After the revolution, everything is gonna be so dank.

Right after the 2016 election, several of my well-intentioned (but comically misinformed) male friends attempted to console me with the argument that Trump’s presidency would only hasten “the revolution” and was hence a net good. It wasn’t a comfort. Lemme tell ya why.

Accelerationism, whether of the pseudo-intellectual cyberpunk or the vacant Bernie Bro stripe, is the privilege of the comfortable and clueless. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to check out on the Rob Zombie-produced stage play that is contemporary electoral politics, but only someone who has never had to consider the idea of being in arbitrary physical danger (and has never been exposed to detailed information about the history of large-scale revolutions) could flippantly bandy about the idea that we’re due for a “revolution” without thinking about what that might entail. Hence, most lefty chatter about “the revolution” emanates from overconfident white dudes who have never even been poor.

The variety of lefty “revolutionary” movements these days is about as broad as it was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (probably more so), but there’s a key difference: lefty revolutionaries in earlier eras created well-elaborated critiques of capitalism as it functioned at the time and theorized alternative arrangements that at least made an attempt at plausibility. Another fairly important characteristic of these movements was the recognition that economics, politics, and culture were not discrete realms and that any revolutionary program that hoped to achieve meaningful change had to address all three. (Nota bene: they all still eventually failed, probably because none of them bothered to include women as anything but dupes/tokens.)

One of the keys to the capitalist world system’s increased success in the aftermath of these movements was the construction of conceptual walls between culture, the economy, and politics in the academy and in the minds of the populace. Capitalism is agile and adaptable. It functions almost nothing like it did during its brief period of fragility, which very few half-stepping neo-revolutionaries seem to realize. Hence, anyone who espouses one of these proliferating and laughably incomplete ideologies is too stupid to follow anywhere, even on social media.

I don’t want to sound like Jordan Peterson or anything, but “let’s burn everything down and then figure out what to do” just isn’t a sound program for the future, especially given the history of how women have fared during revolutions and their aftermaths, the unpredictable nature of revolutions themselves, and the absolutely ludicrous premises of most contemporary revolutionary movements. (Ever heard of brocialism or manarchism?)

Sure, there’s a chance that things could get better “after the revolution” (depending on what revolution we’re talking about), but the far more likely outcome is things becoming exponentially worse (especially for women and children) in the short and medium term and, once the dust settles, a much worse system emerging out of the vacuum that would result from the lack of thorough post-revolution planning.

And let us not forget the historical leitmotif of radical women being assured by dishonest male revolutionaries that all they needed to do was sideline their own concerns for the duration of the revolution itself, after which — no, I swear — all of that “women’s stuff” would automatically be resolved in women’s favor. Ding Ling comes to mind.

I’m not too worried about the fallout of any of these aspirational revolutions, though, because they’re all about as likely to occur as Law and Order is likely to be taken off the air. It’s pretty hard to imagine any of the infinite number of anarcho-whatever or Marxist groups on social media emerging as armed mass movements capable of overthrowing the US (or any other) government. It’s hard to imagine any of them even taking over a student council group at UC Santa Cruz.

Seriously, why are people still arguing the finer points of dead revolutionary ideologies? Marxism has limited functionality as a system of critical analysis of capitalism. Anarchism correctly (when it’s actually understood — a rarity) questions hierarchical social arrangements. That’s about it. Marxism and anarchism are now forms of white male identity politics in my book (and so are a lot of other groupings — but that’s another post).

Watching people call each other “tankies” and argue over Trotskyism on social media is like listening to a bunch of teenage boys argue about the officiating of a Super Bowl they didn’t even see. And it’s about as likely to lead to political change. I know that fantasizing about participating in a violent revolution of one sort or another appeals to people raised on first-person shooters and Michael Bay movies, but it ain’t gonna happen (at least not in the way they think).

