Could it be that -- federalism is both more important than and consistent with gay rights? In a startling victory for Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld as law the gay snob appeal of Boston and its environs: our law for our people.
Massachusetts wins because anyone who wants to enjoy the special benefits of the state laws must become a citizen of the state in order to do so. And that idea -- here comes the whole point of federalism -- is more important than anyone's rights, but for those caught in the first ten amendments. Don't like it? Add a new one. And good luck.
In the meantime -- if you like it so much in Massachusetts, why don't you live there? Not a tall order, that, and not an infringement of anyone's "right" not to have to move out of their state to be somewhere they want to live.
Other winners: all state governments, cooler heads on abortion, Mitt Romney. Not bad for a day's work.
Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, has issued an impassioned plea to Condoleezza Rice [...] to drop her funding plans.The money would tarnish Iranian human rights organisations, turn them into businesses, stoke corruption and play into the hands of the security forces, she said, suggesting the US channel funds through international organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank.
Now perhaps even nonviolent revolutions are for the birds. But every country's opposition -- including democratic oppositions -- moves at its own pace; even, sometimes, because it chooses to do so. Who are we to tell a people not to refuse our money? Have they no friend?
But at the same time, what kind of selfishness is the charity of democracy? Pity is a selfishness, too; and it can skip hand in hand with hardbitten interest when the timing is right. Life so often boils down to a matter of timing -- and isn't this an instance, to be sure, when the timing is off? Getting a girl to dance was never supposed to be the real victory.
A selfish geopolitics: "I would rather a world full of insular tyrannies than a community of democracies fashioned in the image of the democracy of my homeland, whose frauds and agendas I despise already." What? Insular tyrannies? "I also (for that reason) despise the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." Ah, I understand: you are a Luddite.
Adopting Nietzsche's style is a very good way of insulting two competing ideas that are nonetheless rather convincing. You can keep a lightness of heart without getting lightheaded.
Those of us who think that amnesty represents the end zone at the opposite side of the field from mass deportation are dangerously mistaken. Nor is it right to say that amnesty is merely the fifty-yard line. Andrew Sullivan quotes Michael Lind as "satirizing the people with whom he must sometimes form alliances." But is anti-citizenism a pretend attitude? Think back, you O'Reilly Factor enthusiasts.
The problem of puns. -- A photo caption in Maxim is one thing. Now puns are becoming headline prerequisites. The New Republic is just rife with them -- puns are becoming businesslike. The delight of the pun is its felicity, and the first pun was certainly an accident. Is this true of art generally? Everyone is both critic and artist; as our spontenaities are professionalized they are democratized. We learn, rote, our clever egotisms, at ever-greater risk of boredom. How many more genies can we rub out of the lamp? The salt is on the briar rose of puns. (Is this true of art generally?)
The International Criminal Court, and the whole possibility of subjecting war crimes and crimes against humanity to planetary institutionalized justice, survives. Barely. Liberian Psycho Charles Taylor was caught headed to Cameroon, with diplomatic plates and a fistful of dollars. This is a man who has flown the coop before -- in 1985, in Boston -- and this time around we have to ask: how'd he do it? Certainly not alone. Though he's headed toward a UN-sponsored tribunal, and not the Hague, it does well to remember too how many were content -- are content -- to let Chuck fade back into the jungle. Global criminal law struggles: in Serbia, in Iraq, in Africa. The problem? Slow justice...
If I am a pink-cheeked absurdist for talking up Moqtada al-Sadr as Iraq's foremost nationalist, then so is Nir Rosen, whose own foolishness is good enough for Foreign Policy magazine:
FP: In a recent article, you suggested that Moktada al-Sadr is the only man who can keep Iraq together. How?
NR: I don’t think anyone can keep Iraq together at this point. But if you try to think of a leader who is respected by all sides, ironically, it’s Moktada, because his rhetoric is Iraqi nationalist and people identify him as an Arab, whereas they view the Supreme Council in Dawa as Iranian implants. Moktada, right from the beginning, held joint prayers and demonstrations with radical Sunnis, he helped them in their fight against U.S. forces. And radical Sunnis have helped Moktada fight U.S. forces in the south. So when I speak to insurgents, Moktada is the only leader they respect. His own men refer to the two intifadas they fought against the Americans in the spring and summer of 2004. His staunch anti-Americanism is actually what unites Sunnis and Shiites. But at this point, I don’t think anybody can save Iraq, but at least he is somebody who hopefully will be involved in bringing the tensions down at some point, though unfortunately his men have recently been involved in a lot of sectarian reprisals as well.
