Archive for June 12th, 2009

Extremes

When it comes to politics, we just don’t like going to extremes | Irish Examiner

Higgins, of course, is a genuine and committed socialist. Were the Lispole native ever to be given the chance he would seize of the assets of big companies and rich people in the name of redistribution to the workers. He’ll never get the chance, however, and a desire to assist his class warfare did not persuade his voters to support him in last Friday’s election.

I know plenty of people who voted for Higgins, not because they believe in his solution to problems but because they admire his honesty. With Higgins what you hear is what you get. He does not flinch from telling you what he thinks and answers every question directly. People admire his genuine concern for the underdog and the ordinary and his desire to serve them. They felt that his commitment deserved reward. But that doesn’t mean that they would back him if he was ever to get near to power: he was elected to be a dissenting voice and an entertaining irritant to those who control the levers.

Of course he would say that ‘we’ don’t like going to extremes when he’s ensconced as a right-wing radio presenter and columnist. But to the extent that one can discern extremes in politics, in light of what people have learned in recent weeks, one would have to ask the question as to whether the incarceration of poor children and their use as slave labour by state-sponsored institutions exemplifies a particular political ideology. The answer is: of course it does. And is such an ideology extreme? By any sane standards, of course it is.

So the structure of the state was built on the basis of intimidation by and subservience to religious orders, who were contracted the job of so doing by the ruling class, and who took the opportunity to exhort all the faithful to pray for the conversion of Russia and to live in fear of the satanic communists and their class warfare. Therefore when Irish workers say, speaking for themselves, that ‘We just don’t like going to extremes’, you have to take into account the fear of physical violence, shame and destitution that still hounds them. Most of the time, people who say things like this simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. They can’t see that the neo-liberal ideology to which they are so deeply in thrall, never more so than when they listen to the priestly caste of economists and financial commentators on the TV and radio every night, is extreme, is class warfare.

But when other Irish people say, speaking for others, that ‘we just don’t like going to extremes’, one hears what Marx described as ‘the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility’.

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Reversals

I have grown sick and tired of his writing of late, but I do think Zizek reveals something important here, in The Fragile Absolute.

Let us specify this crucial point by reference to a well-known tasteless defence of Hitler: “True, Hitler did some horrible things, like trying to rid Germany of Jews, but we should not forget that he none the less did some good things, like building highways and making the trains run on time!’. The whole point of this defence, of course, is that although it formally denounces anti-Semitic violence, it is covertly anti-Semitic: the very gesture of comparing the anti-Semitic horrors to building highways, and putting them together in a statement whose structure is that of ‘Yes, I know, but none the less….’, makes it clear that praising Hitler’s construction of highways is a displaced way of praising his anti-Semitic measures. The proof is that the critique of Hitler which turns around the terms of the first one (popular in some extremely conservative ecological circles) is no less acceptable but implies an even stronger defence of Hitler, albeit in the form of criticism: ‘True, Hitler did some good things, like trying to rid Germany of Jews, but we should not forget that he none the less did some horrible things, like building highways and thus ruining Germany’s environment…’

And is not a similar reversal also the true content of the standard defence of the perpetrators of extreme-Right racist violence: ‘True, he did participate in lynchings of African-Americans, but we should not forget that he was also a good and honest family man who went regularly to church…’ – instead of this, one should read: ‘True, he did some good things, like trying to get rid of the nasty African-Americans; none the less, we should not forget that he was just a common family man who went regularly to church…’ The key to this reversal is that in both cases we are dealing with the publicly acknowledged and acceptable ideological content (building highways, going to church) and its obscene disavowed underside (Holocaust, lynchings): the first, standard version of the statement acknowledges the public content and disavows its obscene underside (while secretly endorsing it); the second version openly dismisses the public aspect and endorses the obscene underside.

Got that? Now suppose I say this:

Nick Griffin does some horrible things, like head up a party full of racists and holocaust deniers, but some of the things he does make sense, like calling for the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society. And he defeats the Left in debates.

And its inverse:

Nick Griffin does some horrible things, like defeating the Left in debates and calling for the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society, but some of the things he does make sense, like heading up a party full of racists and holocaust deniers.

The same phenomenon is revealed: the gesture of disavowing the obscene underside (heading up a party full of racists and holocaust deniers) whilst simultaneously acknowledging the acceptable ideological content (defeating the Left in debates, calling for the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society): at root a defence of the individual in question.

Now read on:

Free speech and the bacon and eggs of democracy – Ian O’Doherty, Columnists – Independent.ie

The best example this week came with the treatment of the odious BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

Now, a quick perusal of the policies of the British National Party will show you that while some make perfect sense — an end to untrammelled immigration, the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society and putting a stop to multiculturalism, a further look will show that it is also a party of utterly racist nutters, Holocaust-deniers and the kind of sad bastard whose biggest worry in life is inter-racial marriage.

But while he may be many things, Nick Griffin is no nutter, and he is particularly hated by the Left because he routinely trounces them in debates.

As you can see, I had to water down the commentary a bit, i.e. make what is supposed to pass for the acceptable ideological content a bit more acceptable (immigration in England is not ‘untrammelled’, etc). But I think this demonstrates -how shall we put it? -conflicting emotions- concerning the BNP on the part of our august scribe.

Leaving The Leaving

Climbing out of the abyss – The Irish Times – Thu, Jun 11, 2009

I would disestablish the Leaving Cert. We may look at the builders and say how disgraceful they were, or, in days gone by, the publicans, who were viewed as having licences to print money . . .But the middle classes have forged themselves licences to print money, in all the professions, in pharmacy, law, medicine . . . In all of them, you get your child seven As and off they go. And for somebody aged 15, 16, or 17, that their idea of success is to get enough points to get into one of these professions, where theyre going to rip off and condescend to the rest of the population for the rest of their lives, is a disgrace.

Wowsers, I think Anne Enright is on to something here.

The End

Billy Timmins speak his branes

Recent Fianna Fáil-led Governments have done to Ireland what Osama Bin Laden has tried to do to the western world for the past decade, namely, they have destroyed it.

Oh well.

Royal Nimiety Performance

Britain’s Got Victims: As another Simon Cowell talent show ends, former finalists claim there were cynically exploited | Mail Online

‘One time I refused to say on camera that I was desperate to win,’ she explains. ‘The producer shouted at me: “Well, f***ing pack your bags then and get out.”

‘It was intimidation of the worst kind, and I think people ought to know what goes on behind the closed doors.

‘The aim is to make your story as emotional and tear-jerking as possible, and with me they would spend up to two or three hours trying to make me cry. There was an agenda every week, and they knew what they wanted you to say – it is all manipulated.

‘They even took me back to see my father’s grave, and I was just in pieces. I was so overcome I couldn’t breathe, but they got the film they wanted. I used to shout back “I’m not crying today, don’t make me”, but they would keep on at me.

One thing I have not seen anyone mention about Britain’s Got Talent was the populist nationalism of the thing. The prize, or at least the non-cash part of the prize, was to perform in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance. Now, to me, the Royal Variety Performance is Bonnie Langford, the Great Soprendo, stuff like that: nothing to get too excited about. But of the little I saw of Britain’s Got Talent, for the contestants, the idea of appearing IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN! OMFG! was like winning the lottery and getting canonised a living saint all rolled into one. But it’s pretty clear that one of the objectives of the show was to manipulate the audience into thinking that it is truly a great honour, the stuff dreams are made of, the sort of thing you’d dig up the dead for.


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