On the January Washington March, On Violence, On What Remains Unsaid

Photo by jar [o] | CC BY 2.0

Photo by jar [o] | CC BY 2.0

In her 1969 essay On Violence, written in her adoptive country, the United States, Hannah Arendt made an important distinction between ”power” and ”violence” . Power stultifies and diminishes violence, it is the philosopher’s equivalent of a wall of Jericho. Power manifests in numerous ways, destroying violence.

Mechanized, absolute power of the state armed with drones almost becomes a mockery of the power of the Biblical god (patriarchal in his violence) and those who elect the path of ”guerilla” violent resistance are reduced to using violence as an archaic symbolism. Perhaps the obstinacy of primitive humanity in the face of technocratic society is to be seen in how schoolchildren might still, occasionally, draw a heart with an arrow shot through despite that almost no one today hunts traditionally with bow and arrow, and despite that love-affairs are mostly arranged and outsourced to internet databases.

It seems that Arendt’s observations were confirmed: power is expansionist by nature. It ”has an inner urge to grow, it is creative because ”the instinct of growth is proper to it”. In the essay Arendt refers to Catherine the Great’s logic, which is the logic of power subscribed to by most of the elites of the imperial business-growth party, the GOP-DNC, as well as the breakaway rogue movement of Trump and co.

“Just as in the realm of organic life everything either grows or declines and dies, so in the realm of human affairs power supposedly can sustain itself only through expansion; otherwise it shrinks and dies. ”That which stops growing begins to rot,” goes a Russian saying from the entourage of Catherine the Great. Kings, we are told, were killed ”not because of their tyranny but because of their weakness. The people erect scaffolds, not as moral punishment of despotism, but as the biological penalty for weakness”

Clinton and Trump, defeated and victor of the imperial raffle-elections of November 2016, both abhor weakness, and have already shown it in great measure regardless of who was inaugurated. Even after Obama decanted the CIA rumor that circulated in corporate media, many protestors still carried signs revealing the belief in Russian alien invasion having planted its agent in the current White House.

Gloria Steinem spoke at the January 2017 march: the Steinem who had repudiated any women supporting Bernie Sanders in the primaries, telling them, like a Calvinist father warning the flock, of a special place in hell for women who would not vote for Hillary. Speaking at the recent women’s march in Washington, Steinem told her followers to celebrate their occupation daring to inhabit a space with their bodies—their bodies soon to be legislated over by Trump’s repressive Republican-Evangelical agenda on abortion and reproductive rights. The fact of the Pope of Rome having openly denounced Trump as not being a Christian—despite the Vatican’s vehement pro-life position—was insufficient to provide a stumbling block for Trump in the country of a Protestant majority, where Latinos are the majority of practicing Catholics and yet insufficiently motivated by Clinton, reminded of how her husband had institutionalized racism against during the 1990s, even while making countless rhetorical invocations to multiculturalism.

The election of Donald Trump is violence, and rage, against the power, (as were many of the protests against his inauguration and prospective plans for repressive agenda.) That violence has perhaps the single direct result of only more violence.

January’s protest marches, like all mass protests, are also ‘violence’, not intended pejoratively here, but rather in Hannah Arendt’s understanding of violence as a political life where power does not inhabit. Half-a-million women on Washington DC after the mogul’s klan-attended inauguration produced revealing pictures surfacing world-wide in newspapers showing women wearing identical uniforms while raising up billboards saying “Putin won”’ and other bizarre claims of Russian and Muscovite infiltration in the elections and White House, despite that Obama admitted that initial claims by the CIA had no such evidence. Those seem to be the lessons learned so far from the defeat of Hillary Clinton, saboteur of any populist cry for social democracy and demilitarization, during a time when heeding the general will of population was a dire urgency. The feminist movement during more lucid years had insisted that Margaret Thatcher was not to be remade into a ”feminist” icon simply because she was a woman. But for the most coveted post of imperial power, such judgment is to be eagerly suspended: as Gloria Steinem words about hellfire suggested—perhaps so many years of opposing religious Evangelicals internalized the enemy as she turned to Red-baiting. Rebecca Solnit, blaming and invoking “Penis Power” for Trump in the London Review Books has learned that, once more, men are to blame for the storm. If the academically enlightened (male and female) feminists want to truly convince that ”misogyny”’ determined the US elections, they first would do well to explain how it could be macho countries like Brazil and Argentina had populations capable of reelecting women politicians such as Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernandes de Kirchner. Rousseff, and more so Kirchner, exuded substance and had real workable, well-explained and militant plans for their people, rather than militarism and subordination to hedge funds and Wall-street.

Cristina Kirchner is today a persecuted leader of the opposition against the neoliberal CEO-crat Mauricio Macri (favoured and praised by Obama, who refused to visit Argentina during the Kirchner years). Macri employs systematic oppression against female political leaders such as political prisoner Milagros Sala and the aging May Plaza Mothers, and the only one of his political positions not in conflict with Francis’ Vatican is the staunch pro-life position. A former CEO with numerous panama-papers scandals, Macri is rather close in resemblance to Trump in many aspects of his repressive agenda and social origins (despite all that, the San Diego Herald Tribune, a conservative newspaper, warned against Trump by claiming he was the North American version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner (!) when they for the first time backed a Democrat in 2016)

Kirchner has no pity for Hillary, however, and she told her movement that the election of Trump against Hillary was a sign that the neo-liberal economic ideology is dead despite Macri’s and the Argentinian oligarchs’ support for it, and warned ”we should not fall into easy stereotypes that explain the Trump-win in the USA by claiming racism and misogyny were the main factors–people raged against the system that took away their homes and jobs.”

