Friday, October 31, 2008

जिहाद अगेंस्ट रसिस्म

Lacan's word play on the word 'publish' has been on my mind lately. He always used a word which was close to the French word for garbage and refused to publish anything. Most of his material comes from his seminars. Without really knowing what his objections were to publication I would like to speculate.

Writing involves self censorship, even the formation of a sentence necessarily entails imprisoning ideas which are broad and wide into tiny little boxes called words. I associate this concept with Foucault but I'm not sure if it is his. Even the attempt to be as open and clear as possible involves some truncation of a concept. On top of this there are the societal limitations on what we write. At the most basic level: "what would my mother think?", "what will the government think?" etc. upon reading this.

I have often wanted to experiment with the talk-and-type software to see if the limitation is less when it is the spoken word being recorded. My writing on this page is my attempt to transcend, smash, obliterate every boundary, social convention, and moral that would prevent my mind from flowing freely onto the page. I select the most abhorrent topics I can think of and try to write about them as if no one is reading. Thus suicide bombers, child molesters and various other social outcasts are my favorite areas of contemplation.

Since I don't know any of either group I have to imagine them, conjure them up and instead of imagining them as the 'other' i imagine them as myself.

Of the two groups I find it more likely that I could be a suicide bomber as the idea holds some level of attraction for me while sex with a child does not. Nevertheless my writings on Wilhelm Reich and Greek sexual practice are an attempt to deconstruct words like 'molestation', 'deviant' and others that are thrown around in our culture quite often.

'Deviant' is one of my all time favorite words, perhaps because it sounds so sinister and yet the meaning is so banal. To be deviant is first to deviate and if what you are deviating from is absurd to begin with then to be deviant is to be correct. For example, if the stories my mother told me were true, the Soviets used to classify dissenters as psychologically deviant. Thus people like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov were deviant by the standards of their culture. Furthermore a nice upstanding German family in 1938 would classify the teenagers that did not want to be in the Hitler Youth as deviant, an SS officer who refused to participate in the mass murder of children likewise would also be classified as deviant.

Conditioning takes so many forms, not only as to what is supposedly deviant, but also to what is supposedly normal. In the culture I grew up in racism is the norm. As the election approaches I find myself hoping Obama will win primarily because I want the first president my son knows to be black. I have noticed that they are showing a lot of black crime suspects on the local news which is something I remember from my childhood and one of the many not so subtle forms of conditioning that creates racism in European culture. I hope that a black president can counteract some of that, as well as the thuggish image projected by many black role models, rappers, athletes, etc.

I feel very little guilt when it comes to my racism, I regard it simply as a product of my environment. If I grew up in Europe in the 18th, 19th or early 20th century I would hate Jews, I grew up in America so I am ambivalent toward blacks. I think this is a fundamental problem with the way racism is addressed in our culture. Individuals are singled out as racist but the underlying structural causes are not addressed. I used to use the analogy of a dog bite, if the first collie you ever see bites you, then you will be afraid of collies for a while until you get to know a few nice ones. If 30-40 percent of the collies you know in your lifetime create a negative experience, maybe not a bite, maybe just a growl, your unconscious will internalize your negative feelings about collies whether you like it or not.

I had a black baby sitter when I was 6 whom I admired and looked up to, I had a great group of friends when I was 9-12 years old, many of whom were black. My negative experiences of black people began when I moved to the Midwest and I still have racist tendencies. So how can people who have lived in an openly racist culture their entire lives be expected not to be racist?

The first step to controlling racism is to acknowledge that it exists, not in society but in oneself. If this happens it can be recognized when it arises. Too many white liberals are quick to point out the racism in others without looking carefully at their own tendencies. This extends to all non-white races, not just blacks. European culture, of which America is the most vulgar and ham-handed representative, has been killing, raping and pillaging non-white peoples for hundreds of years. This fact is not openly discussed in the brainwashing that passes for education. It is hidden, worse it is celebrated. I think of movies like 'Apocalypse Now', shouldn't I feel revulsion as the helicopters swoop in playing Wagner and launching rockets at school children? Shouldn't I feel hatred for Robert Duvall's character when he says 'it's Wagner, it scares the hell out of the slopes"?

Although my intellect is aware of such things millions of minutes of patriotic indoctrination on military bases, at parades, seeing dad in uniform, a uniform similar to that worn by Duvall, cause me to identify with Duvall, to celebrate the destruction of the Vietnamese peasants. I watched that scene hundreds of times, trying to undo the conditioning, Clockwork Orange style, focusing on the old Vietnamese man, running next to a cart pulled by an ox, running from the gunships over head, pathetically attempting to save the animal that represents his family's livelihood. And I am proud to report that this conditioning works, I do not feel pride now as I watch the helicopters swoop in, I look forward to the little girl throwing the grenade in the helicopter with the wounded, and relish the screams of the American soldiers as they are burned alive.

But this takes work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The beginning of indoctrination

I have been reading a great deal of Wilhelm Reich lately and he has got me thinking about monogamy as a form of indoctrination. In fact, not only is monogamy a form of psychological indoctrination it has important economic roots, and like most behavioral conditioning which has an economic purpose, that purpose is to oppress some for the benefit of others.

Reich and Malinowski develop the theory of marriage as an economic institution by observing the (name) people and their progression from a sexually open society to a monogamous society with all the requisite taboos against child sexuality, incest and the like.

Startlingly Reich notes that there were no laws in the Soviet Union against incest because historically incest had never been demonstrated to have any deleterious effects. My understanding of the incest taboo, as derived by the culture I was raised in, was always that it was a step taken to insure the Darwinian selection process by eliminating a practice harmful to healthy offspring.

Without investigating Reich and the Soviet contention that incest has no harmful consequences for offspring I will accept it at face value with the intention of researching it later. If this contention is accepted then an alternative reason for the incest taboo must be present.

Freud's Totem and Taboo has been the standard western model of the rationale behind the incest taboo, namely that it was the first, primitive and necessary step of human civilization toward development of a modern culture. Reich challenges this notion and asserts that in fact the incest taboo was intimately intertwined with a general taboo on free child sexuality which among many aboriginal cultures is quite common.

Reich enumerates the various cultures in which children are allowed to explore sex play with one another without regard to age or relation. The Origin of Compulsory Sex Morality He then develops his theory, based primarily on Malinowski's observations of the Trobrianders, that All sexual taboos, incest, age limits, and others are derivative of the marriage tribute system of gifts which ultimately resulted in a "chief" who possessed more property than other members of the tribe.

Once the formerly egalitarian culture produced a chief the chief propagated a legal system which insured that his property would be maintained and continually increased through an elaborate system of marital gifts.