There are exceptions, but the tide of neo-identity politics has hamstrung most would-be revolutionaries on the left and the alt-right and trapped them in the splintered realm of cultural antagonism and archaic politico-economic pedantry, leaving economic and political structures immune to disruption. When some faction of the rabble gets a little too restive for comfort, the elites drop a meaningless policy concession on them and get right back to business, and this new-and-improved identity politics continues to serve as a buffer between the masses and the true beneficiaries of the neoliberal global order, especially the rapacious neoconservative/neofascist bloc in the US.

Studying and taking account of culture, geopolitics, economics, feminism, and (ideally) world-systems theory isn’t quite as fun as ripping on people whose social values appear clownish, but if your revolutionary program ain’t doing all of the above, it ain’t doing shit but creating meme fodder. The atomization of political culture and the pitting of tribalized factions against each other in a series of increasingly stupid and violent culture wars were intentional moves by the beneficiaries of the global order. They cannot be successfully combated while we’re combating each other over a bunch of manufactured “outrageous” bullshit and impractical esoterica, and that’s the whole point.

(I don’t wanna hear any nonsense about feminism being a form of identity politics. “Women” isn’t a term that coheres around a manufactured identity, it’s a material reality. We’re more than half the population globally, and extending human rights and proportional political participation to half of the population is not tokenism. This is also not a traditional lefty “class before race/sex/etc.” argument but a “class and race/sex/etc.” one. That dichotomy/opposition is a neoliberal falsehood that benefits no one but those elites we were just talking about. Oh, and lefty white dudes.)

When Democrats spend their “mental energy” drawing elaborate analogies between Trump and Voldemort, when Libertarians and Anarchists concoct an opium-nod of a future based on digital Monopoly money, when Republicans envision an unhinged libertine leading the nation into an extended episode of Leave It to Beaver despite all evidence to the contrary, when Marxists/Socialists delude themselves into believing a proletariat still even fucking exists, they’ve all rendered themselves NPCs. It’s called intellectual decadence, and it’s one of the chief indicators of a system in collapse.

It’s an unfortunate and repetitive occurrence; systems in collapse are ripe for intelligent manipulation, but only intelligent and manipulative people seem to recognize and act on that, which is exactly what the nihilist/realist moneyed class is doing in order to ensure its own survival. They know what’s coming down the pike and they expect the culture wars (that should become Civil War 2 any day now) they’ve fomented to distract everyone else while they enact their own silent revolution that ends with them all sipping the last of the world’s Moët on man-made, floating resort islands and laughing while we kill each other over water.

Culture can and probably must be the starting point of a comprehensive, prescriptive political theory that could lead humanity out of the morass, but only if it starts from scratch from a set of ethical reference points that completely supplants tribalism and the politics of fear and extends outward to politics and the economy. You know, weird shit like empathy, self-control, dignity, curiosity, critical thinking, the recognition of the humanity of every human being. Identity politics ceases to be necessary if we aren’t focused on fighting over crumbs bestowed by a divide-and-conquer governing/corporate elite. Easy, right?

In the meantime, go ahead and proactively fight for the lesser of whatever set of evils present themselves. Nihilism is lame.

A Quick Note on Brother Brett

Quick. Does anyone know a single person who is so dedicated to the goals of a national political party that they would willingly place themselves between a rabid, violent mob of anti-abortion zealots and their holy grail? The idea that Dr. Blasey has fabricated her accusation simply to further the goals of the DNC — in spite of the catastrophic consequences to herself, her career, and her family — is absolutely fucking ridiculous.

But about ol’ Brett.

To sum up yesterday’s performance by the Phil Hendrie character who has been nominated to the Supreme Court:

I came away knowing four things about Brett: he played some serious JV ball, he’ll rape anyone he wants to and kick anyone’s ass who dares to mention it, he wants to see the goddamn manager immediately, and the boy fucking loves beer.

I mean, for real. If you took a shot of beer every time Kavanaugh expressed his enthusiasm for drinking beer during that hearing, you would have been as wasted by 4 PM as he was when he tried to rape Dr. Blasey.