Where was the opposition marching on Washington DC when Kerry and Obama both admitted to their support for the overthrow (called ”impeachment” by the criminal gangs who use the English word, gleaned from US broadcasted, subtitled television dramas about Watergate) of popularly elected Dilma Roussef of the Brazilian Worker’s Party? Rousseff was overthrown by casino-entities such as Eduardo Cunha and Michel Temer, playboyish businessmen of exactly the ilk and lifestyle Trump most understands, owners of as many offshore trading entities, forgers of an unelected parliament that has ousted female and negro politicians while giving powers to the Evangelical church, the television monopolies and landowners.  The difference between Trump and his Brazilian lookalikes is in how the latter’s victories were sponsored and celebrated by Obama and Hillary, as the coup’s leaders deigned to enforce austerity and neoliberalism in Brazil. Austerity and the global market stands insulted, not vanquished, by the strange version of protectionism advocated by the former CEO and casino-owner in the United States.

The Latin American politicians Rousseff and Kirchner won because of their programs towards redistribution of wealth, policies their economics’ ministers and treasurers admitted were not socialism, but a form of “”Neo-Keynesian economics” —in short, Latin Americans had, in the past, voted for the New Deal in its Southern and 21st century form, and such “‘Neo-Keynesian economics” and social democracy as promised by Bernie Sanders was exactly what would have won over that critical section Trump-voters who had previously voted Obama (!) and who were wavering undecided at one point between Sanders and Trump before the Clintons clinched the primaries.

Both last-standing candidates of the 2016 elections, Clinton and Trump, promised the impossible: detaining and avoiding US imperial decline. Both subscribed to what Arendt pointed to as “” the traditional concept of power, equated with violence”

One form of expansionism–the one favored by the more articulate, established insider Clinton–was to continue the path of global market, while fighting Russia. The other expansion sought to make Mexico the frontline for aggression and hostility that it was in the founding years of United States imperialism since the 19th century’s invasive resource wars (protested, along with plantation slavery, by the civil disobedience of anarchists Thoreau and Mark Twain) Trump also threatens redesign and undoing of Republican predecessor Nixon’s Trojan horse deployed unto the then Communist People’s Republic of China: the gift of commerce-as-peace, which in turn isolated Russia, disturbing what appeared to be fragile Eurasian alliances.

Those who hold to the claim that ”misogyny” (as well as Russia) stole the elections have not explored or confronted themselves with the examples of popular women leaders in Argentina, Brazil or (for example) Indonesia, simply because for them the United States and perhaps its Western-European partners-as-subsidiaries are the only valid representation of the real, the center of political cosmos–in accordance, such “feminist” logic is finally Imperial logic and causes a dangerous, damaging myopia during a time when it is of dire urgency, at least for inhabitants of the United States, Mexico and the climate that Republicans are ensured swift and nasty defeat come 2020. Hopefully, the victor of the 2020 elections, regardless of gender, will sport a plan for redistribution-of-wealth (The New-New-Deal, what Trump promised and will fail to deliver, DOA) and of rebuilding of institutions that were already under demolition in the Bush-II and Obama years, as well as sporting the diplomatic grace to scream ¡Viva Mexico!  in solidarity with insulted and exploited Southern neighbours, instead of the embarrassing Catherine-the-Great-like slogans of expansionism provided by both defeated and victor in 2016’s turn-style gambit.

The elections of 2016 saw two ugly, careless, decadent and vicious campaigns that both supported alternative, conflicting views of an expansionist position of Empire–Hilary’s campaign promise, uninteresting to most voters, pledging to further combat Russia while using numerous countries as battlefields since the calamities in Ukraine, Syria and Benghazi, against Trump’s promise “”Make America Great Again” to reinvigorate and boost empire by displacing the apparently indispensable (and racist) suspicion and aggression away from Russia onto China and Mexico, potentially just as dangerous, allying with the nefarious fascist regimes in Asia who also clash with China, such as the mass-murdering president Duterte in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Trump and his experienced generals believe the military needs a rest, in order to have a pit-stop, to regroup and enlarge its artillery– There is a little-known rebellion building up within the military, involving those who are disenchanted or made unemployed by drone technology: their hopes invested in Tillerson and the current extremists is for their elected to act against the humiliating consequences of the drone and other long-distance, robotic thanato-technology, which has completely emasculated the traditional warrior-ethos of the soldier and pilot replacing them with digital tech-warrior jockeys who can commit the Mai Lai massacre in Yemen from the insulated, hygienic impeccable safety of a drone control tower/salon without ever so much as dalliance with actual risk, fire, adventure or unconventionality that made so many soldiers (male as well as female) sign up in the first place for wars that are, as Melville long ago understood ”boyish, and fought by boys.”

Arturo Desimone (Aruba, 1984) is an Aruban-Argentine writer, poet and visual artist. His articles on politics previously appeared in  CounterPunch, DemocraciaAbiertaBerfrois UKDiem25news and elsewhere. Author of the poetry collection Mare Nostrum/Costa Nostra (Hesterglock 2019) and the bilingual book “La Amada de Túnez” which  appeared in Argentina during the pandemic, he has performed at international poetry festivals in Granada, Nicaragua, Buenos Aires and Havana.