Monday, November 23, 2015

800 Words: Left in Dark Times: Liberalism and The Right Wing Left Wing, Paris, Beirut, ISIL, Bernard-Henri Levy, and America - F-K


  • 11,300,000 undocumented residents of the US.
  • 30,000 gun deaths a year and 300,000,000 privately owned guns.
  • 8,000,000 unemployed, another 5,500,000 also unemployed but not seeking work
  • Nearly $20,000,000,000,000 in debt.
  • 3,000 lobbyists merely to represent banks in Washington, accompanied by untold thousands of regulatory lawyers, research staffs, think tank analysts, and public relations firms, for which banks are paying untold billions of dollars to create favorable policies.
  • Americans consume 1,850,000,000 barrells (1 barrell = 42 gallons) a day, and have enough natural gas pipelines within its borders to cover the distance from the Earth to the Moon at last 7 times.
  • At least 7 lost nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the problems of America that could destroy the world…


“Isn’t America, for such people (who hate it pathologically), guilty of starving the world and of flooding it with its commodities? Of ruining the climate and of pillaging the planet’s resources? Isn’t it guilty of fighting terrorism and stirring it up? Of making war on Islamism after having encouraged and nourished it? Of being a country without a culture that is flooding the world with its culture? Of being the homeland of materialism that at the same time is the seat of a spiritual revolution that is as grotesque as it is fanatical? Of having been too late to enter the war against Hitler…--and, when it finally made up its mind, of using methods that could have been Hitler’s?...”

  • Bernard-Henri Levy - Left in Dark Time


“Far, far away, in the New World, a real place, not a dreamland or a paper construction--where, we’re told, people have come from every end of the earth, people with different skin colors, different languages, different histories and traditions, different gods, different heroes, have decided to come together, to agree on a contract and to gather in a nation--there is a country, America, where Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s project, that almost unthinkable doctrine that all people needed to do was make up their minds, then say it and swear to it, in order to create a political body left the skies and descended earthward, where it actually came to pass.

At first, nobody can believe it.

They say it’s so absurd that it can’t last.

It goes against the grain of things and it will necessarily fail.

They say, they repeat: it’s nothing, it’s ridiculous, a remake of Glaucon’s “City of Swine” in the Republic, an experiment, a flash in the pan--it will fall just as it rose, in a cloud of dust and a burst of laughter, once reality strikes.

But here we are.

Time goes by.

The experiment has staying power.

The country Renan thought was impertinent scoffs at the serious nations.

The impossible state becomes a power, a real one, that in 1898 declares war on a large European country, Spain, and wins.

The country on paper becomes a prosperous nation as well as a political actor of the first importance which intervenes once, and then again, in the affairs of Europe: and which, during World War II, saves it.

In the darkest hours of that dark age, moreover, while a whole segment of humanity is threatened with being washed away in the flood of Hitler’s hatred, that country becomes a a place of hospitality and asylum unequaled anywhere else on the planet, making the mocked, condescended to America a gigantic Noah’s ark.

Even better: while Husserl warned us in his Prague and Vienna lectures, the idea of Europe is about to sink utterly; while in Germany, from the heart of Europe, a regime claiming to unify the continent under its leadership is busily emptying that continent of its substance, amputating the best of itself, destroying its very soul, it is once again America, that supposedly “soulless” country, drunk on “materialism” and therefore “devoid of spirit,” which, in an extraordinary return, like that remainder of Israel that the biblical prophets said saved what it can from the times of catastrophe and holocaust, grabbed from the lames of nihilism the works, the books, what’s left of the libraries, the remains of the values and the people who will allow, when the time is right, to reignite the flame, the other one, the unconquered lights of the Europe of Husserl and Kant.

First, all those great minds--all those German and French Romantics, all those who were opposed to the spirit of the Enlightenment and of Rousseau--were terribly wrong, and the very fact of America--the reality of this nation made of men of different origins, of blacks and whites, of Europeans and non-Europeans, of Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Indians, Asians--is the living proof of their mistake.

Second, when traditional nations engage in the apparently unstoppable process of collective suicide; when the disaster is unleashed by those nations that ended up taking most seriously the “natural” and “anti-Enlightenment” program that had been opposed to America for two centuries; when neighboring nations, with their ancient ways of knowing and doing, with their heavy jaws and their bodies so nicely rooted in the supposed soil of their antique and collective history, throw up their hands in the face of the Beast, or frankly take his side, it’s the little, fragile, precarious upstart, the one we thought was so congenitally defective that it would hardly be able to walk without crutches--so you think it’s going to rush to someone else’s rescue!--that little upstart comes to our aid and saves us.

European anti-Americanism is born there.

From that humiliation.

Or, to put it more precisely, from a double and repeated humiliation.

First of all, more recently, from the classic resentment of the debtor toward his benefactor.”

  • BHL: Left in Dark Times


And here is where it gets tricky. Both Levy and his friend, the philosopher Pascal Bruckner describe Europe as suffering from a reverse Oedipus complex about America in which the mother loathes the child upon whom she’s become dependent.

Yet, in 2015, who hates who more? All throughout the American heartland, there are conservatives who loathe the social welfare programs upon which, by every statistical measurement, they are particularly dependent over all other American regions. They loathe the modern welfare state, which they see as a  of weak, fragile, decadent, European social democracy.

Modern European social democracy came in the 40’s and 50’s out of the success of Roosevelt’s New Deal; but Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs - the Voting Rights Act, the War on Poverty, medicare, medicaid, Social Security reform, Job Corps, National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities - all these programs happened because of the demonstrable success of the European welfare states. In that sense, Western Europe is very much the mother of modern American welfare, and just as Western Europe resents its dependence on America, Middle America resents its dependence upon Western Europe.

