The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Do Not Ask Western Leadership to Fix Anything

References to Corbyn aside, this is as true as it was when I first published in, Nov 16, 2015. I was going to write a new article on trust in leadership, and I will, but I want to emphasize the basics first.

Why are people calling for Western leaders to “fight terrorism”?

Global deaths from terrorism:

2002: 725

2010: 13,186

2014: 32,727

Those attacks mostly weren’t hitting the West. Now, a tiny fraction are.


Without the US arming and organizing the Afghani Mujahideen in the eighties there is no Al-Qaeda.

Without the US and British invasion of Iraq, there is no ISIS.

Understand this: Widespread global terrorism exists because of the US’s actions specifically and the West’s generally.

Let us turn now to economics. Inequality has been increasing since the 1970s. It has become worse every decade, with only minor reversals. After the financial crisis, it became so bad that more than all the productivity gains in the environment went to the top three percent.

This happened in large part due to various financial, economic, and legislative “reforms.” It was deliberate, in other words. Inequality is a result of deliberate action by US leadership.

Austerity is, likewise, the result of deliberate action by Western elites, generally. They decided to deliberately impoverish their citizens and have done so.

This is not unique to the West. India claims much economic progress, but the average number of calories eaten per capita has gone down over the last thirty years. The average Indian is worse off than they were when India was run on frankly socialist principles.

The leadership classes are chosen for their ability and desire to become leaders. If that overlaps with an ability and desire to make their society good for the majority of the population, that’s great, but in most countries right now, that’s not how or why they are selected.

These people are selected by oligarchs, for oligarchs, and their skillset is pleasing oligarchs. This is done through a system that selects candidates before they get to voters, even primary voters or the equivalent. In most cases, you do not get a choice of a leader who will put ordinary people’s interests first.

To see what happens when someone does slip through, take a look at how UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been treated by the Press. I have never seen such libelous coverage of a political leader. One UK headline yesterday read “Corbyn and his friends must choose what side they are on” with respect to the Paris attacks.

Here is what Corbyn said, by the way:

“Today, all our thoughts and sympathy are with the people of Paris.

“What took place in the French capital yesterday was horrific and immoral.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of France – as with all victims of terror and violence.

“I have cancelled my engagements today to hold discussions on events in France with shadow cabinet colleagues and be briefed by Downing Street security officials.

“It’s vital at a time of such tragedy and outrage not to be drawn into responses which feed a cycle of violence and hatred.

“We are proud to live in a multicultural and multi-faith society, and we stand for the unity of all communities.”

This is an eminently sane, statesmanlike statement that simply says our response should not make the situation worse, but Corbyn is being vilified for it.

This sort of propaganda works, Corbyn took over the Labour leadership with negative favorability ratings, virtually unheard of. He did so because he had been endlessly smeared by the Press.

Let me blunt. Anyone who wants our leadership to “fix” terrorism has either not been paying attention, is a fool, or is a tool who knows they’ll make it worse but expects to personally benefit in some way.

This situation is similar to the Iraq war in the sense that anyone stupid and immoral enough to invade Iraq could not be expected to run the war in a way which would lead to good results.  One can make a  theoretical case that an invasion of Iraq could have worked out well, but that can’t happen in the real world because no one who would invade Iraq in the first place would be competent or just enough to actually implement improvements.

Note, however, that the Iraq war was an immense profit opportunity and that a great deal of money was funneled to the right people. Again, this is one of our leaders’ core competencies, this is what they do well.

Years ago, Stirling Newberry told me that the job of modern politicians was to wrangle the masses for oligarchs. He was right. That is what they do. They are good at manipulating enough of the population, and they are good at giving money and power to those who already have both.

They are not good at anything else, and expecting them to do anything else is insane.

You do not want Hollande, Obama, and Cameron (let alone Erdogan) trying to fix the Middle East. You do not want the people who report to them trying to do so. You do not want western militaries trying to do so.

At least not if you want a reduction, rather than an increase, in terrorism.

The first rule of holes applies. The first thing you want the leadership to do is stop digging. Other than criminal investigations, you should want them to do nothing. No military action, no legislative changes. Military action hasn’t worked, legislative changes will just be more gutting of civil liberties, and that hasn’t worked either.

This is true of virtually everything. They cannot and will not fix inequality, because their raison d’etre is to create inquality. They cannot fix the financial system or the economy because it exists as it is to increase inequality. They cannot run a war because they were not chosen for that sort of competence.

If you want to fix any problem in the West, or have the West be helpful for fixing any global problem, you need to fix the Western leadership class. That means fixing Western media, education, corporations, etc, etc. The list is long, because they have deliberately broken virtually everything to turn it into an opportunity for a very few people to become richer.

If you are British, you have a decent, honorable man who actually wants to do almost all the right things: Corbyn. Get to work supporting him, however you can. If he goes down, the political class will take it as a lesson that trying to help ordinary people is a really bad idea. (Well, they have already decided this, so work to prove them wrong.)