I invite the reader to read Reich and Malinowski in the original is she wishes to see the details of this broad outline. My goal here is to summarize the findings of Reich in a manner which reflects on the institution of monogamy in modern European culture; monogamy being the modern equivalent of marriage and the default format of the relationship in all the European derived cultures I have lived in.

We are conditioned from earliest childhood not only against incest and childhood sexuality but toward monogamy as the "normal" template for human relationships. Even the most sexually liberal among us rarely take the news of a lover's infidelity lightly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"the story of your suffering has no value whatsoever."
"The only narrative of any value is a theoretical narrative."
"I love racism, I cannot imagine my life without racism."
"there is no progressive movement without racism."
"Political correctness is still inverted racism."
"the only way to fight racism is to mockingly play it to the end."
"left liberals today have this upper class patronizing attitude ...deep distrust of rednecks and so on."
"Republicans in an intelligent way are trying to mobilize what used to be called a working class vote."
"Dangerous moments are coming, dangerous moments are always a chance to do something, but you have to think."
"the necessity of a lie to maintain the public morality (Batman:The Dark Knight)"
"Kung Fu Panda - Neils Bohr - regarding the horseshoe above his door ..
"when you say 'I believe in human dignity...
"nobody really believes in democracy...
regarding the Wall Street meltdown, "the main task of the ruling ideology today, no, is to make this crisis, this meltdown, appear not as something inscribed into the very dynamic of the system but some kind of a contingent malfunctioning of the system due to, I don't know, bad legislation, bad politics and so on, to sacrifice individuals, wrong decisions and to save the system... this is what everybody is looking for today and unfortunately this reading will win the reading which will redeem the system...."
"this was the problem that our great comrade Stalin, when things start to get wrong with 5 year plan, no, the point was how to save the Party, the idea was it must be traitors, you need traitors no? You need traitors to save the system so that you can say yes there are troubles but its not we the Communist party or the 5 year plan but the English spies, saboteurs and so on... Here OK,..but the tendency will be to, to localize culpability, but I think what is the true question to approach is precisely: What is it in the system itself today with all these highly virtualized futures, speculations and so on which renders it so fragile that everything appears so firm but all of a sudden it's like a kind of a financial tsunami, the edifice you think its so firm all of a sudden it starts to melt down no, again that's for me the true task this is for me the crucial point the duty not only of a truly progressive not only Marxist whatever that means today but democrat but to really ask what is the flaw in the system...what annoys me the that they act as if you know this was just some mismanagement or whatever."
"There is some truth that September 11th was an historical event." - Zizek

develop this

why sports are bad

Indoctrination of adults into arbitrary political categories for which they will later be expected to give their hard earned money, their loyalty and possibly their lives begins with the culture of sports in childhood.

The process is deceptively simple and by the time we are sophisticated enough to recognize it we are too far indoctrinated to question it.

At a very young age, which decreases as time moves forward, we are taught to identify with a team either through participation or simply because we happen to live in a particular place. As children we attend high school football games, soccer matches, gymnastics meets, martial arts tournaments etc. and we learn to identify with a particular group for reasons that are entirely arbitrary.

We are expected to show team spirit and hostility to the other teams. This territorial impulse is then massaged and manipulated into hysteria for this or that college team, pro team, celebrity, driver, wrestler, fighter etc.

Suddenly when we realize that we are grown up and living in a world where people fight wars and kill each other over ideas we naturally cling to the notions of our home team. We put "support the troops" bumper stickers on our cars, pay taxes to buy weapons and in some cases sacrifice our health or lives for our home team.

The merits of the "others", as we are taught to think of them, are never considered. Whether or not those whom we as a nation happen to be killing at the moment have any merits is really not the issue. The dangerous element of sports is that it precludes us from thinking about that question of merit altogether. If the Soviets can be our allies during WWII, then our mortal enemies during the cold war, without fundamentally changing anything about their ideology one can only assume that their classification as ally or enemy is arbitrary and rests on political notions that have no basis in philosophy.

Similarly if Saddam Hussein can be a great bulwark of security and friend to the U.S. while he is at war with Iran, and then a dictator deserving of death when he defies his master we must again ask, how can this reassignment of value occur so arbitrarily with no one asking questions.

Because we have been taught to "root for the home team, if they don't win it's a shame."

Sports is our first lesson in how not to think, but to act blindly in service of those in power.

Dialog for a film

A cell phone walk and talk between Aubrey(A) and Hans(H)who is at home.

Aubrey is an extremely insecure, overtly attractive model type, Hans is a ill-kept, grungy looking guy with confidence that belies his average to below average looks.

Aubrey is walking in a chic urban environment, a billboard advertising tires by showing a near naked female is visible in the distance and she approaches it during the conversation, she is passing it as it is mentioned in the dialog.

Hans is surrounded by books, notebooks, Chinese food containers, and is playing a video game on an obscenely large TV during the entire conversation. Shots of the part of town Hans lives in show poverty in all its stereotypical forms, black kids in tank tops on bikes, some rough types drinking out of paper bags, an old lady pulling a grocery tote.

The window displays in Aubrey's part of the city show MP3 players, jewelry, cell phones, cars, other consumables. Videographic style is similar to "Natural Born Killers" cutting in and out of commercials, during the dialog, switching from the characters dialoging in color to the ads in black and white. The ads should be from different historical periods and parts of the world. Grace Jones modeling perfume in the 70's, James Bond selling Aston in the 50's, Winchester Rifle ad from the 1850's, cigarette ads from Africa, Russia, Asia skyline shots of Hong Kong, LA, these shots should comprise at least as much on screen time as the two characters.

The dialog continuing while products and advertising are shown. Some street fighting scenes from Iraq, Afghanistan and Viet Nam should be interspersed with the first person shooter game Hans is playing.

this montage should include rapid short clips from: The beach party scene from "Apocalypse Now", Budweiser ad, beef "it's what's for dinner" ad, milk ad, A.N. scene of cow being lifted by the helicopter, Zizek wildly gesticulating, Saddam and Rumsfeld shaking hands, massacre scenes from Indonesia, head shot from Viet Nam, Mai Lai massacre, standard Holocaust shots, Gitmo, service academy graduations, parades, rifle twirling scenes from "A Few Good Men", abuse of detainees in Abu Graib, Wilhelm Reich in jail, Robert Anton Wilson, Marx, Freud, Foucault, Jesus, 4 Jesus's from Clockwork Orange, final rape scene from same, shot from Zentropa TBD, Thomas Paine, Cindy Sheehan, Jefferson, churches, mosques, temples, kamikazes performing zen meditation before tale off, UFC cage fighting scenes, "Full Metal Jacket" training scenes, "Saving Private Ryan" D-Day scene, Iranian propaganda scene from "Obsession" with U.S. flag overlayed on U.S. soldiers terrorizing civilians, concentration camps in Yugoslavia, lots of U.S. planes bombing, mayhem destruction and death mixed with this banal dialog which could be happening any where in any western city.

