A Reply to Publius on Greens & Dems in 2004


Friend Gaius Publius,

I send you greetings from across the wine-dark web. As ever I welcomed the arrival of your epistle in CounterPunch, this time called “Candidate Dem and Citizen Green“. Because by now you’ve moved on to other pastures, I’ll remind you that in that chronicle, you spoke about the curious outcome of a poll conducted by Steve Perry, proconsul of the site Bush Wars, which you sought to understand through a rehearsal of not yet ancient history. I join you there, in spirit, across the vasty depths of time etc.

The scene you lay out is familiar from Chomsky and Vidal. I too agree with the drawing of its contours. Crudely, the U.S. consensus, broadly understood as the inertial sway of longstanding military, economic, and ideological commitments, render the person and even party of the president almost meaningless. It’s a structuralist view Foucault would approve of-the discourse speaks even the exceptional man.

I know. Chomsky and Vidal would say I misrepresent them, and rightly so, if for no other reason than the pessimism and passivity it implies. After all, if people make no difference, as in the dusty idea of historical inevitability that once caused oohs and ahhs on the runways of European Marxism, why bother? Yet both go on speaking as if their actions do matter. So let’s assume the choice we make isn’t wholly irrelevant. Then which will it be, discussion or disguise?

To answer that I need clarification, and to get it, let me characterize what you lay out by implicit tropes I think I perceive in the piece. Disguise entails a few victories amid defeats in a maddeningly drawn-out process, with mostly tacit acceptance of U.S. foreign policy and possibly even movement away from progressive domestic goals. Here, the world goes on, leadenly, dully, oppressively, beating down the dreams of significance.

Discussion, because of its extremism, more effectively brings out, as a character from Monty Python might say, the violence inherent in the system. Because of that, it may promise emotionally satisfying leaps through explosive movement rather than incremental adjustment. In this story the plot takes a decisive turn when the dormant conscience of a culture awakens when confronted with its own depravity. (Cut to Tiresias and Oedipus.)

No wonder discussion looks better. It’s dramatic, cataclysmic, big, whereas disguise is just one petty episode after another, with no hope of release. The question is, which is likelier?

The unconscious of language may lend us a figurative hand. The word “progressive” presumably comes from the idea of progress, advance toward a more perfect union, the realization of better standards of justice, peace, and pleasure. Also inescapable, like an uncanny overtone or the return of the repressed (if I may allow a nod to a properly repressed Freudian magic act), is the notion of the gradual, the shaded, the-progressive. To which the only sensible pomo American reaction is: quel drag! That’s not rock-and-roll. That’s work. That’s the daily grind. That’s accepting a limited capacity to affect the badness of a bad old world.

At this juncture, please imagine the tune with the lyric “Do you believe in miracles?” That’s because behind each so-called rational judgment a story lurks, with disguise and difference belonging to different genres, even centuries (diguise/18th/picaresque; difference/19th/romance), though we can leave that as a suggestive parallel rather than an academic’s deus ex verba. What we can say, as a would-be script doctor, is that disguise is all middle without an ending, while difference is boffo box office, especially with the right special effects, as long as we fade out before the hero must pull out the broom and shovel to clean up the tremendous mass of excrement left behind after all that excitement.

Either way, they’re stories, and sooner or later we’re back in the harsh sunlight, in a world that often as not serves shit for breakfast (though after a while it sort of tastes like chicken). Which would I pick? That would be telling. And like you, I decline to loosen that last veil occluding an august mystery. And then there are the vicissitudes: I’m awfully moody, and all literature is finally occasional, no? Plus my agent would never forgive me. The real money is in the sequels.

Semper parodus,

J. Alfred Don Quixote Rasselas Brown

J.A.D.Q.R. Brown can be reached at: dogen@mindspring.com


July 18, 2018
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional