Stage and State. [A revision of a post published in the blog in March of 2010,now approaching seven years ago.]
I have for a long time understood the kinship between statecraft and stagecraft, both inextricably linked as texts, the former, statecraft, drawing its energy from the latter, stagecraft—the birth of the modern state collateral with the resurrection of theater in Europe. This claim of shared energies becomes more clearly drawn when you understand that the term energy comes from the Greek energeia, and that that term was one from Greek rhetoric and was later borrowed by Greek physics as a metaphor.
The energy of theater—the theatrical also being a branch of rhetoric—and the energies of politics could run parallel; politicians have never been so without savvy as to miss the theatrics of politics and the public’s love of pomp. Neither can endure the full presence of the other without suffering a detriment to itself, yet the state has learned from the stage.
When we began to draw back from literacy as an elitist endeavor, we condemned ourselves to self-imposed mental slavery, one where the mind forged manacles of ignorance were worn as jewelry. We should have known better to fear and foresee, but then this withdrawal, one mistakenly acknowledged in our worst and most plebian understanding of our democratic needs, as we have for too long mis-imagined our social necessities, mostly in the way we do a lot of our social necessities—quite similarly to how we envision the requirements from our pedagogy.
It was no accident that theatre in Athens and democracy had a collateral rise—however, it is not necessary that politics mirror good theater. We should also never mind anything near good journalism, fiction, or poetry in a culture such as ours where even the protector, the guardians of literacy have so degraded their understanding of it and their taste for it, as to leave themselves opened to a kind of journalism in line with the propaganda of state, all supporting the status quo, everything managed by State bureaucracies.
And we must also never mind about universities being the guardians of our freedom or advocates of eternal liberty; what we have today is fast-food academia at best. Pomp, yes, circumstance, of course, and a flair for melodrama, certainly, are the best any State can hope to sponsor in writing . . . and with as much money as the government puts into our colleges, colleges being themselves now aligned with business institutions more than with institutions of higher learning as they had once been established and fostered, conformity with the socio-political status quo is more greatly assured. Of course, in as much as every state opens a space for subversion to emerge in order to better be able to surround it, corral it, so to speak, and there are no greater corrals for the wild stallions of radicalism than our universities. This is about all the subversion and radicalism any state will tolerate, actually; so at least the United States puts its radicals and its dissenters in University Departments, maintaining there a slightly tenuous relationship with the corporate investors of higher education. With a delimiting of the potential for state sponsored education at the high school level, it has been necessitated that more go to college in order to be educated at an appropriate level, thus necessitating the states involvement further in universities, thus ensuring that they become more like high schools.
It is I who will bear the responsibility for my government, this is not a surprise for me. My state, my culture, its participation in a larger western civilization, has seemingly been headlong for collapse. I know that there are many who think I protest too much, but I don’t exaggerate when I say that I’ve been saying for twenty years that the U.S. was heading for a fall, particularly for its credit practices, how much the credit industry had been basing much of its finance on air—turning debt into an asset—it has stepped too far out on the ledge; and how much of our economy is rested on air. Something like the fall of a civilization does not happen in the blink of an eye.
The warning signs were there in the 80s, again in the 90s; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But political economy not exactly aside, whatever the conditions, we have to live in them. We have to live a life the best we can. This cliché does not belay the truth of it. What then must we do?
Who are we, we must note well; who am I, I must know and know well. That this I is we is a truth hard to grasp for many, but we shall try.
The Self is the macrocosm of the people.
In drawing any analogy between the Self and the State, let me say that the State is not larger than any of the People metaphysically and this is true not because I am a king, or we are all Kings, but because I am a man, a person as we mean person as one of the people, populus, again, who are never publius, unless transformed by the state into its servants. Yes, I am bigger than the state because everyone is bigger than the state metaphysically, although in the physical it can squash me like a bug, as states have squashed so many countless millions, just in the last century alone nearly 300,000,000 million people were murdered in Europe alone. But then, the rhetoric of dehumanization has become adjunct with all technological advances in mass murder; a society needs publics first in order to murder people on such a scale.
No amount of Malthusian delusions by Russians from the Soviet Union I meet will ever explain their more than 100,000,000 murdered by their own people—people having been degraded into the most beastly public in the history of mass societies. Over eighty years of totalitarian dehumization, not only of the people murdered, but by the murders of the murderers—every one was less than himself, every one in the Soviet Union had been emotionally and morally crippled by a pervasive hysteria only the most vulgar public could maintain—there were no People in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
People dehumanized by the most savage collectivism in the history of the world outside of Mao’s China transformed into good Soviet publicans, people so debased by the state that they resembled rabid junkyard dogs in less than eight decades. How else could one man, Stalin, murder twenty million soviet people unless hundreds of thousands of Russians betrayed one another in a communal frenzy of dehumanization? But lets not think that that could never happen here, which is one or another American naiveté. We have never been closer to the seminal stages of this development than we are now at this time in our history.