It almost doesn’t matter how credible Dr. Blasey’s testimony was (extremely); Kavanaugh demonstrated yesterday that he isn’t intellectually or temperamentally qualified to make a decision about anything save a fantasy football draft.

Brett is an unhinged, wrathful sports hick who is most definitely a rapist (and likely a serial one) and lacks the judiciousness required of an ATV salesman. He delivered his opening statement with the acuity, spittle, and panache of a shitfaced wrestler. Ron “Tater Salad” White — with zero preparation or prior knowledge of the details of the case — could have responded on Kavanaugh’s behalf to the questioning he faced with more grace and eloquence than he did. He either didn’t bother to prepare for questioning at all — in which case he’s winning an unwarranted arrogance contest with Tekashi 6ix9ine — or he did and he’s just a fucking belligerent dunce.

What’s surprising isn’t that Donald Trump nominated this middle-aged frat try-hard or that the contemporary GOP plans to follow him straight to hell. It isn’t even surprising that he managed to wend his way through Yale Law and onto a federal bench (the boys’ club is real). What’s truly shocking is that, after that performance, there remains a single person who can think of him as anything other than the peewee football coach you wouldn’t allow your kid to play for.

I don’t know where this guy belongs, but it’s closer to angrily slamming 32-oz mugs of Pacifico by himself at a corner table at the bar of a Ruby Tuesday than it is to a Supreme Court seat.

I could go on for a few thousand more words, but it’ll have to wait.

The Shape of Stuff to Come 

I’ve been absent for, like, years. I apologize to anyone who cares. I promise, I wasn’t just sitting around smoking DMT and listening to Power Station (at least not the whole time).

What actually happened is that we moved overseas to open a business and ended up embroiled in a legal lutte à mort with some fucking Trent Reznor idolator who was willing to ruin his entire life in a failed attempt to ruin ours. Since that Single White Female-esque situation is ongoing, I won’t say anything else other than this: beware the pointlessly destructive spite of the delusionally arrogant.

Just when that literal travesty began to turn around, I found out my dad (a life hero of mine despite the fact that he’s male) has stage-four lung cancer. In sum, life of late has really — as the Chinese say — knocked my dick in the dirt. It didn’t leave much time for blogging unless I wanted to turn this site into a whiny public diary or a long-form version of one of those Facebook posts that are broadcast to 1057 people but designed to be read by only one of them.

Being overseas also left me feeling out of touch with the American political landscape and enmeshed in the petty local corruption and wide array of societal dysfunctions in my new home country, which would probably be of little interest to the average reader (at least of this site). But now that I’ve been here in Don’t Tread on Me, Oregon for six months helping my family, I’ve found myself with the spare time and observational attention span to re-engage with something or other. Still, I didn’t write anything until I dashed off that blurb about Hugh Hefner the other day because I’m paralyzed by what feels like an insurmountable political/philosophical conflict. (I’m not deluded enough to think it’s anything novel, though.)

In sum, we’re fucked. People are too stupid and mean to survive as a species. There’s no escaping the reality that is unfurling before our eyes. There may at one point have been a moment at which that fate had yet to be sealed, but the ol’ Rubicon has been crossed and the plane has crashed into the mountain and the shit has hit the fan and the ship has sailed. I am convinced — even if Vandana Shiva were made dictator of the Earth tonight — that we couldn’t turn this project around.

Political culture in the US is so fucking ludicrous now that I almost can’t believe it’s real. The coming Civil War (I mean, there’s obviously going to be one) is going to feature Pantera roadies and MRA pillow-fuckers shooting AR-15s at Against Me! fanbois and crying furries wielding nothing but Judith Butler essays.