No one person can "save Iraq" -- nor will "one person" save Iraq. (Saddam was proof of that.) One-personness is necessary, not sufficient, for the sort of unity Iraq needs, a unity of the body of which Hobbes was familiar. Moqtada the leader still holds the lead.
I've been brooding on ones similar, as you know, for some time. Now Kurt Andersen, himself no hermit, hatches nowhere else than New York magazine this improbable egg:
This is postmodern democracy. The stars are brought down to the plebeians’ level -- but now the plebes are also provided with exhaustive instructions for achieving the hallucination that they are just like the stars. [...] Dozens of pages of simulate-a-celebrity-lifestyle guides now appear in the magazines at every caste stratum. The same week Celebrity Living informed readers that celebrities were into skull motifs, Star was on the case, too: “Stars are boning up on fashion’s latest trend: skulls! They’re adding a cool edge to everything from cashmere tops to belts and bags.”
As we've discussed, perhaps the main component of postmodernity itself is the democratization of art and sex. As late as 1992 these factors still had not quite taken hold, but by 1999 they were all over us. The boomers' ascent to political leadership signaled their children's ascent to cultural leadership. But of course that "leadership" was of a particularly mutant sort, and Mr. Andersen is right to hear the sound of inevitability in the debut of "instant wireless 'celebrity updates.' Enter the Matrix. Embrace the fantasy." But innovation in wireless technology is egregiously useless, a premonition of the end point of innovation; though the best way to hawk a permanent/mobile leaky faucet of infotainment is to brand it sexily, we will hit a wall of utility with our sports scores, our movie clips, our Black Eyed Peas.
Our good fortune, then, that we needn't be constrained by the practicality of the Vcast in our embracing of myriad fantasies. We're going to make our dreams come true, doing it our way: by increasingly appropriating what were once regarded as celebrity-only passions, and stealing their prerogatives right out from under them. Money helps to party like Paris, but it's hardly necessary. Andersen senses this, and it's in that sense that he heralds the decline and fall of celebrity-obsessed culture. He has "a hunch that the glut has finally reached a saturation point. The fever may be breaking;" he apprehends a "cyclical" "fascination with celebrities;" he divines from this that even pop hipness can get passe.
But he is smart enough to see that a postmodern crack-up is really just a spawning session:
one difference this time is the fractured nature of mass culture: Because Americans no longer all watch the same TV shows and listen to the same music, they may feel a more desperate need to immerse themselves in the private lives of a few, almost arbitrary pseudo-superstars (Jessica Simpson?) -- to feel the glamour by stalking the performers, since the performances don’t matter so much anymore.
I think Andersen means "since performances don't matter so much anymore," or "since performers don't matter so much anymore." But performances are matter in the postmodern democracy, and what doesn't matter is the celebritude of the performer, because that is a contingent category of identity that is losing its once-sharp edges of social construction. What is happening to celebrity is in that regard what is also happening to race: sometimes it is ritually downplayed, sometimes ritually exaggerated. (The Oscars are my favorite illustration of that.)
My specific point on Andersen's theme would be that fractured mass culture -- that is, Smithereens -- translates here into a mill farm of celebrities, where different stars are ground into powder and fed back into the loam at different rates; where fame as a debutante and fame as a reality vixen and fame as a novelist are shifting opportunities of identity; where synergy of brand becomes only one business plan among many. Watch Cadillac market to old people and rappers simultaneously; watch Boost mobile sell itself as the brand iconically capable of smashing the slash between those inopposite indentity-groups. The Jessica Simpson who started being famous is not the one we now end up with. Reinventing democracy: it's not just for Al Gore anymore.
Smithereens is a place where memories, by design, are short, identities are shorter, and the leveling of lifestyle -- on display in the great petri hell of Los Angeles -- between worshippers and worshipped means we all learn better how to handle one another for brief twinkling moments of pleasure, and we all learn how to accept being put down in exchange for the next hot thing: for whim, for chance, for the very cupidity of senseless choice that slid the fleeting spotlight onto our own bodies in the first place. The beauty, the humbling, terrible beauty of Smithereens, is that "I" -- whoever that happens to be at the time -- will always be picked up again.
It is really audacious to protest the would-be enforcement of broken laws by the breaking of more laws. In this respect the French, protesters par excellence, have been outdone by the Mexicans in a way not topped since the execution of Maximillian. Taking it to the streets is one thing; marching down L.A.'s Harbor Freeway with three hundred comrades is creating injustices of your own -- which is, really, the pointy-tipped point of the mass protest. The protest speaks to the cops, but more to the people: you want to get home from work on time? You give us what we want.