But, in general, you need to retake control of the system which creates leaders, you need to restructure, bypass, or break the media conglomerates (or all three), and you will need to restructure society from the ground up so that it does not produce either such corrupt leaders or the people who enable them.

This is a goddamn big job. It is far harder than dropping some bombs on the Middle East, or sending in the troops again. But it is an actual solution to a whole series of problems.

In the meantime, don’t ask your leadership to “fix” anything. That’s not what they are there for. Whenever they want to do anything, your default position should be to oppose it–unless you are 100 percent certain it’s in your interest and have done the hard, cold research and thinking to support that conclusion. Sure, sometimes you’ll be wrong, but most of the time you’ll be right, because they are not in power to make your lives better, but to enrich a small class of people and impoverish the majority.

Any knock-on effects, like terrorism, are secondary to them, and even if they had the desire to fix such problems, they cannot–they do not have the ability. They will simply make them worse, even if it was possible they were sincerely trying to do good.

If you live in the West, the great danger to your life, health, and prosperity is your leadership. It is how your society is run. This is cold, hard, and true.

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As The Next Wave Of Covid Hits


Open Thread


  1. Cloud

    “What is to be done?” There’s the old rub.

    Psychology of many a decent and politically aware human being seems to go in circles — from “leadership change via the current constitutional order!” to “the system is broke, REVOLUTION!” to “revolutions R bad, m’kay? we must cultivate our gardens”.

    “Don’t believe them; don’t fear them; don’t ask anything of them” has always seemed to me like a good beginning, at least.

  2. hng

    Orwell really did hit the nail on the head.

    Permanent misrule buttressed by permanent mass panic.

    A decade and a half in now, and there’s no sign of respite.

  3. tatere

    An exception I am hoping proves out is climate change. On the grounds that there is a fair sized fraction of the oligarchy that has a personal preference for a world that’s not on fire. Certainly the actions of government are going to be insufficient and incomplete, but there are real positive actions that they can take as well. Doing nothing can’t be accepted.

  4. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Climate Change does have the advantage that it will hurt Our (Alleged) Betters as well, hence Our Betters have selfish reasons for improving the situation–if only enough of Our Betters are smart enough to realize that they, too, face danger.

    Unfortunately, that’s a huge “if”. 🙁

  5. dfvs

    They’re not suicidal.

    Not all of them, anyway. O_o

  6. V. Arnold

    Excellent Ian; well written and timely.
    Nowhere is mentioned the Deep State or the Shadow Government.
    Stephen Kinzer’s new book, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War, is a good place to start.
    Chomsky, Parenti, Hedges, and Peter Dale Scott (to name a few) speak volumes to the myth of American democracy and the existence of the Deep State.
    As long as the Deep State and the Shadow Government exist, there are no meaningful elections possible in the U.S.. As has been said over and over again; it’s a rigged game and you lose.
    The link below is a website with reams of information by well know speakers and lecturers, some of whom are noted above.

  7. Dan Lynch

    An energetic and truthy rant, Ian.

    I wish I knew the answers. I don’t expect things to get better in my lifetime. And then there is climate change ….. nature has a way of thinning out the incompetent.

  8. EGrise

    The big problem with Our Betters coming to realize that we’re all in the same boat is that they’ve already placed the bet that nothing truly horrible will happen until after they’re dead, so why bother? And they’re socio-/psychopathic enough that they don’t truly care what happens to their children and grandchildren.

    A quote from Trainspotting come to mind: “Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers.” So yeah, Our Betters might be wankers, but we (the collective we, present company excepted) let them rule us…

  9. Jessica

    Well put.
    The one point I disagree with is the notion that Western leadership is unified in any meaningful way.
    It is a congeries of parasites. They have some ability to work together to hold onto power and attack anything positive, but they no longer have the ability to take on anything positive. That it might be to their benefit to do so does not change their inability.
    One of the reasons why we have increasing levels of xenophobia in the West, taking the form of Islamicism and Islamophobia, is because those who are at the controls have no vision, making it for society have a sense of larger purpose.

  10. Jessica

    making it for society have a sense of larger purpose. ->
    making it harder for society have a sense of larger purpose.

    And I used to be a proofreader.

  11. Jessica

    making it for society have a sense of larger purpose. ->
    making it harder for society have a sense of larger purpose. ->
    making it harder for society to have a sense of larger purpose.

    3rd time’s the charm.

  12. Sam Adams

    Strange. Nowhere is the Kingdom of Saud mentioned, nowhere is Texas’ Aramco or Charlie Wilson’s role discussed.

  13. I don’t quite understand how you got to the point at which you became convinced that all of the leaders of Western democracies are dumber than you, as if you had information about human nature and conflict that they don’t.