If there was a plot, it’s been lost. I wandered away in 2014 and came back in early 2017 to find that Jay and Silent Bob have taken over every position on the political spectrum and that the culture makes as much sense as a sentence written by William S. Burroughs read backwards. Literally everyone is on drugs, be it amphetamines, opiates, benzos, or some combination thereof with fashionable hallucinogens, and it’s showing like a dick on a forehead.

Contemporary reality has stripped me of any hope that global capitalism or patriarchy can be stopped. You know what’s required for someone to get a grip on a system as vast and insidious as global capitalism or patriarchy? A healthy mind that has been taught to think broadly, critically, three-dimensionally, and empathetically. That’s a rare confluence anywhere on Earth. It’s a goddamned miracle in the US.

Still, I’m not one of those expats who will tell you that people who live in developing countries could teach Americans a thing or two about living simply and in harmony with nature. They could, but that isn’t the point. Lose the NFL, level-nine consumerism (Japan is on level ten), political clownery, wanton environmental destruction, and jingoism, and the US doesn’t compare that badly with most other places. It’s kind of illegal to rape or beat women and children here, at least.

The idea that we can approach a global critical mass of critical thought requires more optimism than I can muster anymore. So, how does one reconcile emotional political idealism with empirical political realism? I’ve come close to accepting the idea that human consciousness has been irretrievably corrupted and that I ought to assume the worst of everyone around me for my own safety. I’ve tried retreating from blathering on the Internet to focus on being kind to people who need and deserve it in the course of my daily life, but that doesn’t feel like enough. I have zero hope that the world won’t implode in short order, but I also feel immoral and irresponsible for having retreated from it. Re-entering the fray seems simultaneously necessary and pointless.

I’m sure it’s just a phase.

Well, I totally zeked it.

I can’t believe I let the site lapse for so long. I’ll be back at it shortly.

And the award for Worst Blogger of All Time goes to…

Sorry, y’all. I’m undergoing an ideological shift and I’m busy studying for orals. I’ll write soon, I promise. I won’t promise that what I write will make any sense.

Pussy the Restaurant opens in LA. No one surprised.

The period from 1997 to 2002 was definitely the nadir of American culture, and there was no worse place to witness the depths of stupidity the entertainment industry was able to inculcate in the public than Los Angeles. I lived there from late 1998 to 2004, a period that saw half the city’s population face the dilemma of whether to set oneself up at one of the infinite points along the Swingers-to-rockabilly continuum or to shoot all the way past rockabilly, buy a stupid hat and an early model convertible sedan, and get down with the Rob Zombie/Sunset Boulevard Guitar Center/Dave Navarro scene. The other half had to decide between house music and trance. It was real  fucked up.

Don’t do an image search for “Swingers.” Trust me.
It’s just like the 50s, only, like, more “punk”!
“Man, we owe everything to Rob Zombie and Nikki Sixx.”
For god’s sake.

The music scene in town consisted of geriatric swaggarts like the members of Velvet Revolver in leopard printed rayon shirts and flavor savors attempting to resurrect the late-80s hair metal scene for audiences with excessive tattoos who were there the first time and were having just as hard a time as the bands were letting it go; bands made up of other geriatric swaggarts attempting to latch onto the rap rock fad in order to try (and fail) to avoid irrelevance; dance clubs that made the ones in Night at the Roxbury seem sophisticated; and a few bands attempting to create an LA “indie sound” out of the derivative dregs of other cities’ dead garage rock scenes.

Tommy Lee with Methods of Mayhem, best known for the 2000 track “Get Naked.” If you can find a picture of someone looking like a bigger asshole, I’ll give you a million dollars.

I suppose it could have been worse. I could have lived in a suburb somewhere outside of California where people were paying money to see the Barenaked Ladies and the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. I could have been aware that the movie The Big Hit existed. Instead, LA afforded me the chance to avoid knowing anyone who talked about attending Woodstock ’99 or thought the Deftones were the most countercultural shit out, but at a fairly high price: living at the center of the production of the means for national befuddlement, a center to which women and men flocked from all over the country to humiliate themselves in order to participate in that befuddlement.

