“Flicker, fever, fill the form
With a warm gush, now I wanna touch
Like we never could before
I’d fly to you tomorrow, I’m not fighting in this war”
—Big Thief, “Simulation Swarm”
The perverse appeal of Donald Trump is that he is an honest figure. He is lying but he tells you he is lying and he tells you why he’s lying. We all know he must lie because he wants to do awful things to us. If he told the truth it would be even worse.
The redemptive quality of Donald Trump is that he is a real sado-masochist. He, like us, will overplay his hand until his death, or his defeat, which he will not accept. The thing that separates us from Donald Trump is that he has no consequences for his actions and those of us who do can live vicariously through his success. There are a number of obvious reasons we shouldn’t do this but what is the alternative?
Trumpism is here to stay and we are seeing that a man who ran on being “not Trump” is like him in many ways he doesn’t even realize. Trumpism then is a structural phenomenon on both sides of the aisle. What is Trumpism? An expression of a failed state.
Biden pathetically chants “fund, fund, fund” the police, aiming to impress an imaginary person who wants to bash the left. Biden is a coward and a failure and he’s running away. He wants to blame everyone but those responsible for his failure. Is it true that any President, including Bernard Sanders (who I’ll still defend), would fail within our current system? Of course yes. Has Biden tried to succeed? Of course not.
Joe Biden could have admitted he failed and even explained why but now that he’s claimed success when everyone knows he’s lying he will, and should, pay a political price.
Biden’s Trumpism is a way of explaining almost all his policies but let’s start with the question of oil production centered around this impossible war. This is an impossible war because the United States now has two defining and deadly features: creating war and losing it.
The United States is the world’s policeman and we put our hand in every cookie jar. We are principally responsible for the Ukraine crisis but the noticeable thing about Ukraine is that it is just another war we are both causing and losing.
The other noticeable thing about Ukraine is that because the victims are white, multicultural liberals see it as a tragedy. The code used is that Ukraine is “civilized” and that countries invaded by the United States are not. Recall in Iraq, one of many examples, that the United States tried to fool us that it was a high-tech quick war while we actually targeted water supplies ensuring that civilization was impossible.
Biden also promised us civilization at home but he continues to march us to the end times with more and more oil. He attempted to sell 80m acres in the Gulf of Mexico. Biden allowed 900+ permits to drill on public land. He asked producers for more oil to lower prices at the pump. Biden’s faith in the benevolence of the oil executives us all will prove inadequate because now that he’s amped up a Cold War with Russia again they have every excuse to keep prices high whether they need to or not.
I’m bored of Joe Biden so let me take a turn to trying to sort out the figure of a dishonest Trump through the ideology of liberalism. I certainly noticed that marrying a Nigerian, who is still stuck in the supply chain backup and halfway across the world, brings about the assumptions of civilization that persist amongst liberals. Marrying a European immigrant would have been a civilized move but marrying a Nigerian was uncivilized.
Of course, I knew this and this was appealing. But to my horror marriage has not caused a revolution. It simply made me happy. Happiness should not be the goal even if it was subconsciously what I may have been desiring. While on the one hand I was able to expose the contradictions of multicultural liberals while at the same time exposing this proved the limits of such an anti-liberal approach. Trump is an anti-liberal so therefore of course he is the most liberal of liberals. His patriotism is multicultural because he’s racist.
There was a piece Alexander Cockburn wrote about gay marriage that reminded me of my own marriage experience. Cockburn asked why gay marriage was seen as radical when we consider the institution of marriage. Isn’t gay marriage just absorbing a multicultural pluralism into a conservative institution? The revolution is at best symbolic and at worst such a move expands the power of the conservative institution.
Thus my “queer” love for the uncivilized woman was quickly absorbed into the very structure that tried to spit her out. Even worse multicultural liberalism can now claim credit for revolution when it was just the opposite! My bad.