  14. EGrise

    “making it harder for society to have a sense of larger purpose”

    An excellent observation, and one that I’ve been sensing too.

    Of course one of my fears is that someone *will* come along with a vision very soon, the people will find it as compelling as food to a starving man, and…well, you can guess where that will end up, we’ve had a number of examples just in the past century.

  15. EGrise

    And I don’t think Ian’s saying that our Western leaders are dumb at all: one doesn’t rise to the pinnacle of power by being an idiot. Rather that they possess neither the skills no the inclination to do any fixing; their talents lie elsewhere.

  16. Anon

    I agree with everything you said Ian, the only problem is that the psychopaths – on both sides – who wanted World War III have gotten exactly what they wanted. The ball is already rolling down the hill, and we can’t stop it, so now what? A change in leadership? During a time of war? Never going to happen, especially if the war is going to last way past most of our lifetimes. I would never suggest that people pick sides, but that’s because they’re not going to have a choice much longer. You can’t stand in the middle of the battlefield and wave your hands around and say, I have nothing to do with this! This isn’t my fault! I don’t want to fight! By doing nothing – and I mean nothing – over the last decade and a half we’ve already chosen which side we are on. Now we have to deal with the consequences of our inaction.

  17. seltzeraddict

    One can be very intelligent and lack all wisdom. Our leaders have zero wisdom. Although, quite frankly, I think most of them are dumb as well and don’t understand the prevailing law of nature- chaos and complexity.

  18. VietnamVet

    I agree there is no fix in sight.

    Pope Francis says a “Piecemeal World War III” is underway. The Russia airliner killing 224 was taken down a terrorist bomb. 129 killed in Paris. 25 long range strategic bombers from Russia hit the Islamic State. EU’s peripheral border control collapsed due to austerity. Three million Muslim refugees are trekking to the heart of the Eurozone.

    Let’s be honest, World War III has started. Other than the natural escalation of the war into exchange of nuclear weapons; the only two options for the White House are to pull back to North America or make an alliance Russia and China to take down the Islamic State. Neither are acceptable to oligarchs who rule the West who profit from austerity and war nor the allies; Israel. Turkey and the Gulf Monarchies. So western political leaders and corporate media deny reality and the world accelerates towards the end of times prophesied by the fanatic foot soldiers on all sides of the Middle Eastern conflict.

  19. Jessica

    @ EGrise
    I agree. There are things better than having no sense of purpose, but there are also things that are worse, even far worse.
    I think that the shattered, amoral nature of our oligarchs and other elites is caused by our need, as societies, to transform to the more advanced level for which the material groundwork has long been laid. When we understand what that transformation needs to be, or at least what we need to do in order to move in the right direction, that will make it possible to create a shared sense of purpose.
    It is possible that we may have the limits of how far we can go while still being run by the firmware evolved on the African savanna and the software evolved during millennia of scarcity driven civilization.
    It may be that even gaining the understanding of the required direction for social transformation will require a kind of inner transformation that could be considered spiritual.

  20. EGrise

    @Jessica: if you have a blog I would totally read it.

    @VietnamVet: “Piecemeal World War III” is a term I hadn’t come across, but rings uncomfortably true. I’ll be thinking about that in the nights to come.

  21. NoName

    This has got to be the most idiotic things I’ve ever read. Terrorism is somehow the US’s fault? Are you going to tell me a barbaric religion from the Dark Ages which hasn’t been slaughtering and conquering all nonbelievers throughout the middle east and north Africa for centuries long before the country was even established is somehow at fault?? Absurd!

  22. Frijoles Junior

    “This is a goddamn big job.” Indeed.

    How do you eat an elephant?
    One bite at a time.

    @Cloud’s invocation of Solzhynitsyn’s advice as a good starting point is apt. One might start by looking at the value that we do derive from our civilization and work toward small, independent parallel systems that might allow people to provide for their own needs without recourse to oligarch-corrupted systems.

    I think it is at least possible that a small regional government can be justly administered. Getting out of our current mess is too big of a job because our collective institutions are too big for groups of motivated individuals to effectively counteract the influence of oligarchs that are closer to the decision-making center. Maybe if the people were closer to the hub they might have some influence. Smaller wheels have rims that are closer to the hub.

    Let a thousand communities bloom!

  23. Blissex

    «Years ago, Stirling Newberry told me that the job of modern politicians was to wrangle the masses for oligarchs. He was right. That is what they do.»

    That’s not exactly a secret, the technical term that is used and appears in political science textbooks is that politicians in a democracy are “aggregators of consensus”.

    That is they make sure that the majority of voters don’t object too much to the decisions of the elite, *either way*: by swinging public opinion behind what the elite decides where possible, or if that is not possible by delaying the elites from deciding things that the majority of voters would riot about.