The first steps on the long or short road to this dehumanization I see clearly being taken here in America, is not only a reduction in our literacy, but in the awareness that it is even something to attain. There is no place on earth becoming faster like the former Soviet Union as is the United States, and the latter’s liberals are as much to blame as are her conservatives. Don’t forget that although Trotsky was a victim of that Stalinist fury, he was a willful participator in the atrocities during the revolution and the civil war that ensued.
I can’t speak for others, although I try often to do so; but saying what I do out of necessity in my mind, a singularly pressing and deeply felt personal need to say what I believe to be true regardless of who likes it or not takes over my vocal apparatus. I know I have a beam in my eye, and I will say that I have a beam in my eye; but I can’t help but tell my neighbor he has a speck in his as well as me having a beam in my own. Sometimes it seems petty, other times it just rings true. Nonetheless, I’m not talking about the neighbors with specks in their eyes; I’m talking about the ones with the main mast of a Yankee clipper ship in theirs. J’acuse Wall Street, J’acuse Hollywood, J’acuse major league sports, and J’acuse the New York City Department of Education; j’acuse X, Y, Z who are complicit . . . I am still wary of anyone who imagines that Marx’s materialism is actually empirical, strictly, and not in itself determined by extended logic or theory (itself an amalgamation of logic extensive of logic).
If anyone saw a genuine difference between Obama and McCain, other than the former’s magnetism and dexterity with a demagogue’s rhetoric . . . and even liberals, seemingly benign and caring, can be demagogues (an ingredient that cannot be entirely absent in any politician’s arsenal [and please forgive the military/warfare analog; all politics are in themselves a mass of competitions, and all competition has amassed a large number of warfare metaphors rhetorically, linguistically]); then my hopes for a political recovery have waned. They were united in ideology, neither distinct form the other, except for policy, styles of management, manners and targets for how money is to be spent or saved.
As all politicians in America are of one ideology—there are no politicians in these United States other than those who uphold all the values of bourgeois capitalist civilization, each one a media president, the presidency itself a medium, and after all that has been the message in America from before Reagan or Kennedy. One after another, all in an effort to convince us that package over product is the only intelligent way to elect or to govern.
President Obama is still an elite, not one by birth, but certainly one by choice, by intention, by desire; particularly through his alliance with the old Kennedy coalition-nexus, the latter extending in a webbed network of political backing that has placed him fully within the sphere of this influence, not only in the seat of national political power, but at the doorstep of real power in America; this is what and who are supporting him. There is no question about that; and it is ironically a testimony to how far we have come in race relations, as I have said in another essay, Barack Obama is more of an insider, further within the concentrically ordered rings of power in America than was Jimmy Carter more than three decades ago.
Black, white or other. What I see is power. And power, real power, is colorless, as void of tint as it is void of soul. Don’t imagine that because Obama is allegedly black that he has a hotline to the little man, the simple separate person, the great democratic averages as persons, always person after person in of by and for the People.
Obama does not have such a hotline as mentioned above, but he does have eloquence, whether only enough of or just savy enough to keep it that way, to juggle our attention. His brand of service, though, is a president in search of a public. Monied and Power elites need a smooth orator to sell the idea of public over people; George Bush just might have sent us back into grassroots people politics in opposition to him and his greedy kind.
Obama is the kind of sell that power needs, another Roosevelt, who was as much for the little man as Hoover was, only better at diverting attention—and perhaps, to his credit, better able to manage the pressures of power and monied elites and the exacerbating needs of the People. Remember Roosevelt’s, “Some of my best frinds were Communists,” stealing their thunder. I am not ever going to say that the New Deal did not do more for working people and poor people and elderly people than any other program for change in America; FDR, after all, had affection for Al Smith here in New York he could barely hide; he learned his lessons well.
Roosevelt, nverthless, did do something for the people, mostly in the form of Public works, and herein we have some overlap of the People and the Public: herein, public works are for the People, but in as much as they oblige the People to be friendly toward the state and become a good and peaceful public when called on to be so, they become means to manage the People, control the People. Perhaps Roosevelt did do more with less than politicians currently have been raised to believe they can, let alone believe they must. Now Obama will have us eating crumbs out of the hands of State (itself in allegiance to an Oligarchy of Banks and Corporations) as we learn to love serving the State as members of the neo-Public never the People (and that is always Jefferson’s We the People). Now that’s change too.