H: “you know you are so much hotter than all those bitches”
A: “…I know, I mean, you really think”
“don’t even start in on yourself, I’ve heard them all, your nose is too thin, your cheek bones aren’t high enough, ass not round enough, you are going to fucking wear yourself out with this shit”
“don’t lecture me Hans…”\
“bitch, if you didn’t want a lecture you called the wrong person”
“I want a pep talk”
“fuck that, and fuck your insecurities, you know you’re hot shit, what are you looking at”


A: “what, I…”
H: “I can always tell when you’re looking at a billboard, what is it?”
“that fucking little cunt in the tire ad”
“oooh, I know where she is almost naked”
“fuck you! This isn’t helping”
“hey can I call you back I need to take care of something”
“Goddamit Hans”
“calm, calm sweety I’m just showing you how ridiculous you are being, do you really want a bunch of guys jerking off to your ads in their shitty apartments?”
“of course that’s what I want you fucking imbecile”
“damn you are in a state, you wanna meet somewhere and talk this over”
“I don’t know, I’m so irascible”
“don’t be stealing my big words, I need those to pick up bitches”
“fuck your bitches, none of them are as hot as me”
“now we are getting some where, go on”
“none of them have a body like me, my tits are perfect, my stomach is rock hard, legs forever, mouth….”
“that’s it, that’s what I’m saying”
“you better not be jerking off”
“don’t flatter yourself sister, I’m thinking of the tire ad”
“that bitch is too skinny and you know it”
“what do you want from the Europeans, those fucking savages wouldn’t know a great body if it was getting a Brazilian…..”
“Hans we are supposed to be talking about me”
“of course, of course, how foolish of me“, so do you want to go to a gallery or something?”
“Oh yay, just what I need, a bunch of ugly depressing art and the ugly, socially awkward wanna-be artists milling around looking pained and horrified by the plight of the common man”
“you are such a fascist whore…damn that’s kinda hot, do you have any Nazi stuff”
“I think I’m going to start fucking somebody with a shaved head”
“strong move, bitches always look hotter standing next to a bald guy, the last thing you need is another pretty boy douche bag boyfriend glomming on to you and stealing all the attention.”
“Ian was not a pretty boy”
“Ian, Jesus who said anything about Ian, his fucking British teeth made me go home and find my dental floss, I’m talking about the endless string of Abercrombie wanna-be fucknuts that you are always finding in sportsbars”
“no good?”
“look, your mission in life is to look hot at all times, you can’t be standing next to a guy who other girls and other guys are going to look at, some of those dudes are so pretty they make me start thinking about switching teams for a week”
“so I should date ugly guys? That is ..”
“Not ugly, just not pretty, there is an ocean in between, look, you find some aspiring writer-artist-filmmaker type that doesn’t look like a poster child for methadone and you clean him up a little, and start showing him around”
“hmm, a project, I could get behind that”
“make sure he is big, even if he’s fat, not disgusting of course, but you wanna look dainty next to him, skinny shriveled up artists are pathetic, you need something burly, shaved head works, not too friendly, someone who people might mistake for a body guard or a chauffer.”
“good, good, I know a couple guys”
“no one you’ve already banged”
“fresh meat, someone who is going to be wowed by your celebrity status, like a lap dog…only bigger, like an attack dog, but better looking”
“I feel better”
“that’s my girl, now get out and start hunting”
“are you gonna help me?
“that depends”
“you know I am a great wingman”
“the last time I went home with a chick when we were out together you wouldn’t talk to me for a month.”
“No, you didn’t answer your phone for a month because you …”
“OK, OK I remember, no need to rehash my life history, but if we go out together I am going to shamelessly pimp you out, I pick the guys, none of these lederhosen wearing fags”
“you know I don’t know what lederhosen are”
“stockings for men, you’ve never been to Europe”
“Milan not Austria or wherever the fuck men are wearing tights and suspenders “
“I give Milan the finger”
“Milan…hmm I wonder what it is about Milan…”
“there was no way I could have known…”
“that a six foot blonde might be a guy”
“actually that guy sucked great cock so I don’t know what I’m so bitter about”
“because he didn’t call you”
“Damn, you are a fascist whore”

Sparta, War Culture, Soviets, Star Wars

Wanting to live for another person is no more than egoism going bankrupt and then opening a new shop next door, with a partner.

Robert Musil, A Man Without Qualities (951)

When we were kids we used to love to “play Star Wars”. I noticed early on that all the joy came in the setting up part. This was all we really knew how to do, arrange our various ships and soldiers, map out territory and get ready for a battle that never got fought. It took nearly thirty years for me to see the parallel between child’s play and the reality of our day to day lives on military bases.

Our lives were a preparation for war. Our fathers flew the planes that carried nuclear weapons destined for the Soviet Union. I wonder now if the sense of anxiety that I felt when I realized that all the pieces were in place and that there was nothing left to do but fight was also a metaphor.

‘War Culture’ was to be the title of my book. The life of a child soldier inside modern day Sparta. The older I am the clearer the conditioning methods become. Beyond forced patriotism and basic religion, military life for children involves deeper forms of brainwashing that take decades to peel back.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

8 day s ago I found out that Stephanie and I were going to have a baby. Since then I have been thinking a great deal about the following: why am I so angry with you, why do I distrust authority figures and every person who loves me? I have come up with some answers and though they will be painful for you to hear I have to write them, whether you read them or not is up to you.

A pivotal moment in my development came when I was about ten. Two incidents keep coming to mind and I struggled for a long time to figure out what they had in common and why they played such an important role in the formation of my identity.

Number one:

We were frantically preparing for the Grumpy and Mimi’s arrival at our house on Mather AFB. Dad was installing an air-conditioner. Dad and I went to the store to buy a large piece of glass to put in the window.

As we carried the glass to the car I remember being aware somehow that it had been freshly cut and that the edges were razor sharp. Dad told me to get in the passenger seat and handed me the glass. The only way it would fit in the car to put one end of the glass on the dashboard and for me to hold the other end like a table with the edge a few inches from my neck. I realized that dad was going to get in the car and drive home with the glass in that position. I knew that if anything went wrong on the drive, even so much as a quick stop, I was going to be cut-to-decapitated depending on the severity of the incident. I simply stated that I was not going to ride like that and suggested that we put the glass in the trunk. Dad began to protest that the glass might break but I was adamant and the glass went in the trunk. No yelling or drama was involved and I didn’t think about that incident again for a long time.

