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UnAmerican Thoughts

Busy and blurry lately, emotional grays rarely penetrated by the bright lights of passion or excitement, but so it goes sometimes. Part of the sub-malaise (that is, not quite a depression, but a distinct lack of inspiration) is the endless blather that passes for politics that I already complained about last time. It builds and builds towards the election and then there’s the inevitable hssssssss of gas escaping the inflatable ballooney that everyone was so worked up about… coming very soon. But until then, it’s nonstop fretting and fervent hand-wringing about… not much.

Meanwhile, the real world out there is carrying on, and the American narcissism that really imagines this is the epicenter of world history, the best civilization has to offer, etc., is barrelling towards its imminent rude awakening. To get a glimpse on the military and political front, I highly recommend the 3 part series by Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry that went up at Asia Times this week on the Hezbollah victory over Israel, and the ensuing collapse of U.S. agendas in the Middle East. It even casts serious doubt on the coming bombardment of Iran, which many U.S. radicals think is all but unavoidable. It may be that the abject failure of Israel in Lebanon is giving pause to even a palpable madman like Rumsfeld, facing the almost guaranteed disaster that will follow a U.S. attack on Iran.

Then there’s the unmentionable but obvious reason why the U.S. is deep into a years-long murderous frenzy: energy resources. The sidewalks of San Francisco are increasingly a gallery of imaginative stencil art, and here’s my most recent favorite, that I saw on Valencia near 15th Street I think:


Asia Times ran that series I mentioned in a recent entry about the Russian political machinations regarding world energy politics. Another piece just appeared too, about Gazprom’s intention to develop its arctic reserves independently and sell the gas to Europe, yet another blow to U.S. global strategy. It echoes in an ironic way Nixon’s opening to China (it took a rabid anti-communist to embrace Red China); now we have a government blatantly serving the oil biz which is undoing the U.S. position in world energy markets with every passing day. Amazing really.

The big in-“security” stick they’ve used domestically is unravelling too, withering in the face of world events. Iran’s nuclear program may or may not lead to a bomb (I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t–what country can’t see the necessity of a nuclear deterrent in the face of insane belligerence by the U.S.?), but apparently the North Koreans have already made it. And as George Katsiaficas pointed out last night in a very stimulating presentation on the autonomous politics of South Korea and East Asia generally, the main public demand of North Korea all this time has been simply a formal peace treaty with the U.S. But internally in the U.S., it’s all Orwell all the time, so Kim Jong-il is psychologized as a madman rather than the isolated North Korean state being analyzed in terms of its own dire history and desire for non-aggression guarantees.

Katsiaficas’s book “The Subversion of Politics” has just been republished by AK Press. I haven’t read it yet, but his talk last night was partly based on it… he was once a student of Herbert Marcuse and has coined the phrase “Eros Effect” to describe what drives the circulation of passionate, creative, and dynamic political movements around the world (notably in 1968, which he wrote about in his earlier book “The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968”; a third volume to be published in a couple of years will round out this trilogy of vital, lost history).

He spoke at some length about the Gwangju Uprising in S. Korea in 1980, which I remember quite well. I was about 23 that year and in the beginning of my adult life with Caitlin, the Root & Branch crowd in Boston, and the Union of Concerned Commies here in the Bay Area. Every morning I would rush to get a paper (pre-Internet, hard to remember how hard it was to get real news from far away then) and see what had happened. The people of Gwangju expelled the best troops of the South Korean dictatorship and had a people’s commune for over a week. They finally succumbed to the dictatorship on the same day (I think he said it was May 27) that the Paris Commune fell in 1871… historical resonances abound…

In this bleak historical moment, it’s really inspiring to recall how quickly things erupt and then move from place to place. While we twiddle our political thumbs in the U.S. evaluating one advertising campaign versus another, the real deal is unfolding across the planet. The uprising in Oaxaca is still unresolved, and conflicting inaugurations are scheduled from mid-November to December. How long till the direct action, mass occupations of the streets, and remarkable self-discipline of the social movements in Mexico start to appear in the U.S.? This past May’s immigrant marches were a glimmer of much more to come. Puncturing the insecurity discourse and demanding a politics that addresses the real issues of our daily lives (from ourselves at least!) is urgent.

Not to claim that this is a full-blooded answer to that broad need, nevertheless I direct you to our Fall-Winter Talks which open the space for direct discussion and connection in the context of a non-electoral politics of daily life. Upcoming programs include Oct. 25 on Trash and Toxics, Nov. 8 on Reproductive Rights organizing, and Dec. 13 on Tactical Evolution (Protest Culture, Dissent and Radical Change)… hope you locals can come out and enliven our inquiries.

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