  24. Hugh

    I do not find this argument compelling. Perhaps it is because friends and I were discussing the “Afghani” effect twenty years ago, long before I ever came to the internet. Perhaps it is because I see it as just a different form of imperialism, that the non-Western peoples of the world do not own their own histories, that they can not act well or badly except as puppets of the West.

    Perhaps it is because of what it leaves unasked. Where did the “Afghanis” who flocked to Afghanistan to fight the Russians come from? What was the situation like in their home countries that motivated them in the first place. How do you explain largely non-Afghani movements like Boko Haram? Or the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 which eventually gave rise to the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 and al Shabab in 2007? Or the Bedouin based groups in Sinai which are variously and loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS and which recently bombed the Russian tourist flight?

    The same goes for the form of the argument: if no Y, then no X. Yes, but what it doesn’t answer is the much more interesting question if no Y, then what? In 1979, what would now be called jihadis seized the Great Mosque in Mecca. This shook the corrupt, dictatorial Saudi monarchy to its thoroughly rotten core. The Mosque was retaken and its occupiers dealt with. But the monarchy knew it had a much bigger problem of which the seizure of Islam’s holiest site was only the tip of the iceberg. It made a deal with the religious leaders who inspired the attack on the Great Mosque: in return for no jihad at home, jihad was sanctioned abroad. First, it turned the education system over to them where these (even by Saudi standards) conservatives could indoctrinate a generation of Saudis in the most extreme form of xenophobic, anti-Western religious propaganda. No surprise that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi or that most suicide bombers in Iraq during the American occupation were foreign and that more than half of these were Saudi. Second, the monarchy poured money into the establishment of radical madrassas abroad. The mastermind of the Nairobi embassy bombings came out of one of these as well as many of the Taliban in Pakistan. Third, it encouraged (and still encourages) its crazies to go fight infidels (Westerners) and heretics (Shiites) and hopefully die in the process: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc. and allows its citizens to fund these efforts. Osama bin Laden was one of these. The Saudi royals had no problems with him and even sort of considered him a harmless kook until he started making noised against them. So if you want a different if no Y, then no X, then how about this. If these Saudi pressure valves had not been put in place (regardless of their costs to the rest of the world), the Saudi dictatorship might well have already blown up. If you think the Moslem world was enraged by US and Western wars in multiple Moslem countries, think of what the reaction would have been to a Western occupation (because of the oil) and desecration (because this is how it would have been portrayed) of Islam’s holiest sites by infidels? So much easier to ignore the local history and conditions and blame it on the hegemon, because isn’t that its role?

  25. Blissex

    «In 1979, what would now be called jihadis seized the Great Mosque in Mecca.»

    Your reminder of the Saudi history and its consequences are very relevant; especially as I have been repeatedly astonished by how easily even “intellectuals” forget about the past, for example the invasion of a major european country and the bombing of its capital to split it up in the early 1990s, or the petrol-less days in the oil crisis of the 1990s.

    I would add two points:

    * that that probably there is a significant faction of the Saudi royal family who are themselves sincere and not just opportunistic wahabi/salafi sympathizers;

    * that you should have mentioned what in the long run will be the most destructive “deal” the Saudi royal family did to pacify their subjects: because a large number of children is a huge status symbol in Arabia, for men but also for women, the Saudi royal family have been heavily subsidizing fertility.

    This has created a fantastic population explosion that has required spending ever more oil money and oil on food imports and especially on the water supply.

    If you think the problems with Arabia are bad now, try to imagine what will happen when oil dwindles and Arabia can no longer import food or power their water desalination plans which allow a population of 25-30 millions to live in a desert with a carrying capacity of perhaps 5-7 millions. If you look at the graph it is telling:

    When Arabia runs out of food and especially of water the ISIL troubles and the syrian refugee problem will look like the good old times.

  26. GlassHammer

    If the conclusion is that our leaders are not capable and that it will take decades to change them for the better then the immediate response is to disempower them to lessen the chaos they cause. This is the crux of the anti-system thinking that dominated western politics for decades.

    But who gets empowered and how do we move power closer to citizens?
    It was thought that Private enterprise (without unions) was the answer but decades later we know that was a poor choice.

    So what is the next solution to who gets empowered and how do we move power closer to the citizens?

    My gut instinct tells me that in the U.S. the next empowered group will be the Military because of all the government institutions it is still trusted. I think we are heading towards something very authoritarian despite the recent wave of protests.

  27. GlassHammer

    I should have added that I think this leadership question is itself a trap with no beneficial answer.

    Modern Western culture is the underlying issue and the proper target for reform.

    We need a proper view of concepts like violence, justice, discipline, honor, and responsibility.

  28. Trinity

    Only one quibble, GlassHammer, but it’s a doozy.