This paradox is still more complicated by European hypocrisy. When considering the success of European social democracy, please remember these three things:

  1. These countries can be so extravagant in their social programs because they exist under the shield of American military might and its $670,000,000,000 per annum budget.
  2. It is comparatively easy to create the trust required for a functional a social welfare state in which nearly everyone shares the same ethnic background, history, and race. Europe took care of the racial problem that causes Americans’ mistrust of one another in the most grotesque way imaginable. The increasing presence of Muslims in Europe is eroding trust in the European social contract, and a full 20 percent of Europeans are already re-embracing incarnations of that old, extremely grotesque way to solve the same problem…
  3. Do I really need to remind anyone that when Europe’s military that oversaw the world, their record of conduct was not even as decent as the Americans?

This is an Oedipus complex in which each side is both parent and child!


If we toppled Saddam in Iraq just to have an unlimited oil supply, wouldn’t it have been easier just to make a deal with him?


...when John Le Carre tells us, in The Constant Gardener, how pharmaceutical laboratories are “white collar arms dealers, who, hidden away in their offices, are organizing genocide in Africa”, when Le Monde diplomatique writes, based on fragile at the least and sometimes frankly delirious evidence, how a company like Nestle, flagship of the Empire, is promoting--the better to sell its products--a baby formula it knows will easily kill a million and a half infants per year; when the same Monde diplomatique starts talking about Synarchism, a kind of Trilateral Commission, with its Platonic ideal of invisible “sentinels” watching over the interests of the “Triad” and exercising, in so doing, a power that is as total as it is “diffuse, opaque, and almost unfathomable”; when, added to this myth of the Trilateral Commission sinking its fangs into the planet, the better to dominate it, comes--in the same text and in others of the same ilk--the notion of a power that is limitless because it is completely hidden from view, belonging to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, the Aspen and Davos forums, or the Bilderberg Group; when, finally, the Iraq War, support for Israel, the idea of Turkey entering Europe--in a word, the entire foreign policy of the United States--can be explained by the secret agenda of a group of neoconservatives, who we take care, in passing, to mention, ever so gently, are mostly Jewish and have taken over the president’s brain, we’re on a completely different terrain. This is no longer analysis but magic. We’re no longer talking about concepts; we’re talking about the occult. We’re showing a world whose motor is no longer class struggle, creation of value, contradictory interests, or even the passions of men, but a game involving masks and hidden motives, a taste for disguises and the desire to see through them, the return of hidden imams, doublespeak, the false-bottomed suitcases of reality.... This huffing and puffing; this policeman-like approach; this obsession with manipulations, intoxications, and other disinformations; this desire to give their activists an explanation for the things that have been hidden since the disorganization of the world; this regime of coherence that is a bit too perfect, in which everything is hidden in everything else; and, on the other hand, this shadowy unity, this system of generalized correspondences… Anti-Americanism was the progressivism of the imbecile: will anti-imperialism become the conspiracy mongering of the major intellectuals?...

We see a world in which the masters of the Empire, their allies, their clients, are the bad guys--and the good guys are those who resist them, with arms if possible.

We see a world in which, on the one hand, we have the United States, its English poodle, its Israeli lackey--a three headed gorgon that commits all the sins in the world--and, on the other side, all those who, no matter what their crimes, their ideology, their treatment of their own minorities, their internal policies, their anti-Semitism and their racism, their disdain for women and homosexuals, their lack of press freedom and of any freedom whatsoever, are challenging the former.

What happens, then, when you’re not a member of this anti-Empire front?

Who are you if you aren’t Chavez, nor Ahmadinejad, nor Al Qaeda, nor even Fidel Castro…

What happens to you if you think, like a Burundian Tutsi, that the fantasy of Hutu Power, and not a scheme carried out by a Texas oilman, is the source of your problems? Or, like a survivor of the extermination of the Nuba, in the most distant corner of the Sudan, that it’s your uniqueness that singled you out for misfortune and explains the determination of the Islamist regime in Khartoum to get rid of you? What is your place in the world if you’re Sri Lankan and caught not between the forces of the Empire and the anti-Empire but--much more simply, and, unfortunately, prosaically--between the Tamil Tigers and the government army in Colombo? What happens to you if you’re Burmese, Tibetan, a Syrian Kurd, a Liberian? What’s to become of you if the disaster you’re dealing with has nothing to do with the evil of the Empire, its conspiracies, its plots--but everything to do with the corruption, for example, of a state apparatus, or of unscrupulous national elites?

Well, nothing.

You’re out of luck.

No right to complain, and therefore no right to survive….

You’re a hundred times less important, a thousand times less interesting to progressive consciences, who have much less reason to fret about your particular case than about, for example, a humiliated-Muslim-who-has-resorted-to-terrorism-in-response-to-that-humiliation.

That’s the problem.

That’s the crime of those who think that the Empire/anti-Empire division is the greatest question of the day and that the rest, everything else, has to be subordinate to it...

...some weak notions notions derive a potent energy from their very weakness; [this is] a real concept, a whole theory--a theorem, strictly speaking--which, together with anti-Americanism, hatred of Europe, and rejection of liberalism, might have a bright future ahead.

In any case, it’s certain that this is what the concept of Empire is about.

It’s certain that its only real function is to annihilate whole chapters of contemporary history, killing, one more time, millions of men and women, whose first crime was being born and whose second was dying the wrong way.

BHL: Left in Dark Times

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