Aphorisms XXVIII

Condescension of Revolution – It is so easy when you look at what such an upheaval costs, first, in violent reaction and, then, the counter reaction which tends to follow. But when a political arrangement will not change, has no inbuilt manner through which to change it to make it more democratic – when the tantrums of imperial powers set their unwieldy mass behind autocracy and freely exercise and defend their monopoly on violence – then what else is there left to do? As the gridlock tightens, as reaction tightens, the temptation grows and grows…

And when democratic revolution can be undertaken peacefully, for the most part, the arguments against it are dulled to a whisper.

What am I saying here? I’m saying that there is space for a democratic revolution even in a nominally democratic system, a system which bears traces of democracy already.

*

It has perhaps become a shibboleth today to say that poetry changes nothing – it makes nothing happen. But of course this has its own historic reason as a background. Nothing comes from nowhere. For example, in 1948 three poets, through a journal called The Message, expressed a cultural movement that would result in Angolan independence – one of them ended leading the country. That is, until the civil war began. But, you might say, that wasn’t their poetry, but their thought – their organising. Aimé Césaire thought in poetry too, and made the world change. From out of their ethical aesthetics, their poetry, came a node which became an anchor for change. The concrete expression of this is the foundation of journals, of reviews, which send paper (or signals) into the world, send the message.

The poetry of Larkin, of late Auden, changes nothing, because it has decided to – it directs the force of poetry inward, like heavy cement. Because the poets are in the dawn of the “post-imperial-british” – in the imperial core, where they lead small lives, and think on death and the death of religion – it’s hard not to get sucked in (says the poet thinking back…) This quietism is part of a quelled and timid aesthetics. Its success is also a signal of a quelled and timid administrative and journalistic upper class, a depressive post-imperial officer convalescing in their shadowy town house.

But the message lingers. Auden’s early disowned poem Spain, 1937, still makes things happen. Published as part of a fundraising campaign for the Republicans in the Spanish civil war, it stops me from despairing, and gets me back out and challenging reaction. Auden’s late objection to it is wrong, because, rather than an expression of mercilessness, you can read it as a warning that the fascist victors in history will not be merciful – not that we shall not give mercy if we win, but that we shall not be spared if we lose.

Another great poem, and pamphlet once ended: workers of the world unite/ you have nothing to lose but your chains.

*

One signal contradiction of actually-existing Liberalism is the praise of the free-association of consumers in corporations, alongside their simultaneous material condescension of the free-association of workers in Unions. One monopolises with the aim of protecting the price of commodities. The other monopolises with the aim of protecting the price of labour – rights and good working conditions.

Yet it can treat being a union like an annoying hobby which workers have, and being in a corporation as a professional decision. Withholding commodities from a market is considered legitimate political action (though sometimes that’s a bit hazy). But withholding labour…

*

‘We’ politicises – it tries to pull you under its shelter. It invites you in. It’s a call to join the community – which we are more or less likely to enjoy.

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A democratic constitution should always include a generational review, or a generational limit – you may change it now, if enough agree, but you must change it then. That way those who are young when one draft is made, may be old when the next is made. And those who are old when the last was made, will be dead when the next is made.

*

A sign of the true anxietal source of anti-trans activists’ hatred is their complete lack of concern over plastic surgery, which in the UK needs nothing more than the surgeon’s and the patient’s consent. They don’t care about young women getting lip fillers, implants and botox as soon as they’re 16, when they do it to conform to a gender stereotype. They don’t care about the permanence, dangers and scarring of these procedures. If autonomy and regret was the main focus, this would be the priority. Because unlike medical surgery for gender dysphoria, it has no oversight.

It’s undoubtedly more predatory, giving commercial surgeons that power to be bought. Not that I care too much, people can do what they like with their own bodies.

*

We would be making a category error if we thought the annulation of Roe v. Wade in the United States was about argument – no, it’s about power. No argument has been won or lost there. No one was convinced – but they were legislated upon regardless.

*

As I walk up the road and see the marble imperial in searing heat, I ask myself – what are the implications for the left if we cannot stop the madness – what if the world burns? What are our obligations then? To promote mutual aid in the hot-house dystopia? And the answer is yes, that, and more. The promise of heaven was never meant to guide moral action – only to reward it. Robin Hood was always going to die on a gibbet, and that never stopped the action against injustice.

*

Exasperation Scholarship – some scholarship has this wonderful mien; “I have done all of my homework. I’ve got the data, I’ve absorbed myself into your world. And it’s all a load of crap. Now please, stop it!!” Marx and Varoufakis have this, maybe Stiglitz too.

*

The ontological proof comes with so little conceptual content that it is literally formally meaningless, a bit like an exclamation mark. And an exclamation mark proves nothing!

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The two jobs of philosophy – making cool new concepts, and stopping people believing bullshit.

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A Point for Christians: Jesus sacrificed himself for you. He does not need us to sacrifice ourselves to him too.

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To deal with capital flight and devaluation, could a state bank bet on the devaluation of its own currency, and invest heavily in the currency that most of the flight is heading towards? It would then benefit from its own problems. Could it adopt the currency of a global hegemon as a backup?

*

How did we fall for the myth that we stood alone against the Nazis, with the air of a last stand that suddenly turned things around? The British Empire, largest empire the world has ever known, standing alone on its tiny island, ready as a plucky underdog…

Can we really be surprised that things are going as they are, if the media and political class are so intent on huffing their own exhaust…

*

The great hobby of those who say there is no alternative, is to send in the army to prove it so.

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In the tides of history where gods wash up with animals heads, spectre, animal and humanity swirl together in the wash – you say that when the king died, chaos reigned? That the law was lost? I say – when the king died, freedom was at last unleashed, the spectral state disintegrated. Leaving each town, each community in its wilderness socket, its peace to defend with the sword, the bow. The word. But father authority returns from the dead, haunts the living and snatches its children away. The father wanting to father more and more, to father everything. For every story of a lost royal child, ten thousand such stories there are of the children of the king’s hated. They want you to shed tears for tyrants. Never do.

*

There’s something cloying about unwanted sympathy, sympathy given out of a kind of unavoidable condescension. American companies sending emails about the Queen’s death, placing black ribbons on my desktop. Please, do not force my own monarch upon me. Too many forces conspire to do that already (And Americans? Please – this has something of the coolness of Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore about it.)

*

A basic statement of the phenomenological insight into mind is that, the brain doesn’t need to represent the world. It would be doubling effort, since it already has the world itself to do that.

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