    “Modern Western” culture didn’t just appear as is from the vacuum of space. There is very little structural difference between the Western past and the present. Don’t be fooled by the big screen TVs on which we can view the jousting tournaments, chariot races, and other entertainments. The bread is now whole grain (if in name only). The rule of law still only applies to the few, the peasants are repeatedly and frequently robbed and are kept ignorant to make it always so. Everyone pretty much agrees that the 20 odd years following WWII were an aberration, and merely ensured that “normal” would return quickly, meaning austerity for all but the few. I think those of us who straddled those two worlds are suffering the most, but I could be wrong.

    But you are absolutely correct that it is the culture that is the problem. My money is on climate change providing a course correction.

    I was always a huge fan of The Walking Dead (until the latest few seasons) not because of the makeup, the gruesomeness, or the violence. I was a fan because to me they were illustrating perfectly what life in the US is like right now. And more importantly, what is needed to survive. And how difficult it is to survive, especially when your loved ones “die” and become “zombies” that turn right around and try to “kill” you, too, before becoming just another mindless wanderer of the landscape corrupting everyone they meet.

    This is not original thinking, of course, but I understood this before the end of season one. “Find your tribe” is the advice, but it is not an easy thing to do.

  29. GlassHammer


    We know the culture we have is not working but we persist with it because we are deeply insane. We occasionally get flashes of sanity which we call “progress” but they are just flashes, just an instinct of preservation kicking in.

    I don’t see a sane society anymore, I see varying degrees of utter madness.

  30. tOM

    BLM, Hans Christian Heg gave his life fighting the Confederacy and was an ardent Abolitionist his entire life and a champion of social justice who used his position as state prison commissioner to advocate for vocational training rather than the punishment of prisoners.

    Why the hell did you tear down his statue, behead it, and tossed it in Madison’s Lake Monona???

    BLM has lost the plot and has been overtaken by Mob Mentality. It will be crushed as it should be and hopefully the next movement doesn’t make its mistakes of attacking the wrong targets and sainting the wrong people.

  31. Z

    I would hardly be surprised if it is the authorities themselves infiltrating the movement who are behind those statues being taken down of figures who have helped end slavery and whatnot.

    In fact, I rather suspect it. First of all, taking down statues is only symbolic and doesn’t get to the crux of the problems and the people here right now who are responsible for them and second of all it discredits the movement.


  32. Z

    Neither would it surprise me if statue sympathists like tOM here are part of that psyops mission to discredit the movement.

    Yeah tOM, to hell with them flesh and blood people being brutalized by the police, what about those poor, innocent concrete statues you take such a personal interest in? What about them? Someone’s got to say something on their behalf.

    Good to see that your heart is in the right place: with the other inanimate objects. Something tells me that you got more warmth for your wallet than anything else though, even those poor innocent, defenseless statues you mewl about.


  33. Ché Pasa

    Putting statues up and taking them down both symbolic and performative. Yet the meaning of either action is not the same for everyone, nor is the function of the statue. The fact that so much emphasis is being put on whether or not a statue — any statue — stands or falls is a side show give the multiplicity of issues and problems that require immediate attention and action. But sometimes situations are so dire, any kind of distraction is a welcome respite.

    I suppose if the regime is distracted with protecting symbols/statues, then they can’t get into so much other mischief. If the uprisings coalesce solely around symbol/statue destruction, we’d have to suspect the cause is lost. But nothing is quite following expectations and predictions right now. Tomorrow is another day.

    As for provocateurs, sure. There are plenty of them. Most seem to just want to keep the pot stirred.

  34. Z

    As long as that statue didn’t fall on a living person when it got pulled it down, it’s not really much of a tragedy in my mind.

    Pay someone to build a new and better one.


  35. Willy

    Not countering Z – it does seem more than a bit probable that covert operatives are at play regarding these statues. Somebody once stated that a mob leader is somebody who notices the direction the mob is going, then jumps out in front and shouts “Follow Me!” Such is the nature of angry mobs. Angry mobs don’t suddenly stop at the statue to take the time to read the plaque.

    I remember some of the wiser commentary about the Columbine shooters. Others had simply proclaimed the shooters to be psychopaths, the easy answer. But the wiser ones noted the context. At that school a few overgrown alphas, probably themselves psychopaths, had come to dominate the many, even being rewarded by the authorities in that place. The shooters had developed a hopelessly depressed nihilism about all of society where a few enabled barbarians are allowed to ruin civilized life for the many. The shooters then developed the idea that their lives would only ever be one dominated by a psychopathic few while the “civilized” majority prefer not to get involved.

    I’m seeing commentary from the more thoughtful stating that the BLM protests are a symptom, and not any kind of solution. They’re a symptom of the hopelessly depressed nihilism whose cause is the topic of this post. The danger is that unlike in previous times, there’s no thoughtfully wise, strong, ethical and charismatic leadership with solid goals to rally around.

  36. Tom

    Z, tearing statues down in a mob like manner does nothing but turn off people you need on your side. Economic boycotts of establishments does more.