Number Two:

Sometime in that period the family went on a camping trip to the Feather River. The white water was the big attraction and the other families and their children would ride tubes down after hiking upriver.

I did not want to do this. My dad and I went anyway. I don’t remember how it came about exactly but I am pretty sure it was not my idea. When we tried to get in the water we lost our balance and our tubes got swept into the current. My dad kept a hold of me and I remember being impressed at how tenacious his grip was as we were drug along the rocks in the relatively shallow water. We recovered, got to shore on the opposite bank and found some wild blackberries. I can remember dad being excited about the size and quality of the berries (they were quite good) and me asking “how can you eat at a time like this?” still a little teary from the ordeal. Eventually I came around and began to enjoy the berries myself at which point dad asked “how can YOU eat at a time like this?” and we both laughed.

The significance of these two events is that they caused me to doubt my father’s ability to care for me. I did not reach that decision then but I believe now after much introspection that they were the crack in the parental gloss that I had lived with until that time. This is the moment psychoanalysis would refer to as the realization that one’s parents are not gods and not infallible. From that moment on I could not blindly accept his decisions about my life. I had felt my life to be in peril on two occasions because of decisions dad had made.

When I was thinking about this yesterday I kept focusing on why my dad would make these decisions. In the case of the glass he was stressed about my mom’s parents, and I suspect especially her father, visiting us in the California summer in a house with no air conditioning. In focusing on the task at hand he simple neglected to consider the implications of the glass in such a position. In the latter case I think he just didn’t want to say to the other fathers “no we’re not going down the river, David is afraid, and I have no idea what the hell I am doing so I’m not going to risk our safety because of peer pressure”.

It is really not all that important why these things happened. My dad was certainly not a bad father, the important thing is that they happened and formed a strong enough impression in me that I am writing about them over 25 years later.

So there was no longer any possibility of me doing anything “because I said so”. All rules and authority began to come under strict scrutiny and it wasn’t long before I started to see the holes in most systems. Soon I came to realize the flaws in the religion I was being taught. My friend Steve and I would stay up for hours debating the finer points of Catholicism verses Protestantism. He was even more irreverent about Catholicism than I was about Protestantism and being a year older than me helped increase his credibility in my eyes. So with the help of these debates and a lot of hard questions that my mom (who was the spiritual advisor in the family) could not answer I concluded that Christianity was bunk. The pivotal question was this “is everyone that doesn’t believe in Jesus going to Hell”? I had already decided that if the answer to that question was yes there was no logical way such a religion could be true. Even at that age I was aware that the vast majority of people who had existed in human history did not believe in the divinity of Jesus even if they had heard of him.

So if my father is not looking out for my best interest and the religion I am being coerced into believing under threat of eternal hellfire is false then it is obvious I am going to have to A) Protect myself by making my own decisions, B) Question existing religions until I can find an understanding of God that seems plausible to me.

These conclusions were, no doubt, the source of a great deal of my parents’ frustration with me. I always did well in school but partly I suspect because knowledge of facts was a defense mechanism against those who would attempt to deceive me. To this day I approach every authority figure, institution, religious guru, government, news source, teacher, police officer, judge, bureaucrat, boss, professor, girlfriend, family member, friend, and grocery clerk with the underlying suspicion that they are going to:

1) pretend to know more than they do
2) attempt to deceive me
3) abuse any and all power/authority they have
4) manipulate me
5) and do all this while pretending they are acting in my best interest.

Once such an ideology is formed the vast majority of interaction with the outside world, not surprisingly, serves to reinforce it.

My fourth grade teacher misspelled the word “marathon” on the blackboard (marithon). When I corrected her she attempted to conceal her mistake by telling me that the word I was referring to had a different meaning. So I walked to the front of the class and pulled the dictionary of the shelf and read the definition aloud to the class. Needless to say this behavior was considered disruptive and showy and generally bad. To my parents’ credit they did not punish me but this incident further reinforced my belief that people are generally going through life pretending to know more than they do and fearful they will be found out.

When I was homeless many years later a Salvation Army preacher used to let me stay at his house sometimes. I woke up one morning to find him kneeling next to my bed attempting to perform oral sex on me. I remember being relatively amused at how the examples of authority figures not being what they seemed were getting stronger and stronger. As I rained blows down upon him and watched his blood spatter on the walls I thought deeply about the tragedy of the fallen god and how a young mind is so hurt when those it worships turn out not only fallible, but culpable, deceptive, and abusive of power all the while pretending to be good, moral and just.

I didn’t hurt the preacher, I just told him to get out and he complied immediately.

When I was in jail prior to that incident I was always struck that no one bothered me. I conducted myself in the typical, anti-social manner I had grown accustom to using for interaction with the outside world yet I was avoided. One time I got jumped by a couple kids after I told them their gang was a joke and all they ever did was talk shit but I guess there is only so much anyone can take. I actually felt bad for them because I had given them no choice but to act. They didn’t hurt me, after the larger one swung on me five or six times without landing a punch I stepped inside his guard and whispered in his ear “I don’t want to hurt you”. He just kind of stopped moving at that point and then the guards came in and took us away. I always wondered why I talked so much trash to him and goaded him into acting. I think now that he may have been an authority figure in my eyes because he was talking about being in a gang in a jail. Everyone knows from TV and movies that the gangs are the authority in jail so I guess I wanted to challenge the validity of that authority figure just like any other.

I spent a lot of my time in religious discussions in jail. I would sit with the Christians for awhile and poke holes in their doctrine and they would eventually tire of me so I would move on and ask Mustafah (yes he was a big black guy) provocative questions about Islam until he got sick of me and blustered and threatened and used all the intimidation tactics that had clearly worked for him in the past.

The only time I could really relax was playing chess with Carlos or playing spades with the brothers. Both of those activities seemed relatively pure. Carlos would always school me in chess and the brothers were always exasperated by how bad I was at spades but at least there was no bullshit in those environments.

Sergeant Burns wasn’t too fond of me. He just knew I was trouble, very suspicious. He was searching my cell one time when I came back from the shower and had found a bunch of magazines. I didn’t know that magazines could be turned into shanks but apparently Burns thought I was hoarding them to create an arsenal so he took me off work detail. I was mildly amused that he pretended to believe this. It was clear that he had searched my cell to find a rule infraction and when he couldn’t find anything serious he came up with that. Chalk one more up under authority lying and abusing power.

I feel bad for all the good people I have interacted with in my life that have had to bear the brunt of all the suspicion and distrust that the bad people helped me to amass. When I was in law school my therapist helped to understand that people are not all good or all bad. This realization went a long way in my healing process. He introduced me to the concept in reference to my parents but I eventually realized that we are all in a constant state of flux and decision between what we might call good and bad or right and wrong.

I came to this conclusion recently while reading Abraham Maslow’s original ideas about self actualization. The part that really stuck with me was the concept of constant decision making, that life is a never ending series of decisions and every one is a choice to grow and develop as a person or stay still and/or regress.

I had studied the concept of self-actualization briefly in an intro to psych class but only the pyramid. The pyramid has basic needs at the bottom as a pre-requisite to moving to ward the peak which is self-knowledge and a happy well adjusted and productive life. Even now I resent the massive oversimplification of Maslow’s ideas because they are profoundly important and to reduce them to a colorful triangle in a textbook is a crime against intellectual development. But then again I am also aware of my pre-disposition to anger toward authority (in this case the authority is the textbook and its editors and publishers and the professor that chose it for the course) so I know I am being overly harsh.

In any case Maslow’s true ideas of self actualization have led me to write, read, do Yoga, meditate, find and listen to the music I love, exercise, take my dog to the park, be benevolent and caring in my interactions with Stephanie and ultimately to seek peace with my past by writing this letter.

So this is what I want you to do assuming you have made it this far in the letter. I want you to figure out the source of your anger. I want you to ask yourself why the slightest deviation from your expectations sends you into a rage. And if you are unwilling to do that I want you to simply stop directing that anger toward me.

I have thought a lot about our family dynamic lately. I have had to bear the brunt of your anger for a long time now. In our family I am the most vulnerable, you can’t direct too much at mom because you have to live with her, and you can’t direct too much at Tom because you want to be around the kids. So you direct it toward me.

Perhaps I realized this by watching you interact with Jack. I want you to be very aware of how your tension level rises, and you yell or manifest some other indication of anger, very quickly and unexpectedly when you are around Jack. I want you to think about the times you have completely lost control just in the last year. When I told you I was going to Taos for the summer, when we were in Colorado and you were driving with Debbie, Peter and I in the back seat of the Deville, and when you left those terrible, hurtful voicemail messages on my phone. You are angry dad, you are going to have to deal with that anger or everyone that you love is going to have to deal with it for you.
Sit down with someone and figure out the source. You will be glad you did eventually but it is not going to be fun or easy.


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Walden or Life in the Woods
- Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

From the Mystic Odes of Rumi

Our death is our wedding with eternity.
What is the secret? "God is One."
The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house.
This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes;
It is not in the juice made from the grapes.
For he who is living in the Light of God,
The death of the carnal soul is a blessing.
Regarding him, say neither bad nor good,
For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.
Fix your eyes on God and do not talk about what is invisible,
So that he may place another look in your eyes.
It is in the vision of the physical eyes
That no invisible or secret thing exists.
But when the eye is turned toward the Light of God
What thing could remain hidden under such a Light?
Although all lights emanate from the Divine Light
Don't call all these lights "the Light of God";
It is the eternal light which is the Light of God,
The ephemeral light is an attribute of the body and the flesh.

...Oh God who gives the grace of vision!
The bird of vision is flying towards You with the wings of desire.


“But what I still don’t understand is this: That people should love each other, and that it takes a firm hand in government to make them do it, is nothing new. So why should it suddenly be a case of either/or.?”

“There’s one of those Marxists over there,” Strumm explained, “who seems to be claiming that a person’s economic superstructure entirely determines his ideological superstructure. And there’s a psychoanalyst denying it and insisting that the ideological superstructure is entirely the product of man’s instinctual substructure.”


No matter whether the substructure is economic or sexual, well, what I wanted to say before is: Why are people so unreliable is their superstructure? You know the common saying that the world is crazy; it is getting all to easy to believe its true!”
That’s the psychology of the masses, Your Grace,” the learned General interposed again. “So far as it applies to the masses it makes sense to me. The masses are moved only by their instincts, and of course that means by those instincts most individuals have in common; that’s logical. That’s to say, it’s illogical, of course. The masses are illogical; they only use logic for window dressing. [dad, Alex] What they really let themselves be guided by is simply and solely suggestion! Give me the newspapers, the radio, the film industry and maybe a few other avenues of cultural communication, and within a few years—as my friend Ulrich once said—I promise I’ll turn people into cannibals! That’s precisely why mankind needs strong leadership, as Your Grace knows far better than I do. But that even highly cultivated individuals are not motivated by logic in some circumstances is something I find it hard to believe, though Arnheim says so.”

Musil, A Man Without Qualities, 1107

Musil and other passages trimmed down to a single sentence could be chapter headings.


I have always harbored a secret notion that the British are better than us. When my mother was little she lived on a British air base where she had a servant.

“They really know how to treat their officers” she would say. Her father had been an American liaison officer to the British after WWII and the Brits had set him and his family up nicely in an English manor home with manicured lawns and old stone walls.

Now when I see Hugh Grant or some other young British actor on the screen I admire them a little too much. I covet the culture that treats officers like royalty and gives them palaces to live in and servants to wait on them.

We didn’t live in any palaces. But we always thought we were rich. My father, like my grandfather, was an Air Force pilot. Grandfather just missed WWII but got to go through the two year program at West Point just in time for the war to end. My dad was in Vietnam when I was born. Just me and mom on a remote air station near the Canadian border somewhere in Maine.

My brother followed me two years later after dad was back from Vietnam. I never heard my Dad or anybody call it ‘Nam like they do in the movies and on TV. It was always Vietnam, pronounced properly so that it rhymed with bomb and not Ma’am.

When I was three I successfully escaped from our house by dragging a bar stool to the front gate and climbing over. I wonder now if that early tendency to find a way out wasn’t indicative of something prison-like about our family. Later in elementary school I would calculate backward from twelfth grade to figure out how many years were left in my sentence.

Kindergarten was in Washington State. On the first day Mrs. Fitzpatrick tore the top off the pencil box my mother had been instructed to buy and had helped me choose. I can still hear the sound of all the pencil boxes being ripped apart as I inched forward in the check-in line. It seemed incredibly unjust and wasteful to my five year old mind that mother and I should expend so much time and energy carefully selecting a box based on a design located on a top which was to be ripped off before the box was ever used.

I wondered some thirty years later if Mrs. Fitzpatrick hadn’t read an article in a scholarly journal that touted the psychological mastery that could be instantly obtained over five year old children by destroying something they love while they stood helplessly watching. Our mothers were all with us, they too seemed perplexed by the ostentatious display of force and destruction but none dared to challenge Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s authority. Thus she achieved the status of pack leader over parents and children alike in a matter of minutes. Brilliant.

