Brave Defenders

Today’s tragic shooting in Texas soon became an excuse for yet another group of people to feel superior and self-righteous as they fantasize about defending “murdered babies” in fierce online battles.

Book Notes: Isaac Rosa’s Happy Ending

One positive development I’m seeing in Spanish literature is that writers are moving away from stale, meaningless postmodernism and are starting to write good, very readable books about important things.

Take Isaac Rosa. I never managed to read anything by him because his stuff was too postmodern even for me, a literary critic trained to read any kind of text. And then he turns around and writes Happy Ending, a novel about marriage, children, love – stuff that really matters and not inane verbal games and sarcastic smirks. The story is great, and the way the novel is done technically is masterful.

In the novel, a married couple, Antonio and Ángela are planning to divorce and are telling the story of their relationship from what they think will be its end backwards to the beginning. The story of a marriage falling apart told from the different perspectives of the husband and the wife has been done a million times. But Rosa makes it fresh, absorbing, and beautiful. The novel is the most powerful statement I’ve read in forever about why marriage is important.

The book is like marriage therapy, and it has that effect on Antonio and Ángela. It can have a great effect on the readers, too, because this is the kind of reading that makes you think. It’s just so good!!!

I’m now trying to figure out who else I can go bug with how great this novel is.

Kissinger ❤️ Chomsky

Henry Kissinger has sided with Russia in its war against Ukraine. So has Noam Chomsky. I rest my case.

It’s funny how both these elderly dudes use identical phrases to argue their identical point. The past is speaking to us through them in all its clueless irrelevance.

But there’s an interesting intellectual exercise one can conduct here. Read (or listen) what Chomsky and Glenn Greenwald have to say about this war and look for differences. After finding none, say loudly, “wow, I have been had.” It’s a very useful activity that I highly recommend.

Anti-war Russians

I know there is a total of 2 Russian-speakers on the blog but I still want to share this excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT video in Russian. It’s by a journalist from Russia who is alone among people from Russia who has figured what Ukraine needs from good, helpful, anti-Putin Russians. (Short answer: absolutely nothing. Please, anti-Putin Russians, just go away now). The amount of condescension and superiority that good, helpful, anti-Putin Russians have been directing at Ukrainians during the war is off the charts. “This is what you should do,” they keep saying, looking utterly confused that nobody is thanking them for their crucial insights. At this point, once I hear that somebody is an anti-war Russian, I immediately know that this is a person who despises me (and you, and everybody else) with an uncommon passion.

But hey, if this journalist finally figured it out, maybe a few more wars down the road and one more Russian journalist will get it. By the end of the century, we might have 3 or 4 Russians finally getting it. Things are looking up, my friends.

Marxist Analysis

Here’s a contrast between a neoliberal and a Marxist analysis of our current situation.

Neoliberal: “Inflation is caused by Joe Biden who’s an incompetent, bad person.”

Neoliberalism tells us that everything happens on the level of individuals. If something goes wrong, it’s the fault of some individual who mismanaged things.

Now, a Marxist analysis would be: “Inflation is caused by the massive transfer of capital to the oligarchy.”

Biden is still bad and incompetent. But the problem is a lot bigger than his personal qualities. As we all remember, it was Trump who started the stimulus payments, put Fauci in charge of COVID policy, and did absolutely nothing to stop the “free testing/ free vaccines” scam. Both Biden and Trump benefited their social class at the expense of mine and yours.

Respect for Language

This is a quote from Yoram Hazony’s new book on conservatism:

At the same time, an updated Marxism (calling itself “Progressivism,” “Anti-Racism,” or “Woke”) launched an astonishingly successful bid to seize control of the institutions that had been, until only recently, responsible for the development and circulation of liberal ideas in America, Britain, and beyond.

It’s sad that that one thing Hazony has decided not to conserve is treating language with respect. Instead, he has embraced the strategy of vague, confused name-calling. “Obama is a socialist!” “Trump is a fascist!”

Marxism is all about “proletarians of the world unite!” It’s not about “proletarians of the world, jump at each other’s throats because a bourgeois lady told you that you are sworn enemies based on your race.”

Marxism is the idea that economic relations are at the heart of everything. Class struggle and economic exploitation, not “white supremacy,” are the key to understanding how things work. The goal is not “social justice” but economic justice. In Marxist thought, ruling classes brainwash workers (this is called “implanting a false consciousness” in Marxist parlance) to make them believe that their enemy is another group of workers instead of the wealthier social class that exploits them. Isn’t this exactly what wokesters do? Sic us on each other to rip us off?

When an unemployed coal miner in West Virginia is considered more privileged than the Vice-President of the US, that’s as far away as one can possibly get from Marxism. I’m not saying this to defend Marxism but to defend language from careless abuse.

Yes, BLM called itself “Marxist.” Understandably, they didn’t call themselves “a scam to dupe frumpy middle-class white ladies into sending over cash.” What people “identify as” is crucial only to wokesters.

There’s no “cultural Marxism” either. The idea that everything is Marxist/socialist or fascist/Nazi is simple laziness. We can’t solve a problem that we can’t even be bothered to diagnose. I was looking forward to Hazony’s book but this sloppiness is putting me off. I want insight, not vapid name-calling rooted in Cold War nostalgia.

Defragment

The economic system we live in does everything to make sure that we have a fragmented consciousness. Everything in our way of life makes us incapable of tolerating boredom, incapable of concentrating deeply, dependent on stimuli, and bad at silent contemplation.

But at the same time, it’s an economic system that punishes people who are incapable of tolerating boredom, incapable of concentrating deeply, are dependent on stimuli, and are bad at silent contemplation. Economic rewards accrue to those who can resist the fragmentation of their thought process.

Here’s an easy exercise to defragment our brains. As you stand in line at the grocery store or wait at a dentist’s, don’t whip out your phone at the first touch of boredom. Boredom is good. It’s your friend. Every victory over the impulse to treat quietness and boredom as sources of anxiety defragments our consciousness.

Bauman in Fiction

In Spain, every other novelist is reading Zygmunt Bauman, Richard Sennett, Byung-Chul Han, etc, trying to figure out what’s happening in the world, and bringing it into their books. Today I started reading Isaac Rosa’s novel Happy Ending, and it’s Bauman’s Liquid Love in the form of a novel (plus, great art, of course.) The author credits Bauman in the acknowledgements, so please don’t assume I’m inventing this out of an obsession with Bauman.

I’ll be damned if I ever found a writer in English who is doing anything of the kind. One! I only want one.

There are also great book-length essays in Spanish that don’t simply list the symptoms (khm, khm, Douglas Murray) but try to develop the insights of Bauman and Co.

I also heard Bauman mentioned by Ukrainian intellectuals. He’s an indispensable thinker everywhere, it seems. But not in the US. Even in academia nobody knows who he is.