    Also it is possible to recognize George Floyd was murdered, while Rayshard Brooks was lawfully killed. Conflating the two again turns off the Allies you need. Its telling that Atlanta Police which is 60% Black overwhelming supports Officer Rolfe and Brosnan, even the Black Sherriff backs those Officers who followed all procedures.

    BLM had a chance to be focused and achieve great things. Instead it degenerated into a mob that attacks the wrong targets, saints the wrong people, and alienates potential allies.

    Thus it will be crushed and we’ll be back to square 1 till a more focused group that is truly class based with broad appeal comes along.

  37. Dan

    As to monuments and the like, a society that erects statues in the first place is pretty silly, no? I mean, grow up already.

  38. Z


    You’re so reasonable. It’s not like you’re striving to arrive at a preconceived, pre-paid opinion or anything. If the BLM was only pristine perfect then you’d be right there with them, right?

    Sure, you’d be with the protestors right now and fighting for their cause (who isn’t against racism and economic injustice?) except for a few carefully chosen anecdotes, from a movement that involves millions of people, that you claim completely discredits all of it.


  39. Dan

    “Putting statues up and taking them down is both symbolic and performative.” – Che Pasa

    Tearing them down is at least cathartic and can be an impetus to change. Yes, I know, the rage is often unfocused and the change my well be worse than what we have – as hard as that is to imagine.

    But putting them up is absolutely pure symbolism and performance.

    Enough with the statues.

  40. Z

    Statues matter too!

    They’re at least as important as people’s lives, racial and economic injustice, and police brutality.


  41. Z


    We realize that we have sub-human members of our movement that we must renounce and self-police. Sure, no police have actually been killed by the millions of protestors, that’s true, but they did BEHEAD a statue and that barbarism simply can not be tolerated. We are in complete agreement with that.

    But please tell us more. What else can we do to cater to you?

    How about we honor all jay-walking laws and tackle and citizen arrest any protestors that violate them? And how about we economically micro-target offending businesses since it would be grossly unfair to target all stores that are part of a franchise just because of a few bad apples? Would that be enough to get you to reconsider and so graciously lend us your invaluable support?

    Please let us know. We need people like you!


  42. S Brennan

    One hopes that Z is being facetious*.

    *definition – treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor; flippant.

  43. Willy

    Has anybody tried to get in contact with the BLM leadership?

  44. GlassHammer

    Monuments are symbols of culture so there is some merit to changing out symbols in order to force a cultural change.

    That said, I really had to think about how cultural concepts are embodied into things and reinforced by those things in order to see the importance of monument destruction.

    It all seemed very trivial to me at first.

    To be clear I am not asserting a stance for or against removal, I am just saying that I understand why it’s not a trivial act.

  45. Ché Pasa

    Here’s a story that “both sides” the Madison statue(s) issue and provides at least a smidgen of rationale for pulling down and decapitating the Heg statue and pulling down the Forward statue. It may not have been a “mob” doing it. It may not have been provocateurs. It may have been a deliberate 2×4 whack on the head of the almost useless Wisconsin establishment.

  46. S Brennan

    During the numerous centuries long Muslim invasions of Europe and Asia, tearing down statues and desecration of all other religious structures was de rigueur. After a slaughtering of any who openly opposed the conquest, the worship of the conqueror’s person/religion was enforced. Indeed Muslims, financially supported by Saudi Arabia and trained/armed by the autocrats in the 3-letter agencies, still engage in such acts today.

    I see the desecration of cultural icons in this light, when seek to force your viewpoint upon others it is important that you demonstrate your willingness to use violence to achieve your groups ideology. In so doing, you hope to attract others with totalitarian tendencies to your group. Tearing down statues is a signature mark of all authoritarian movements, tellingly, it’s used by globalists, or if you prefer, neoliberal/neocolonials. Today, after a country has been “liberated” from an ideology foreign to globalism, it’s traditional to tear down statues while stripping the country’s assets.

  47. Dan

    The Wisconsin State Journal story is a good one. From the article:

    “While Anderson-Carter acknowledged the “Forward” and Heg statues stood for good causes and movements, those in power are not taking that same stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. Having those statues prominently displayed in Madison creates a “false representation of what this city is,” she said.

    “I just hope some people realize that sometimes you need to talk to people in a language that only they understand,” Anderson-Carter said. “Stop trying to make us speak to you in your language.”

    Would a statue of Eugene Debs be okay? I suppose an Adolph Reed statue might survive. I’d love to hear Reed’s take on a statue of himself!

    Thanks Che Pasa.

  48. Stirling S Newberry

    Foucault translate to poetry

    L’eau et la navigation
    ont bien ce rôle.
    Enfermé dans le navire,
    d’où on n’échappe pas,
    le fou est confié à la rivière aux mille bras,
    à la mer aux mille chemins, à cette grande incertitude extérieure à tout. Il est prisonnier au milieu
    de la plus libre,
    de la plus ouverte des routes :
    solidement enchaîné à l’infini carrefour.
    Il est le Passager par excellence,
    c’est-à-dire le
    prisonnier du passage.

