Tuesday, July 10, 2007

something strikes me as being somewhat comical about a 22-year-old who has just finished college (and i allow myself to cheat on that point a little due to the fact that on thursday afternoon, after my spanish final, both of those things will be recently true of me) writing a livejournal entry about the catcher in the rye, but i didn't read it in high school, so here i am. i decided recently that trying to force myself to read the brothers karamozov so as to better myself intellectually (and to give myself credibility when quoting the famous proto-existentialist line that says something to the effect of "if god is dead anything is permitted", varying somewhat with the translation) and in reality getting nowhere (im on page 80-something out of nearly 1000 after almost 2 weeks) is less productive than reading less ambitious books that i will actually finish. i've been trying to catch up on the classics that i skipped over so i bought a copy of the catcher in the rye yesterday afternoon and read it yesterday evening in a little over 2 hours.

i've been thinking lately about the mixed messages that a traditional american upbringing sends us (share and cooperate like a good kindergartener, but remember that the greatest good comes to the socieity in which each of its members acts strictly according to his rationally conceived self-interest), particularly in the form of literature. i bought a copy of to kill a mockingbird some weeks ago for the 13-year-old that i tutor (for the absurd hourly pay of 12€) because it was one of my favorite books when i was little younger (i think) than him. it turned out to be too hard for him - his english is a little worse than my spanish - and yesterday, after several hours of staring at the ceiling so as to avoid another dry dostoevskian sentence, i picked it up and read it cover to cover in one fairly long sitting. i still love it. certain parts made me hopeful (no small feat, as some of you may know), certain parts made me furious, and during certain parts i could hear my mom doing the voices, with their alabama drawls, and feel lucy curled up next to me on the couch (see my previous entry about the lost feeling of home), and i nearly cried. one line, however, caught my attention for the first time: "the one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience." it made me think about the way that our culture's heros, the atticus finchs, are honored for denying the status quo in the face of tremendous popular opposition, but i find that when i defend animal rights activists who use extra-legal tactics i'm compared with abortion clinic-bombing christians and reminded that change comes from letter-writing, ANSWER marches, and, above all, voting. of course atticus finch, the law-abiding citizen that he is, fights his battle in the coutroom, but our founding fathers weren't afraid to shed a little blood, and harriet tubman does not appear to have been too concerned with what the then current administration and police force considered property. which founding father said the famous thing about refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots? jefferson? i have no idea.

this may appear half-baked and i suppose it is; i've only recently begun to think about some of these things and i haven't the head for facts, quotes, and dates. the point is that i wholeheartedly agree with the above quote (the one about majority rule, not the one about the tree of liberty) and in some ways, i dont mind the comparison to the fanatical right-wing christians because they believe so strongly in their principles that they are willing to do what they feel is necessary to see them put into practice, and damn the state that moves too slowly (or in the opposite direction). of course, i disagree with their principles and would rather bomb the churches themselves that spawn such ideals, but such, i suppose is the dialectic (i know that philosophy major was good for something!). no government, i've heard it said, can give you liberty (was that a famous anarchist writer or a punk band?), and no state that operates within the boundaries of this culture will ever give liberty to animals or the earth.

when i read animal farm in 7th grade, the overt message that we were to absorb was dictatorship=bad, but the implication hidden carelessly just below the surface of the curriculum was, "thank god our government is nothing like that" (thank him figuratively and literally, of course, as we are one nation under Him, having the life choked out of us slowly by the pillow that He has been holding over our faces for some thousand years now, sighing about what embarrassments we all are). somehow i doubt orwell would be too stoked about the state of things (pun intended), the same orwell who wrote, "every line of serious work i have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalinarianism and for democratic socialism as i understand it." no to put words in his mouth, God rest his soul, but i doubt that the same man who appears to have sided most strongly with the anarchists during the spanish civil war (the revolutionary socialists being a close second), understood "democractic socialism" to mean clintonian liberalism with a solid welfare system and high OSHA standards for the wage-slaves (not to suggest, dad, that these things arent good, just that they arent nearly good enough).

it seems like the only people who remember these books after graduating from high school are the english teachers, who, in my experience, tend to be an apolitical lot (not to mention beaten into submission by the hollow curriculums of no child left behind), and they often leave out that lee, orwell, and salinger might have been trying to make a fucking point. as with anything subversive, the powers that be have pulled off the time-honored "if you can't beat 'em, assimilate 'em" approach that reduced the entire black liberation movement, of which pacifism and civil rights were only a part, to the face of an uncontroversial martyr who had such a nice dream that one time, and which we celebrate once a year by congratulating ourselves on what a fine job we've done setting things right. luckily someone offed him before he had a chance to be disappointed by the ongoing, deliberate, urban racial segregation that the "success" of the 60s either failed to prevent or, depending on whom you ask, encouraged (this is a subject about which i know only a little, so if my timeline is off, forgive me, for i believe that the spirit of my criticism is valid), all of which resulted in the current state of affairs which most liberals seem to regard as basically a damn shame and some fucking worthless academics like samuel huntington have the nerve to blame on the defeatist, blame-shifting "political culture" of blacks in the contemporary urban ghetto.

the slave-owners got one thing right: the blacks were and are much like animals, as are all of us, white and otherwise, because we fucking are animals. of all the trite explanations i've heard for what seperates us from the rest of them (we learn from our mistakes? i call bullshit!), one of the few compelling accounts i've heard is that we apparently have the capacity to wreak obscene amounts of destruction upon the planet and everything else living on it, and, what's more, to rationalize it. lions, presumably, do not feel the stabs of a guilty conscience when they kill and eat their prey, yet the same people who are so proud of their consciences that tell them that there is something deeply wrong about taking food from a multinational corporation, nay, are ethically offended by it, will defend a system which, among other things, results in beagles being tortured in order to ensure the safety of consumer cosmetic products. you want an indictment of the way things are? i dont need theory: fuck the nation, fuck peter singer, fuck emma goldman for that matter. i contend that any cultural and philosophical framework that defends the rights and properties of these and other torturers against the peaceful (in the long and rich history of the ALF and ELF no human or animal has been harmed in the course of an action, yet they are the #1 domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI) liberators of these animals - many of whom are currently serving sentences of several years or more federal prisons - is FUCKED, right to its rotten idealogical core, QED! so head earnestly for the polls, and if you so much as even think about a molotov cocktail, you are as bad as the abortion clinic-bombers. well, than so i am.

now, a word of indemnification: many intelligent folks whose hearts, i believe, are in the right places (or close to them), have challenged my more militant sentiments on purely tactical grounds. i believe that there is a serious debate to be had about the usefulness of various forms of activism and resistance, and though it is probably obvious on which side i ultimately rest my convictions, i do believe that there are good points to be made by both sides. this... whatever this is, however, is not concerned with practical concerns, but with the ethics themselves of thinking outside of the traditional means of attempting to work for chance, thinking outside of the law (which is, according to the ideology underlying many of my politics, part of the problem itself).

"let the fires of justice burn away this plague" - 7 generations

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