But what do they want? In France the riot is a bureaucratic parody of the Spirit of '68, rooted in a micro-managing law cooked up by a micro-managing government for which profound reform is an impossibility. But in the streets of Los Angeles and elsewhere, the rallying cry implicates far more. There are those who do not want to be sent home; those who do not want anyone else to be sent home either; those who want more like them to leave home; and those who want anyone else like them to be able to leave home and not be sent back. And simply because not a single immigrant should be allowed into the United States illegally does not mean that making felons of those already here is a stroke of genius.
The issue -- the only issue -- worth anything in the immigration crisis is the rule of law. And when it comes to the rule of law, it is undeniably true that a law being violated right this instant is more important to enforce than a law that was violated ten years ago. And it is most efficient to prevent future violations than it is to go around punishing missed opportunities for legitimate enforcement. So the rank of priorities should be clear: make future illegal immigration as impossible as possible; find and punish "fresh" illegals who are live-wire contributors to a system of life predicated on lawbreaking; and thoroughly Americanize the remainder of illegal immigrants, who number in the millions, generally enjoy America, very often work diligently, and tend to support a family and spiritual lifestyle that helps public order privately. When I say "thoroughly Americanize," of course, I don't mean "make white;" intermarriage happens all by itself, and that's a street that runs both ways. I mean insist upon and inculcate, by law when appropriate, respect and adherence to the laws of the United States. And that means you, employers of illegals.
That stark rank of priorities raises some stunning questions about just how important is timing to the legitimacy of the rule of law. Contemplate this great compromise: seal the borders in exchange for amnesty; 0% illegal immigration in exchange for a commuted sentence. Would anyone not take this trade?
Well, yes, for a number of reasons, but just imagine if we had put it into practice ten years ago.
The story of Francis Fukuyama's repudiation of the neoconservative class has legs, and it burrows weird and cross-cutting trails through the whole social psyche of power and purpose in contemporary Western society. Andrew Sullivan does a good job of staying atop the social labyrinth of whispers and announcements following Fukuyama around these days. And however internecine and cloud-headed they seem to the lay reader, they throw heaps of light on the biggest question facing the West today: whether and how to advance ordered liberty beyond its present frontiers.
Sullivan quotes Gary Rosen's pointed reminder of "the Hegelian twist" that gave Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man (1992) "its peculiar intensity and breadth."
Liberal democracy, in that telling, was not only about the desire for pleasure and physical well-being but also about a second, more elevated drive: the individual's "struggle for recognition," the spirited -- and often political -- assertion of personal dignity and worth. About this deeply felt human need, Fukuyama is now silent. Yet in today's Middle East, nothing is so striking as the dearth of channels for its expression.
"Sure," Sullivan agrees. But:
a key premise of conservatism, it seems to me, is that history has no direction, that it can go any which way, and has. That's why Fukuyama's last book, which was as much Nietzschean as Hegelian, was in places most unconservative.
Let's unpack. The middle and secretest claim of Sullivan's is that Nietzsche was not an ahistorical philosopher, and it's true that Nietzsche took a long look at the telegraph and other then-modern inventions and thought, here's a force to be reckoned with. But if Nietzsche thought history had a destination he was fully able to imagine it as taking an eternity to arrive. He did know that it is terribly difficult for a society to undo its technical innovations. But a society's enworlded discoveries are not always technologies -- although, as Adam learned in the Garden, they are always knowledges.
Loop back to Fukuyama's thymos, the "struggle for recognition." In the last chapter of The End of History, Fukuyama anticipated his own post-9/11 antithesis:
It is reasonable to wonder whether all people will believe that the kinds of struggles and sacrifices possible in a self-satisfied and prosperous liberal democracy are sufficient to call forth what is highest in man. [...] How long megalothymia will be satisfied with metaphorical wars and symbolic victories is an open question. One suspects that some people will not be satisfied until they prove themselves by that very act that constituted their humanness at the beginning of history: they will want to risk their lives in a violent battle, and [...] deliberately seek discomfort and sacrifice, because the pain will be the only way they have of proving definitively that they can think well of themselves, that they remain human beings.
This describes -- and let's be very careful here -- what the US Army volunteer and the suicide bomber have in common. The immeasurable and central difference, of course, is that American military volunteer by and large feels the demonstrable recognition of self-worth in conducting a defense of his people, whereas the average suicide bomber creates worth not only by the offensive (in both senses) murder of innocent noncombatants but the incredibly nihilist act of obliterating himself. (That is real poverty.) The problem with The End of History is that it focused on the Western leisure class and wondered how long a society could last without violence, and in so doing missed out on the predictive analysis of violent evangelism from non-Western societies, dedicated to blowing up the leisure class. History restarted from without, not within.