First grade began in Texas where I learned that it was unacceptable to whistle in school. This caused me much distress as I had recently learned to whistle and wanted to show off. First grade continued in Germany. I stood in front of the Mrs. Kowal’s first grade class and my mom asked me if I would like to stay or come back tomorrow. I responded that tomorrow would be better for me and my mom smiled knowingly and led me out of the room and back to the hotel which, like the school, was inside a heavily fortified military base.

The fortification level was called into question when terrorists blew up the officers club where we regularly dined and I began asking my mom at night if the terrorists were going to get us. In my mind they always had long black beards and drove around in a Volkswagen van. Maybe I had seen a German movie or news clip with such an image. Or maybe I retroactively added that scene from "Back to The Future".

Second grade was where I was introduced to whole wheat toast by Ms. Halcomb. Third grade gave me the opportunity to interact with older kids on a daily basis as I was in a class euphemistically called “the third and fourth grade team”. It was at this time that I learned that I could alter my identity. I had long chosen my clothes based on what I was to be that day: brown corduroys and a red turtleneck to be an Indian, dark blue shirt and pants to be a policeman etc. But suddenly I learned that I could take on a new identity, outwardly project someone else such that others thought I was that someone else. This is also when I discovered the Archangel Complex.

It all began with a young Pittsburgh Steeler fan named Alex, whom I like to call Felix-Alex-Felix. Felix always wore his head-to-toe Steeler garb: gloves, hat, jacket and scarf. I was a Cowboy fun so I pitied him a little for his poor choice in teams but more so for his distinctive manner of running which was just a few shades away from a Special Olympic gait.

Felix would often return from recess with his Steeler hat askew and a bloody lip or some other sign of having been roughed up. I took umbrage to this outrage and considered it a personal affront to my dignity that someone would have the audacity to loay a hand on my friend. I always asked him to point out the villains but he would just mumble something and sadly take off his coat and return to his seat.

One day I asked Alex if he would trade coats with me at recess. He readily agreed and I pulled the Steeler hat low and the gloves high and set off through the playground in my best imitation of his strange running style.

The inevitable bully suddenly appeared in my path and I approached him in the sheepish manner I imagined Felix would have if he had been wearing his clothes that day. I kept my eyes low and scanned the ground as if anticipating that something bad was going to happen.

“Hey!” the ruffian bellowed.
I looked at the ground, shuffled a little.

“Hey I’m talkin’ to y……”

If I live to by one hundred I will never forget the look in his eyes as I slowly lifted my eyes to meet his. This boy had never seen me before, knew nothing of me yet there was terror on his face. He stammered and backed away, I shoved him hard, seizing upon his fear and weakness, closing for the kill.

“WHAT??!! WHAT did you want to say, didn’t you want to ask me something?”
I was chasing him now, grinning evilly, soaking up his fear like sunshine, relishing his confusion, this wonderful comeuppance I had wanted every time I saw Alex’s sad face after recess.

The memory gets foggy at that point, I smacked him around as best as one eight year old can do to another, stood over him, maybe kicked a little sand in his face or maybe kicked him in the face. Doesn’t matter, I was hooked. I learned the value of fear and confusion, the position of mastery one is in when his opponent is taken by surprise.

I would employ this lesson throughout my life.

Chapter 2

I had a dog when I was three or so. One day he chewed up a garden hose so my father took him to the pound. What a piece of shit. Who takes away a three year old’s sole companion over a garden hose. I guess they figured I wouldn’t notice or remember, but I learned another valuable lesson from that incident: act right or you will be eliminated. Though my dog Charlie was only with me a short time I had somehow stumbled upon a basic principle of pack hierarchy, there can be only one Alpha in any pack and if you think you are that Alpha you have to act accordingly.

We returned from Germany when I was nine. Dad was already back and had secured housing on the base for us and purchased a used Ford Torino which my brother and I thought was the baddest car we’d ever seen because it was the same one Starsky and Hutch had. Never mind that it was a Beige automatic with a white vinyl top, to us in was a heromobile. The air blew cold on my face when I got in and Tom and I started ranting and raving about how awesome it was and I think I asked my dad how much it was and he named a sum less than $2000. It was the first time I remember feeling air conditioning in a car other than my grandfather’s Buick.

My father was wearing a flight suit when he picked us up and he showed his great affection for mom and probably hugged us but I don’t remember now. I was too busy admiring the enormous leather and huge doors and windows. How could a car with only two doors be so big inside? I had learned all about Porsches and Ferraris, Lamborghini’s and BMW’s while living in Europe but I had never seen anything like this car. My enthusiasm for American iron was pretty short lived. I started to notice that all the cars looked very similar. In Germany I had been able to identify a silhouette from a great distance and proudly call out the name of the car. Now I had to wait until I was close enough to see some distinctive piece of trim or headlight to know what I was looking at. I didn’t know it then but the acceptable expression of reality was about to get a great deal narrower in more areas than car design.

Mom enrolled us in summer sports programs so that we could make some friends and get in a groove before school started. I made my first black friend Terry Thomas. Terry informed me in so many words that it was unacceptable for my dad to have a push mower because he was a major. We did get a power mower shortly thereafter, not sure if there was a connection.

That mower was destined to be dragged behind my bicycle all over the housing area on weekends as I searched for people who needed their grass cut before the Tuesday morning inspection. Some weekends I made sixty bucks and for a twelve year old kid in 1983 that buys a lot of skateboard parts and laser prints of big cats.


From Shakespeare's Henry V, 1598:


This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day

Suicide and evil

Suicide is always taken so seriously in this culture. What ever happened to Durkheim’s theory that any reasonable intellectual would prefer self inflicted death to a self aware life? Sometimes it’s just the most logical choice. I was facing a seven year prison sentence in Russia.

The samurai say that one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths.


Even severing femoral, carotid, jugular and wrists wasn’t sufficient. A rambling Soviet era ambulance got me to Skalifasovskaya hospital in time for me to be patched up. I woke up thirsty. A thirst that felt like it would never be quenched and a kid who was supposed to be a nurse telling me she couldn’t give me any water because of my throat injuries.

Sweet talking the ladies is a bitch when you are in that state but I felt that my life depended on it. I probably would have died of dehydration in that room if I hadn’t managed to get a couple of incredibly small glasses of water out of her. What a charmer.