The late 90s and early 00s witnessed the rise of totally pointless and absolutely thoughtless raunch in nearly every realm of popular culture, as evidenced even in movies like Election that (Davetavius claims — and I doubt) had the potential to be clever but were ruined by disappointing, demoralizing sexual references that were neither necessary nor clever, and were more often than not cruel (and I can’t think of a single other movie released in those years that anyone could even claim had the potential to be clever). Everywhere one looked, there was a video of Fred Durst telling someone to touch his balls and touch his ass, there was a clip of Tommy Lee porking Pamela Anderson, there was a Hustler mega-store opening up next door to Tower Records, there was a guy coming up with a novel way to make himself rich off of the misguided desires of young women for attention in a world in which celebrity was morphing into the only worthwhile pursuit in life and something that one gained by any humiliating means necessary. The tsunami of degrading stupidity that we now find ourselves drowned in started in LA, and I was there, man. I totally saw it all happen. I wish I could say that about something other than the beginning of the era of  the contemporary wave of cultural pornography saturation, but alas…

Like I said, it was real fucked up. Fucked up to the extent that even the efflorescence of hipsterism from 2002 until the time I left town was a relief. I’ve been back here and there since, including for a bit of an extended stay last summer, and it has changed some. The exuberant embrace of Larry Flynt as the city’s mayor of edginess has given way to a general acceptance among everyone in town of the fact that porn is everywhere and that even most of those who balked at the vulgarity of the Hollywood scene ten years ago have given up trying to beat anyone and joined. Few people still have the tolerance for the brazen idiocy of the Durst Era, which has caused the city to settle down a bit, but porn culture is insidious and has made itself at home in LA as a whole — rather than just Hollywood and the valley, as was the case before the mid 90s and the Internet porn boom — to such an extent that one can now treat one’s entire family to a fine dining experience at Pussy the Restaurant in the Century City Mall.

The Century City Mall, despite sitting at the center of the ugliest set of buildings below the Cahuenga Pass, is a fairly high end and comprehensive shopping and entertainment complex, but it was lacking an overpriced Porn Chic/Mexican fusion establishment. No more. Now there’s Pink Taco, a cutting edge LA Chicano culture-themed food studio miles in LA traffic away from both the Hustler “boutique” and the Seventh Veil, where one can indulge in drinks such as the Pink Panties and the Pinche Boboso (fucking creep) for only about ten dollars and score a taco platter in a city awash in excellent $1 tacos for merely $25, all while immersed in the Chicano-as-fuck ambiance created by lowrider bicycles, sad clown airbrush paintings, and (probably) waiters dressed as vatos. No one has ever accused any joint at the Century City Mall of sitting at the apex of sophistication (rather than tastelessly ostentatious wastefulness), but a restaurant named after a juvenile vagina reference doing so well there as to expand to the far more expensive real estate on the Sunset Strip ought to convince just about anyone that porn culture is, indeed, a reality. But don’t worry. Pink Taco loves women. (Sorry, I meant tits.)

You’re doing X in spite of Y. Right on. Now how about we remove Y so we can all do A through Z?

One cannot spend eight years reading books on historical esoterica and four years in graduate seminars on the subject of historiography without being forced to train oneself to maintain equanimity of facial expression no matter how many times one is confronted with the trendiest topic in contemporary social science: agency. It’s a trendy topic because it’s obvious and simple, and it allows graduate students who are short on time (and, often, motivation) to pretend they’ve thought carefully about a reading assignment by raising the objection that the historian has not given enough consideration to the “agency” of this or that group of people or has overstated the amount of agency that group of people was able to exercise. So, I’ll admit, of all of the feminist bloggers on the internet, I probably have the lowest tolerance for discussions of the concept of agency, both because I feel sorry for the dead horse and because there’s almost always an element of delusion, dishonesty, or intentional relativism in any agency argument.