I suspect nonetheless that Fukuyama sees in certain neoconservatives those exact thymotic ex-leisure class violent adventurers, and that he thinks of Iraq as the product of well-heeled "masters of the universe" for whom metaphorical wars and symbolic victories are prelude and crutch-structure for the biggest fake real exercise of self-aggrandizing war power ever: the absolute conflation of violently asserted self-worth with messianic/charismatic liberation. Our military volunteers, in such hands, lose the nobility of their defensive-minded thymos and become tools of self-aggrandizing power, dangerously similar in the application of spirit to other kinds of fighters. And so Fukuyama now intends that we bring in the prudent, chastened, and subtle class (not groomed on running baseball teams and energy powerhouses), men who are trusted with power because they do not feel the ego compulsion to not let it go to waste.
For Nietzsche this category was the empty set. "Famous men who need their fame, like all politicians -- ". But he knew, better than he knew, about the real locus of danger in thymotic expression -- not old men but young dudes. "The explosive ones," he called them:
What attracts them is the sight of the zeal that surrounds a cause -- as it were, the sight of the burning fuse, and not the cause itself. Subtle seducers therefore know the art of arousing expectations of an explosion while making no effort to furnish reasons for their cause: reasons are not what wins over such powder kegs.
Fukuyama's Nietzschean prediction of an End to History and Last Men closes in on an insight which needs to be made plain here. The art of arousing expectations without reason for cause is not limited to wars and revolutions. Bret Easton Ellis knew this when he opened his book on models who are terrorists, Glamorama, with a line from Adolf Hitler: you make a mistake if you see what we do as merely political. Our subtle seducers of the leisure class are not warmongers but fleshmongers; not through politics but art itself do we transfer the drive for thymos away from the violence of war. Our physical athletes take that other measure of excellence: not by Fight Club but by another sort of F--- Club. In the West, the explosive ones all want to be -- celebrities. Or, better yet, to enjoy the refracted simulacrum of the celebrity lifestyle -- as fully narcissistic -- without having to work quite so hard. The quest for recognition can be kept fed on a thin gruel of ego drugs.
Now return to Nietzsche. "Perhaps our present age furnishes the most remarkable counterpart," he writes, to the old absurd and tyrannical ritual of perpetual good manners: "everywhere, in life and on the stage, and not least of all in everything that is written [an anachronism from the dying discursive era, where Nietzsche was the reaper], I see the delight in al the coarser eruptions and gestures of passion." Back in the 19th century the gestures prevailed. Going through the motions of passion was the kick gotten off of receding away from strict manners, a necessary prelude. "What is demanded nowadays is a certain convention of passionateness -- anything but genuine passion!" Nietzsche knew, though, that it was a prelude, and to what it was: "eventually passion itself will be reached this way, and our descendants will not only indulge in savage and unruly forms, but will be really savage."
Fukuyama must understand that the real savages of the West are our last/lost boys and girls; they are Rieff's true barbarians. Not from this stock do prudence, chastity, and subtlety spring as virtues: not even in politics. The aesthetic of restraint that Fukuyama characterizes as the opposite of erratic neoconservatism is the opposite of what prevails in our high Western culture today. Prudence is for cowards, chastity for losers, subtlety for the neurotic. There are pills that cost billions of dollars to devise meant to help people cope with -- that is, suppress -- these virtues. "It is easier," Nietzsche declares, "to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation." The goal of the new barbarism is for us all to have good consciences and bad reputations.
To find an alternative to the neoconservative thymos, which seeks to spread liberty abroad and accepts violence as a means to that end, we make a fatal mistake to turn to our real savages, whose version of the burning fuse is not the sex-charged violence of the suicide bomb but the violence-charged sex of the erotic explosion. "The modern liberal project," Fukuyama writes, "attempted to shift the basis of human societies from thymos to the more secure fround of desire." Quaint theory of the early nineties! To think, when Clinton was elected to his first term the burning fuse was still economics. That was the death rattle of economic man.
Nietzsche himself has the last word on Fukuyama's prudence. The gloss The End of History provides on Nietzsche is, as Sullivan would have it, a report on how conservative is Fukuyama. When a conservative has a "most unconservative" nightmare, he does not, in the process of transcribing it convincingly, cease to be a conservative:
A few millennia further along on the road of the last century -- and everything men do will exhibit the highest prudence; but that way prudence will lose all of its dignity. By then it will be necessary to be prudent, but it will also be so common and vulgar that a disgusted taste will experience this necessity as a vulgarity. And just as a tyranny of truth and science could increase esteem for the lie, a tyranny of prudence could spur the growth of a new kind of nobility. To be noble might then come to mean: to entertain follies.