When I was eight I had a friend named Alex. Alex had the whole NFL get up: Steelers jacket, hat, gloves and scarf. He ran a little funny. I didn’t see Alex at recess but he always came back beat up, hat askew, jacket half open, looking scared and sad and alone. This was my first experience of rage, and calculations of revenge.

Alex would never tell me who, how whatever. So one day I asked him if I could borrow his jacket at recess. I oohed and aahed over it, he didn’t know I hated the Steelers or maybe he did. I donned the whole shebang: hat pulled low over the eyes, I loped off. When I was out of his sight I began to imitate his cockeyed run, goofy, projecting fear and weakness, like a beacon.

They honed in, I kept my head down until I felt hands on me, a little longer, the first blow, the point of no return. I enjoyed their terror when I looked up, confused, afraid, regretful, sorry, sad. I enjoyed punishing them, I thought of Alex’s sad face, I made them cry, I thought of his poor little hat sideways on his had and kicked and stomped and ground them into the playground dirt.

When the Christians say that we are born evil listen well, an eight year old child is capable of relishing the pain of other children. When I think of it now it still feels good. I wish I would have beat them harder, I wish they would have been hospitalized, or dead. The sober judgment of age has brought no regret, only sorrow that I was too merciful.

Man is capable of anything when he is on the side of right and justice.

You think Al-Queda has any doubt about the righteousness of their mission? No less than Hitler, Stalin, or Bush. We don’t do evil for the sake of evil, we do it in the name of good. I’m sorry to say that I would probably have been in the SS, the Party, just as I was ready to go in the Marines at 17 and again after 9-11. Ultimately who gives a shit who’s right? We just want to win.

Everybody whines and complains about the other side being evil, we’re all evil bitches, the sooner we realize that the better.

Friday, October 17, 2008

patriotism - no need to put this in quotes, I have a relatively simple definition:

A primitive impulse to identify with the state into which one one was born or immigrated to, a derivative of a primitive tribal instinct, having little or nothing to do with logic, sometimes wrongfully associated with self-interest.
"war on war"
"terror on terror"
"terror on war"
"war on terror"

The following words should always appear in quotes or with a footnote



Today is my birthday, and in the Russian tradition of birthdays I would like to give a gift to my friends on my birthday. Usually the gift consists of cooking a nice meal for your closest friends and providing them with copious amounts of alcohol but since you are all in virtual space my gift must be one that you may enjoy without physical presence. So I want to give the gift of words: the words that have changed meaning dramatically in my short lifetime. More importantly than the words is our collective human memory, our programming has been altered and we should be aware of this.

When I was a kid the people who attacked an invading army were called the "resistance". Le Resistance still conjures up romantic pictures of the French, Czech, Polish, and Dutch undergrounds that made the Nazi occupation of their countries so bloody and difficult.

"resistance" is no longer in vogue to describe those who fight back, it has been quietly replaced with "insurgent".

"Insurgent" of course is the toned down, more academic and objective sounding version of "terrorist".

Now when I was a kid "terrorists" were people that blew stuff up (like the Officer's Club I used to eat in at Rhein-Main Air Force Base) because they wanted to fight a superior force but lacked conventional weaponry. Since I escaped that attack with my young hide intact I have the luxury of writing about it and it is important to note even this mid-70's use of the word "terrorist" was the beginning of a change in the Americanized English language.

What was the status of U.S. military forces in Germany in the 70's? We always believed we were holding back the juggernaut of the Red Army from overwhelming Western Europe but as this is the official story I find it unlikely that it remotely approximates the truth.

Were we in fact an occupying military force, albeit of the kindest gentlest kind? Does the open hostility shown to us by German children reflect the conversations of their parents and grandparents at home. Did the German people believe that the U.S. was there protecting them from the Soviet Union or was our presence regarded as a hold over from the defeat of the Third Reich 31 years earlier (1976)?

In any case the U.S. military was never referred to in my presence as "an occupying force" back then and obviously mainstream U.S. media today does not use this term to refer to U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Cuba, Germany, The Philippines or anywhere else.

So what would be a fair label for U.S. troops stationed on foreign soil? Are we to believe that the citizens of the countries where U.S. soldiers are stationed, if given a choice, would vote in referenda to maintain their presence ? If the answer is no than is the presence of those forces an occupation? Well, of course it is, but that is not what it is called. In fact it is even labeled so that it appears the military presence is a benefit to the "host" country.

"Occupation" has been replaced with "assistance"

For example "Nazi Germany’s occupation of Denmark began with Operation Weserübung 9 April 1940, and lasted..." Wikipedia

compare this quote to the one below

U.S. Occupation Assistance: Iraq, Germany and Japan Compared


This report provides aggregate data on U.S. assistance to Iraq and compares it
with U.S. assistance to Germany and Japan during the seven years following World
War II. U.S. aid allocations (all grant assistance ) for Iraq appropriated from 2003
to 2006 total $28.9 billion. About $17.6 billion (62%) went for economic and
political reconstruction assistance....

Now note the interesting way that the word "occupation" in the title of the document morphs into "assistance" in the text.

Perhaps this is why it is controversial to say "the U.S. occupation of Iraq" because the empty space, the neutral ground of our intellect has been programmed to associate the word "occupy" with something negative and "assistance" with something positive. We can't be "occupying" anything, Nazi, Soviet and Iraqi armies occupied Europe, Afghanistan and Kuwait respectively, but American forces are "assisting" Cuba, Korea, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. etc.

This is a point of contention with the conservative members of my family who are always quick to say "you can't compare what we are doing in Iraq to what the Soviets did in Afghanistan". Can't I? Why does the perspective of the occupier even matter? If you are in my country kicking down my door in the middle of the night and terrifying my children, parents, girlfriend, whoever, you better expect a visit from me and my buddies later. And don't bitch about it, don't call them "insurgents" and "terrorists".

They are the resistance

Le Resistance

And it is their duty and their right to resist us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spike Lee, The Inside man and the Nazis (cont'd)

Not to get all controversial or anything but there are two things I want to talk about. I) Israel and the confiscation of Jewish wealth by Nazis and Nazi sympathizers during WWII II) The Palestine/Israeli war over a piece of land. One may sound anti-Semitic (against Jews) and the other sounds anti-Semitic (against Palestinians) but both need to be said.

As regards the confiscation of Jewish wealth during WWII this seems to be an exception in the history of capitalism in which those whom have had their property expropriated by completely extra-legal and immoral means have some recourse in law. The committee which oversees the return of wealth to Jewish victims of the Nazis should open committees for the rest of the victims of wealth expropriation regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or historical era.

And as far as Israel goes: the only reason all you cry babies are bitching about the Israelis is that your fucking memories are so short that you have forgotten that EVERY state in the modern era has been created by the extermination of the natives.