    Water and navigation
    have this role.
    Locked in the ship,
    from which one does not escape,
    the madman is entrusted to the river to a thousand arms,
    to the sea of ​​a thousand paths,
    to this great uncertainty external to everything.
    He’s trapped in the middle of the freer,
    from the most open of roads:
    solidly linked to infinity crossroads.
    He is the Passenger par excellence,
    that is to say the
    prisoner of the passage.

    Li Bao: Summer Mountains



    Lǎn yáo bái yǔshàn
    luǒtǐ qīng lín zhōng
    tuō jīn guà shíbì
    lù dǐng sǎ sōngfēng
    Summer mountains

    Lazy shake white feather fan,
    Naked in the forest.
    Taken cap hangs stone wall,
    Blow towards pine trees.

  49. Hugh

    Hugh’s quickie translation:

    Too lazy to rock the snow white feathers of my fan,
    I undo my robes in the dark blue-green wood.
    I take off my head cloth and hang it on a stone wall
    The breezes moving through the pines fall upon my bare head,
    and I relax.

    I would note that 白 Bái (white/snowy) is a play on the author’s name.

  50. bruce wilder

    Journalism consists mostly of re-writing press releases or taking dictation in return for access to the famously powerful. Earnest do-goodism is siloed into NGOs and specialty non-profits more oriented to their fund-raising and brand management that to any ostensible purpose. Academia has been consumed by the growth of administration and faculties are minimum-wage adjuncts or grant whores. People make careers out in this ecology made ripe for manipulation by being starved of independent sources of revenue. Academia once had endowments they could spend from, now they exist to enrich their financial managers; newspapers had classified ads, now they have Google. And on it goes.

    A socio-economic class has arisen from career-making in these economic ecologies and its ideology is a narrow, corrupt neo-liberalism. It is a dependent class strangely happy in its dependence. It is what “western leadership” consists of. These are the PMC lamented by Lambert Strether and ridiculed by Thomas Frank. These are the Think Progress alums who dragged Sanders down. They gave us Obama care and Uber. They are the foreign policy establishment blob(tm). They look upon the persecution of Julian Arrange for publishing the truth and despise him for both his truth-telling and his suffering, but mostly his suffering. And, they love BLM, because their idea of history begins after color television and their notion of injustice is racial disparity in the distribution of cruelty, not cruelty itself. They don’t fix things that they can nudge.

  51. Stirling S Newberry

    Li Bao (701-762) Dark Night Cry



    huáng yún chéng biān wū yù qī
    guī fēi yāyā zhī shàng tí
    jī zhōng zhījǐn qín chuān nǚ
    bì shā rú yān gé chuāng yǔ
    tíng suō chàngrán yì yuǎn rén
    dú sù gū fáng lèi rú yǔ

    Dark Night Cry

    Yellow cloud cityside crows
    Return fly, caw caw, branch go up
    In the machine weaves Qin river girl
    Blue yarn girlish smoke across window language
    Stop shuttle despair rush remote soul
    Solo stay solitary – Tears in the room.

  52. Hugh

    Or Hugh’s quickie translation 2

    Crows Crying at Night

    Under yellow clouds at the city’s edge
    Crows seek a place to perch and rest
    Those returning in flight to those on the branches
    Call, caw caw.
    At her frame, the Qinchuan woman weaves her cloth
    Of jade green thread. Like smoke, it stands between us
    and speech at her window.
    Disappointed and frustrated, she stops her shuttle,
    Remembering one who is far away.
    Alone at night in a lonely house.
    Her tears fall like rain.

  53. Stirling S Newberry


    In flux influx
    Experimental consensus
    Occupied densest
    Defined multiple
    Caterpillar flummoxed
    swarm commanding
    uncomfortable construction.

  54. Mark Pontin

    @ Bruce W. —

    You’ve got a quick but comprehensive laundry list of the basic mechanisms operative in the U.S. scene today. It’s tempting to say that, as you remarked about Kunstler and his diagnosis of collapse, well, “boring” because everything you mention was already self-evident in 2008 for those with open eyes. But whatever.

    The question becomes: where to next? Well —

    Banquo. It will be rain to-night.

    First Murderer. Let it come down.

    Indeed. Let it come down.

  55. Hugh

    “I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

    I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

    I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

    And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

    And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”

    From back in 1963 when he was still freewheelin’ it. And

    “As long as I remember
    The rain’s been comin’ down
    Clouds of mystery pourin’
    Confusion on the ground

    Good men through the ages
    Tryin’ to find the sun
    And I wonder, still I wonder
    Who’ll stop the rain”

    From 1970, Fogerty’s take.