Obama is, though, equally white, and maybe consciousness of race in America still takes its lessons from miscegenation mentality: one drop of black blood makes you black. It would be racist to assume because he is African-American he can step out of the traditions of politics or the Office, or that he will not be affected by the current political energies, as presidents before him have—but as we must believe, because they were white.
These forces and energies are as metaphysically powerful for agents of the state as the theology of the trinity is metaphysically powerful in the worldview of devout orthodox Christians. Obama is not the free agent we want to think he is, and he is even less of an outsider than Hilary Clinton was or is, being both a Clinton and a woman. I said it before it became a question in the primary elections later than I thought it needed to be, but yes, America was far readier for a black man than any woman to be president.
Gender after race in America; but then we wonder why gay marriage is so far out of the loop of most Americans sense of the possible, legally or politically. Yet, to think that open and equal standing between gay and straight is naive; to expect homosexuality to come fully out of the closet in the light of day is not to consider that just fifty years ago or so heterosexuality was virtually in the closet.
Being an outsider is not necessarily a good thing, politically, no more than was our belief in American naive pragmatism that businessmen could and would make better politicians.
As I have said, it is the old Kennedy alliances of 1960 and 1968, and the tributaries of those party mainstreams that are the feeding waters of Obama’s candidacy. Clinton, in fact, represented the only viable opposition to that, but the Clinton Democratic Party is not in hegemony, yet. Obama selecting her as Secretary of State is forging a future coalition in the party. But old Democratic mainstream party control is behind Obama, and in a way it was not behind Jimmy Carter, or even Bill Clinton in 92.
But there are powers in numbers to be controlled. Black people—and I can’t get around the term African-American—I am from the age of James Brown, black power, the Black Panthers, and the Mexico City Olympics; yes, black people have been at a numerical disadvantage in this country since their numbers could count in any election, which is why I have never understood why the Democrats have supported an elimination of the Electoral College system because the Electoral College is the only voting system that gives weight to minority voters; it allows minorities to swing states in coalitions with other voters. In a system of one man, one woman, one vote each, African-Americans get washed out. But then Obama is the white washed black man America can love. But if Al Gore had won the election the way George Bush had, they would be singing the praises of the Electoral College System
I do say we should give Obama a chance, the opportunity to show us that black men can be as corrupted by power, perhaps, as any other man. We must give him the opportunity to fail, to remain as powerless in front of entrenched hereditary elites, as anyone else. These hereditary elites are a kind of aristocracy, aligned with moneyed oligarchic power that America has endured since its inception as an alleged democratic nation, the kind that picks and chooses pseudo-members of the people now and again to refresh our naive conviction in rule by the people that will work for the people.
Now, our convictions in the trueness and the rightness of our system—interestingly transcendent ideas—have been renewed because of the Obama Presidency. In this, we have fostered the illusion that America will remain a government of the people, by the people and for the people, so long as Obama is our President—or so many of us still believe, even though his Secretary of the Treasury has as his four top aides, former members of Goldman Sachs, USB and Bank America.
Just at the moment the people realize that most of this has been a great lie, they will also wonder why they ever sponsored constitutional repeal of the Second Amendment. This is my fear, not my hope . . . that we have acculturated ourselves into a position where only the gravest solutions will be necessitated, where only the most extreme response will be mandated.
Carrots and horses; everything political in America has become all about carrots, horses and carts.
Recent events subsequent to the initial publication and reissue of this essay have necessitated a new point, and that is that We the People had almost gotten to the point where we were fed up with Party politics as it has been played ad nauseum ad perpetuum; and that party realignment might have come up as one of the most serious topics of political discussion for all politique to consider, liberal, conservative, communist, socialist, labor green, neo-Nazis, facsist, et cetera, et cetera; not only party realignment, but a serious consideration of either abandoning party politics or allowing to rise through gross popular support more than two parties. But just as we came close to maybe having concluded some or all of the above here mentioned concerning party politics, along comes Donald Trump to polarize and convince us that the Republicans and the Democrats have viable and discernible differences between them, and that it is imperative for the future of our Republic, ourselves, the People, for us to decide which side we were on. It is really curious how this carnival-barker of a used-car-salesman demagogue was embraced by the media almost in the same way or the inverse way [virtually the same in that they are flip-sides of the same coin, both sides of the coin of the same metal . . .]. The Republicans successfully harnessed all right wing political affiliations; the Democrats failed at harnessing all left wing political affiliations because itself as a Party it had already shifted to the right with a world political Zeitgeist that had shifted to the right in the nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party was just a little less conservative than Ronald Regan’s Republicans because Regan still had the Soviet Union to contend with and a Democratic Party that was still mostly left of center in a diagram of eternal Left and Right.