Monday, November 28, 2016

This World At Night


As I punch this in, it's twilight on the Left Coast and almost too obvious an image. At work, in the aftermath of the election few people spoke about the results. Even fewer people mention what's to come, now, except with a lot of who-the fuck-knows eye rolling and shrugging.

For now, there is an adult, no matter what you think of his policies, in the White House. We can push the image of Trump and his ilk, of Mike Pence telling the media to "buckle up", out of our minds -- but everyone knows that this (relatively) liberal presidency is ending; the light is fading.

I wrote a long post claiming to know something of the future, but this was bullshit: I don't know, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise. I let those who can analyze and translate current events well, or those with louder voices, or with a penchant for ego masquerading as humble simplicity, do their thing.

Something else I understood -- the future is very present. It's going to play out in the faces and the lives of friends, and total strangers whose fates seem more important now than they did a month ago.

I'm not a very deep reader, and when uncomfortable tend to chew on the familiar. So I grabbed Alan Furst's The World At Night to read over the long weekend. It's a story of Paul Casson, a Parisian and a producer of films, in France at the fall of the Third Republic, and the choices he makes after. It's about morality, love, and the courage and venality of life during occupation.

Casson has been recalled to the army in the late spring of 1940; the Germans are already invading the Low Countries (and eventually, as everyone knows, France itself via the Ardennes). He is part of a propaganda unit filming the French army as it heads toward the front.
     ...Casson was stopped. The sentries were drunk and unshaven. "What brings you here?" one of them said.
     "We're making movies."
     "Movies! You know Hedy Lamarr?"
     "Dog dick," said another. "Not those kinds of movies. War movies."
     "Oh. Then what the hell are you doing up here?"
     The second man... offered Casson a bottle through the window... [and] laughed as he took the bottle back. "Come and see us, squire, after this shit's done with."
     The hard Parisian sneer in his voice made Casson smile. "I will."
     "You can find us up in Belleville, at The Pig's Ass."
     "See you then," Casson said, shoving the clutch in.
     "Red Front!" They called after him.
The German army is successful; Casson melts away, towards Paris, more a vagabond than a fleeing soldier.
     ... Sometimes, in a cafe, he heard the news on a radio. Nothing, he realized, could save them from losing the war. He left the roads, walked across springtime fields... He shared a campfire with an old man with a white beard, a sculptor, he said, from Brittany somewhere, who walked with a stick, and got drunk on some yellow stuff from a square bottle...
     ... "We'll all live deep down, now," the sculptor said, throwing a stick of wood on the fire. "Twenty ways to prepare a crayfish. Or, you know, chess. Sanskrit poetry. It will hurt like hell, sonny, you'll see."
Casson is a character who lived a comfortable, creative life, a Parisian life, and after the nazi victory he only wants to get back to living it -- and he does, until he discovers that he actually is a moral man. And, while it takes time for the corrosion of the Occupation to seep through to him, eventually he has to act against it. He had no other choice, really; it just took some time for him to become clear to himself.

At the end, Casson makes another choice -- as much an act against Occupation and exclusion, division and hate as joining the Resistance. But for a purist or Marxist it will appear a fool's move, sentimentalist garbage. Only, it's our deepest passions, sometimes hidden from ourselves and spurring us to act, that define us.

For the Left, the appointment of Bush in 2000 was a shock unlike any other in American politics -- and what followed was an eight year chapter in the Banality of Evil.

Life under Bush, a limited, Dauphin of a man, was Life During Wartime -- one reason Obama's election in 2008 was greeted with street parties -- here in Kiddietown, it was like the Place De Concorde in 1944 -- The nazis are gone! Vive La France!  We were Liberated!

But, Bush and the creatures that swept in with him had some legitimacy as part of the political mainstream. Not so with Trump or his creatures. Lil" Boots played at being a loud, crude Man Of The People but was always the son of a Yankee, blue-blood, Old Money family.  Trump has all the sophistication of an infomercial, the intellectual depth of a racetrack tout -- and, it's not an act. No one knows what will happen this time, but it's almost certain to be bad.

 Obligatory Cute Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Ogg Ogg
(From Mongo Interviews Mitzy, 2012)

And this time, it feels more like Occupation. Like the real thing -- as if Bush had been a dry run, a testing of limits. Just outside our field of vision, we sense men in Field Grey on the corners, but they're waiting, not asking for Ausweis; not yet.  Unconsciously, this was why I had taken Furst's book down from the shelf in the first place.

It's going to take time for the corrosion to sink in. And it will take time for people to act against it from our moral centers -- some sooner than others, but act we will have to. And the values and passions at the core of our Selves will direct us. We don't have any other choice, really.

From the Post That Never Was, some tasty links as you cook that Crayfish. Pass the square bottle of yellow stuff, would you? And, which way to The Pig's Ass?

"Red Front!" They called after him.

Alastair Crooke, Without Any Masterpiece Theatre  --  and who he quotes, Raul Meijer.

ARTHUR, Once Upon A Time In His Head, who self-references. It's totally okay.

Richard Rorty, though he be dead (quotes below -- see The Paper Of Record's original 1998 review.)
"[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

"At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

"One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet...

"This world economy will soon be owned by a cosmopolitan upper class which has no more sense of community with any workers anywhere than the great American capitalists of the year 1900... [This group included intellectuals who are] quite well insulated, at least in the short run, from the effects of globalization."


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  2. as the saying goes, THIS is the future - you got to LIVE it, or live WITH it, and eventually get out of the way

    here's something i posted a couple of weeks ago at chris floyd's empire burlesque, which i cite to indicate my feeling that the obama era, while it has been perhaps a quantum leap above the trump era, is not two or three quantum leaps above it - ploo saw shange, ploo say lah maim shows:

    I am reminded once again about a performance by Joan Baez at the Obama White House that I saw on tv.

    She sang "We Shall Overcome"

    After a couple of verses, Joan tells us, while continuing to strum, that "One day Dr. King realized that the nonviolent fight went far beyond the shores of this great country, went far across the sea to a war that was being fought by God's children on both sides of that great fight. And he knew that he had to speak out against that, and he was afraid, he was very afraid. So we all raised our voices just a little bit louder, and we said 'We are not afraid today' ". And she leads the crowd in that verse. Then we see the dignitaries clapping, and Obama and Biden are smiling. Maybe I'm the only one who sees their smiles as the smiles of sharks.

    I still agree that "Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day". By "we" I don't mean us, specifically, but some people in the future who would identify with us in some way. And by "some day" I mean some indefinite time in the future, when truth, justice, and the potentially sentient way have substantially overcome selfishness, greed, hate and fear. In the future, or maybe in the next life. Or the one after that.

    Still, we got to keep on truckin.' These days not only do I go to church, I sing in the choir, and there's a song we sometimes sing that I really like:

    WE WILL SERVE THE LORD - Rory Cooney

    Wealth can be an idol, built of gleaming gold,
    bringing dreams of paradise, futures bought and sold.
    Some will choose to gather it, all that they can hoard,
    but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

    Pleasure is a siren, promising the flesh
    brief relief from emptiness, a hiding place from death.
    Some will choose to chase it until it leaves them bored,
    but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

    As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,
    we will serve the Lord, we will serve the Lord!
    As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,
    we will serve the Lord, we will serve the Lord!

    Power is a hunger, burning in the breast,
    to walk among the mighty and trample on the rest.
    Some will choose to gain it by lie or guile or sword,
    but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

    Father of all mercy, giver of all life,
    here we speak our covenant above the noisy strife.
    Hear us shout in glory above the pagan horde:
    as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

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