  56. S Brennan

    An outburst of poetry every now and again is all well and good but, anybody who’s hung out with contemporary “poets” knows, contemporary “poets” don’t read/pay-for contemporary “poets”…please make a note of it.

    The last contemporary poet who spoke to me was Joni…after that, it was just dudes wanking themselves at the microphone.

  57. capelin

    It’s coming through a hole in the air,
    from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
    It’s coming from the feel
    that this ain’t exactly real,
    or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.
    From the wars against disorder,
    from the sirens night and day,
    from the fires of the homeless,
    from the ashes of the gay:
    Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

    The focus on leadership, of either “Western” or “Protestors”, strikes me as outmoded, to a degree. Leaders can be cut down easy, and there’s all your eggs, smashed in a basket.

    True power comes from a mass of leaders, and I would argue that is what we are seeing now. As much as people point to lack of “leadership” and “specific demands” from Occupy as being weaknesses, I see it more as an initial wave of building power and alternative political-cultural infrastructure, with the current “protests” as informed by and a continuation of that build, not an end in itself.

    Long view.

    As to statues, there’s tangible reasons they are erected, and tangible reasons to pull ’em down. Again, not an end in themselves.

  58. bruce wilder

    “The question becomes: where to next?”

    people always think, “that is the question” when they have no idea how to formulate a question, let alone an answer.

    look at the first comments on this post from five years ago. they then thought the problem was obvious 15 years before, at least. i

    the sharp point of my “laundry list of mechanisms” was that most of what passes for “western leadership” are not “leaders”, they are just incompetent cogs in machines they made themselves while asleep. their ideology is a cover story.

    buses in LA carry “BLM” on their destination headers. “leadership” has embraced “anti-racism” as a cover story. “they” are behind the revolution, underneath the revolution even, making the revolution another product of innovative corporate business culture. and the world “outside” innovative corporate business culture (the outside where most of us actually live, though oddly not me at this moment, which just accentuates the unreality for me) continues to fall apart, the collapse of the economy unheeded, unacknowledged, the failure to contain the virus knocking one more block in the game of jenga our betters have been playing for 30 years, moving ever closer to an exciting tumbling climax — except in this game they will just keep pulling out blocks. they did not stop after Iraq, Katrina, the GFC. it is what they do. that is “where to next”

    unless people think about different mechanisms. i see little interest. do not ask western followership to think critically about the quality of the “leadership” they are offered: Presidential candidates suffering obvious mental decline and a record of lifelong character flaws — two of them, offered by their supporters as alternatives to the other!! hurtling to a future without fossil fuels or with, but without an ecology.

    it — the institutionalized structures of habit that make up the routines of politics and economics — are intact. those buses now labelled BLM still run, though almost no one is on them. they collect no fares. the few passengers grimly wear masks and sit apart. Uber and Lyft soldier on, still I presume losing money for corporate and making little for the drivers. American Airlines is packing its planes I hear. Boeing is a zombie now. Hotels in NYC volunteer to become homeless shelters! bars in Texas are closed! in Texas! this morning i saw a bus with the header, “Creating Excellence”. moving on, i guess, with the same old b.s.

    that is, where to next

  59. Ché Pasa


    Hear hear!

  60. Gaianne


    It was good to see this essay. I seem to have missed it the first time.

    Still, it is a difficult essay. On the one hand, your ideas are obvious. On the other, they seem almost impossible to hold in the mind. Most of my friends would dismiss what you say instantly–literally without thinking. On less than one hand I can count the friends who could entertain what you say as possibility–that is to say, as a hypothetical, a mere possibility–and certainly not as a likelihood.

    You say of politicians: “They are not good at anything else, and expecting them to do anything else is insane.” Yet that is exactly what my friends, neighbors, and the people of my small city expect–that they will fix things–despite not doing so and having never done so. As you say this expectation is insane.

    To your many large, good examples, I will add a small, local one. Nearly a decade ago my city agreed, after intense local agitation for it, to set up a review board of police misconduct, as there had been many egregious cases of abuse by the police. This was supported by an ordinance of the city council. Then, nothing was done. It was forgotten by all branches of the city government though not by the citizens who had demanded it in the first place. Now, after extensive street demonstrations following and sparked by the murder in Minneapolis, the idea has been rediscovered, as though new and for the first time. By the way, no, the renewed review board will not be able to issue subpoenas or take sworn testimony. Apparently it will be empowered to “make suggestions.” I am left wondering if people will be simply repeat the same inactivity of eight years ago. My friends would be happy to, seemingly.

    The open inability to think, or the refusal to do so–the love of empty and meaningless gestures–seems as much an obsession of the “left” as the “right.” I would say that things that might work are avoided like the plague, but now as the corona epidemic in the US has shown, plague is definitely preferable.

    Difficult and lonely times!

    Please keep writing!


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