alexandria) Mouse and TeenBot parked in the basement with me while Dino Spouse napped on the living room couch to the sweet sounds of “Snapped” after watching “Unfriended” on demand.

I don’t watch the candidate debates for either party because I dislike listening to staged arguments. If I can’t have some Lincoln-Douglas action or “Hamilton”-style rap battles, I want none of it. So I was going to work on writing an essay and/or a call to arms for a new federalist papers project, but I watched the premiere of “Mercy Street” instead. Now I have resorted to blogging about my day and listening to the neighbors’ musical stylings. I believe this is a sign from Providence that I should do the damn dishes instead. So is the fact that Mouse just edited this post.


In Which I Am Not Commenting On Matters Of Official Concern

Twitter is my main source of short news updates. It’s good for breaking news and for connecting me to more in-depth coverage and analysis of interesting things. I try not to follow publications or people I find annoying unless they have something exceptional to offer. Among these I follow John Schindler, a former intelligence type who blogs and tweets about foreign affairs and national security. I generally hold foreign policy pundits in low esteem (more on that below), but I often find his observations about world politics worthy of attention. His commentary on domestic politics is of more uneven quality. Sure, his cat might make a viable Presidential candidate, but his observations about “SJWs” and “virtue signalling” make me queasy. Worse, they make me want to argue with him.

(You see the problem, right? I want to discuss foreign affairs and domestic politics AND I want to argue with someone more famous than me on the Internet. Not only does this go against my inclinations as an apparatchik, it offends my sense of good taste. Sigh.)

So Schindler wrote this thing about the Cold War and the New Left, and it made me mad. I will refrain from summarizing the bits about European politics lest I be accused of Commenting On Matters Of Official Concern, but the upshot seemed to be that leftism is back and it won the Cold War by giving up on economics in favor of consumer choice and sexual liberalism, biding its time until it could rise again in the form of identity politics. Instead of the dictatorship of the proletariat, his new left seeks the dictatorship of a different “fantasy class” defined by its outsider status relative to traditional elites.

I have a couple of problems with this.

First of all, US national elections have been a choice between liberal or conservative centrist options since the end of WWII. The American Left devoured itself infighting over whether to focus on domestic issues or “international solidarity” until it was effectively criminalized in the early years of the Cold War, while the Right went underground to escape the taint of fascism. The Right started to rally first, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan. The Left stirred at the end of the 1990’s (which ironically may have been a factor in the 2000 defeat of Al Gore; the small but critical mass of left-leaning voters who gave their votes to third party candidates helped throw the election to George W. Bush by not supporting the mainstream liberal centrist candidate). They fell in line behind the liberal centrist candidate in 2008 and 2012, but they have by no means been content with the candidate they helped elect.

Schindler gets that the 2016 Presidential hopefuls reflect the divide between the mainstream conservative center (“corporate conservatives”) and the Right. Sometimes he seems to recognize a similar divide emerging between liberal centrists and the Left. He also seems to recognize the extent to which elites at the liberal center have abandoned the economic aims of the Left. But he does not credit the rising level of frustration in the liberal center’s “99%” with declining standards of living. He also forgets that the last time the Left privileged international solidarity over national questions of “identity politics,” insisting that the class struggle had to take priority over bourgeois self-expression among its minority domestic constituencies, the Left got wiped off the US political map for 60+ years.

The other thing is that I studied International Relations in the waning years of the Cold War. They taught us that the US-Soviet conflict (and by historical extension, Great Power conflict) was the only valid lens through which to consider world affairs. In my second year, a visiting instructor from NATO boldly prognosticated that East and West Germany would unite in the next 20 years. The Berlin Wall fell two weeks later. That was almost 24 years ago. In recognition of the persistence of bourgeois national self-expression, my alma mater has since created a comparative international cultural studies track in my old degree program. It’s not that the Cold War didn’t matter or that Great Powers don’t exert a certain gravitational pull – it’s just that people have a strange obsession with being accepted for who they present themselves to be. Most people lack a certain degree of self-awareness, but they still don’t present themselves as Napoleon or the Virgin Mary. Call it identity politics, or nationalism, or individualism, or geopolitical entropy. Recognizing it as a fact of life and creating space for it in public discourse doesn’t mean being blind to its dangers.

I have a hard time believing that Schindler really thinks the goal of the New Left is to install PC Principal from “South Park” as a dictator and draw obscene cartoons on the faces of the oppressor class in Sharpie. I think he knows damn well that Cartman won the Cold War. Now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, hopefully I’ll stop wanting to engage with him about it and get back to the usual program of irregular posting and failing to build a Personal Brand.