So what now? Let’s track the arch of a Stephen Colbert when it comes to liberalism. Growing up all my political knowledge came from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s back-to-back shows on Comedy Central. They were genuinely enjoyable. Even as a child I sensed there was something off about their critique. But they were funny and it was okay to be funny.
Fast forward to the Trump years and it seems that being funny is against the law. Colbert stopped telling funny jokes and Stewart stopped telling any jokes. Why? If it was because the crisis got worse then humor and art should have increased, although perhaps not in corporate media. The real answer to the death of humor was that reality was already funny, or tragic, which Shakespeare taught us are the same.
So life is a joke and a good one at that. But when we see all of life as a joke we risk postmodern irony. One way to avoid this is through art that isn’t based and explicitly political. In my conversation with John Helmeke we talked about ideas and writing. I told him that I was seeing life as being too awful for writing to express it. When one becomes interested in art the craft goes up but it becomes about the craft. The craft is beautiful in and of itself but it feels like anything beautiful doesn’t represent life.
Our current state is one of severe extraction and exploitation. We won’t stop until every corner of the earth is ripped up and turned into a material benefit for the rich. But the only way to survive is to consume the very products that destroy the same ecosystem we destroy. Some are brave enough to resist this in various ways.
Most are so exploited in their work that they settle for a consumer life that exploits our future. Thus life almost becomes more alienating than even work because at least at work there is a mutual exploitation. When one is working they are being exploited along with the nature. When one is off the clock we are told to enjoy the exploitation of nature or other workers and we feel violent in a dishonest way.
Thus we desperately turn to moralizing to hide our own guilt. Under liberalism, the dishonest Trumpism, the worthy villain (Russia) is white but so is the only worthy victim (Ukraine). This is because the whole (civilized) world is white. This is the contradiction of course. While exclusion is necessary for liberal civilization what is also necessary is that this civilization is exclusionary.
Thus anyone who claims they are excluding others (Trump) should be excluded because they are uncultured but also those who are uncivilized in their mind who just happen to be poor people of color should be excluded in an even more severe way but of course a less explicit one. This only makes the honest Trump more appealing which is the intention because Trump is a necessity for such a “civilization” to function.
White in this context means rich but it also means white. Biden’s only honest moments come in his slip ups. He has many and we should take this as an opportunity to understand liberalism. When Biden told us poor kids were as bright as white kids he told us liberal ideology by accident.
White kids aren’t rich, they are white (civilized). This is possible because non-white doesn’t exist. Non-white doesn’t exist because it means that these people are poor. If a white person is poor, they aren’t white (civilized). If a rich person isn’t white they aren’t a person of color because they are civilized.
I’ve been attracted to the revolutionary figures but I see that most often the truly revolutionary end up bringing about personal tragedy more than systematic change under our current restrictions. I don’t feel the need for personal tragedy at the moment. There will come a time when it’s necessary but that’s everyone’s own choice about when to make their own tragedy come about.
Of course, I find tragedy attractive but we’re already there. Now when things go according to plan this is unquestionably tragic. It is possible to divert from the tragic plan and make one’s own tragedy but what’s the point? Life is tragic enough already.
That being said we still need a revolution and we need it more than ever. How do we get there? Through aesthetics in part. The opposite of war is not peace. The ruling class is ruining that word. Peace is when you clock out from war. Peace means when you leave Afghanistan and seize their money. The opposite of war is art because it operates between the times of peace and war.
Art is the revolutionary space because it interrupts. We think we’re at peace but the peace comes from exploiting those at war. We think we’re at war but the cause of war is the peace of exploitation. Art is where we conceive of reality. Art doesn’t condemn us. Art terrifies us. For once we are taken into reality rather than out of it. We envisage our world and we love it.
The appealing thing about communism is that it aims to alter production, and therefore the reproduction of existence. What if rather than reproducing our existence we could be in the place art takes us? What if we could not make our world but rather be of it? What if we didn’t have to be at war with the world? What if we could be at peace with it? What if life became art and stopped being a joke?