The discussion of agency might make more sense in the realm of writing about history than it does in terms of feminism, mainly because there’s no real agreement on the role of the historian in society. Is a historian supposed to tell us how things got the way they are now? How things were at a given moment? Which things led to which other things? Are historians supposed to use the past to warn us about the present or the future? Offer moral judgments? As the belief that the scientific method is the only true means by which one can know anything has come to dominate western (and — at this point — global) epistemology, and as the belief that only “experts” with expensive and standardized training have the cultural and social authority to tell us anything (and even then, experts are only allowed to have opinions about the very narrow subject areas that they’re experts on), historians have moved away from making grand claims and toward attempting to explain “what it was like” at a given time in a given location while avoiding mention of what came before and after out of fear of being accused of teleological thinking or, even worse, stepping beyond the boundaries of their areas of expertise. They can be excused for that. The academy sets up false divisions between disciplines, geographical regions, time periods, and subjects of inquiry that one must tolerate in order to get the funding needed to read for a living. But what that has done to the field of history is fairly dismal. The world looks fragmented, patterns of oppression and violence seem incoherent and quite possibly unreal, economic exploitation appears disconnected from politics, women look like one percent of the population because that’s how much text ends up devoted to telling their story.

Unfortunately, those who write women’s history are often the worst culprits and are frequently guilty of focusing on agency to the exclusion of reality, telling us these women transcended the limits placed on women as a whole, these women resisted male oppression, or these women made lemonade when men gave them a truckload of horseshit and abuse. Usually, these women end up being an infinitesimal portion of the female elites of a given society who were able to exercise a small measure of freedom and write about it, leaving us with evidence that it happened. I’m all for celebrating women who break out of molds and resist, but not when the celebration covers up a reality that warrants mourning, a covering up that often occurs despite the fact that the broader, oppressive reality is cursorily acknowledged in the introduction to the book.

There’s a balance that has yet to be struck; how do we recover and acknowledge the voices and perspectives that patriarchy, plutocracy, and global capitalism have suppressed and silenced without losing sight of the overarching systems of oppression that left us with that dearth of competing perspectives in the first place? Is it more important to recover those perspectives, or is it more important to call attention to the systems of oppression in order that we might move toward taking them down? Do we focus in on individuals exercising agency in a system that’s fucked, or analyze and critique the system itself?

I’m going with the latter, both as a historian and as a feminist, not because I don’t think the former is important, but because the former, while it might make me feel warm and/or fuzzy, distracts me from the work that has to be done. And because, as a feminist, I’m not beholden to the same set of rules I am as a historian. Feminism needs totalizing theories, not micro-histories or anecdotes of individual agency. The fragmentation of knowledge and the emphasis on detail over systematizing theory is a key component in the continuation of capitalism, patriarchy, and human misery. Marx didn’t care whether one factory worker in Berlin said, “Hey, your theory doesn’t ring true for me. My life fucking rules!”

I’m often told that I rob people of agency by making statements that porn is bad, that rape is an epidemic, that stripping isn’t transgressive, that breast implants aren’t a form of empowerment. I’m tired of making those incredibly obvious statements anyway, but how exactly am I robbing anyone of their agency? I know it’s hard to face the idea that one’s agency is limited in a world in which we’re told we are all individuals with unlimited potential, but please have a look around. We operate within fields, as Bordieu would say, and within those fields, our agency is, in fact, limited. Not by radical feminists, but by those with enough social and cultural capital to set the terms of the field itself (which radical feminists do not have). I might ignore what agency you exercise within a fucked system and choose to focus my energies on the system itself, but I can’t rob you of agency or the ability to exercise it, only the system can. What does agency mean when it’s so limited by pre-existing boundaries? Why focus our energy on congratulating people for agency exercised within a limiting, oppressive social formation instead of calling attention to systemic oppression? Why allow seven women’s agency, especially when it plays into patriarchal oppression, overshadow three billion women’s reality?