The U.S. did it to the native Americans, the Portuguese to the Brazilians, the Spaniards to the Cubans, the Soviets to lots of 'Republics', etc. etc. Israel just has the misfortune of having to wage its war on the native population in the era of 24 hours news and the internet. Good luck with that, can you imagine if every native American massacre of the U.S. forces was on TV, radio, and the internet.

So they want to conduct genocide, who are we; who live in the killing fields of our respective countries, to judge them? Just don't bitch about suicide bombers unless you are going to have Tony Stark start shipping advanced weaponry to all the "terrorists". If you want a fair fight stop using weapons available only to, one side. Or maybe it's time for the US to start using suicide bombers too. Instead of a B-52 to carry your ordinance, you strap it to your body. If nothing else at least the enlistment bonus would go up. If I could get that Islamic deal where all my relatives got care, shelter and food for life sign me up, I'll blow myself up during an interview with some "terrorist". On second thought, I don't even like my family.

And Speaking of the Nazis

I saw a great Spike Lee film called "Inside Man" and it bears a relationship to my review of "Iron Man". In the empty space of that film we are understood to accept (as the audience) the idea that wealth, regardless of how it is obtained. Unless you stole it from the Jews.

Iron Man, Batman, The Knockaround Guys, and Badiou

"Iron Man" tells up a lot about ourselves. It is the true to life version of the Seinfeldian notion of a show about nothing. Everything in the film is like a soft stroke of the audience, or what the producers, marketers and director of the film collectively believe to be the audience. It is like an empty space of non-controversial archetypes in which we can sit and look at the pretty people and machines.

In fact I would prefer to use the term "feely" when writing of this film. I think Huxley would agree with me that American cinema has reached the status of the "feelies" of "Brave New World". "Iron Man" is one of the many feelies one could categorize under "this film intentionally left blank". Every element, every scene was like a serotonin booster. The opening shot of the dusty HUMVEES bouncing through the desert, the young intrepid, shy and polite soldiers rollicking along to their doom listening to AC/DC. The brash bazillionare flouting common sense and thoughts of his own safety by joining our brave young men and women, and at great personal risk to himself no less, so that he could glad hand the crowd like a British Imperial Prince visiting an Indian colony 200 years ago.

Ah, the new royalty and their counterparts: Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark and the evil nemeses that want to steal from them what they have rightfully inherited by their completely arbitrary birth into the proper family. I would like to add to this mix the opposing two forces from "Knockaround Guys". For those of you who haven't seen it John Malkovich plays a second in command mob lieutenant who has the audacity to try and make a play for control of the "criminal" organization he has spent his entire life helping to build.

Like the bad guys in all three of these movies Malkovich is pitted against the scion of the family with whom the audience should immediately identify. I did. Without enumerating the ridiculous, stereotypical and lampoonish appearances of all the villains in these films, suffice it to say they all were obviously the bad guy from the moment they appeared on the screen. Jeff Bridges even has the bald head and long beard of a fiery anti-American cleric.

In each film the evil number two is vanquished and the heroic young man assumes the helm of his fathers Imperial Administration and continues to keep the world one cunt hair away from annihilation by the Other.

This is the empty space. The tacit understanding that a son has the right to inherit his fathers wealth regardless of how that wealth was obtained. The beauty of a movie like "Iron Man" is it brings into such stark (no pun intended) relief the things we take for granted in human culture. Howard Stark's company makes weapons, they have grown rich on the systematic and mechanized killing of human beings. But there is absolutely no hint from the director of the film that this is in any way controversial.

Tony Stark does not hold a press conference to say :"I hereby relenquish control of my fathers estate because it represents more collective death than Iraq, Afghanistran, Viet Nam, WWII, Rwanda, Armenian massacre, Katyn Forest, Gulags, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and (Insert massive human death event here) combined". No, Tony's brilliant insight is that his weapons are not being used exclusively by the Imperial overlords for whom they were created at great cost to the taxpayer. The other team has our playbook, now it's time for a moment of Zen reflection.

What a douche. This is our hero? I have to say I thought of none of this while watching the film, I was too busy admiring the shiny red iron man suit and the Jericho missile and I didn't see the empty space either.

So we live in a culture where the bad guy is the one who works all his life not only at the beck and call of the head of the company but also dealing with the ever present threat that his position will be filled by the up and coming young hoodlum whose antics he is also responsible for keeping in check.

Now I'm not just saying this because Malkovich is my favorite actor, and that's not just because he is bald like me either, but wouldn't it be cool to live in a world where Malkovich, and Rutger Hauer and Jeff Bridges were the heroes of these respective movies?

The young punk who is getting blown by $1000 whores from the time he is 13 who has more than likely never read a book in his life and would have extreme difficulty preparing a meal for himself and his family gets nothing but a minimum wage job sweeping the factory floor and the number two guy takes over after years of hard work and chafing under the ineptitude of his superior. In the sequel the young scion turned janitor graduates a night business course and gets a low paying administrative position through a temp agency so that no favoritism is suspected.

This brings me to ethics and Badiou. In my understanding of Badiou the very idea of good and evil, the notion of combating evil, is in itself the source of Evil in the world. The most clear example is Nazism, the Jew is characterized as evil, usurious, sexually deviant and then the whole country stands around listening to Heideggar and reading Kant and Hegel while the Jews are shipped to death camps round the clock.

Once they got the ball rolling with Jews the gypsies, Catholics, homosexuals and generally anybody that needed to be killed followed suit without a peep from the populace. I'm certainly not casting any stones, I'm not standing on the White House lawn with a sign demanding the release of who knows how many secret Guantanamos there are on this planet. The American's that thought they would rise up against their government if they lived during the Holocaust are all playing Xbox and eating Cheeto's while their own government does much worse.

But this is exactly my point, we have all been conditioned to believe that there are human beings capable of determining what is evil and they are justified in using force to prevent that evil. Once someone or some group is 'evil' they are outside the bounds of the law, they do not exist. As Zizek pointed out about Rumsfeld and Cheney commenting on the torture of detainees, the terrifying part isn't the existence of prisons where the enemy is tortured, these of course exist in every conflict, the terrifying part is the open dialog from the highest government officials discussing the pros and cons of such an approach. The French at least had the decency to keep the Algerian torture chambers secret, and if not entirely secret they weren't on the talk shows discussing their inner workings, debating the finer points of waterboarding and sleep deprivation as if discussing the merits of a choice in fabric for the White House drapes.

Terror is commonplace now, it is even official government policy and this is hardly even controversial any more. We have been conditioned quite well.

The long eye of history is much more accurate than our own distorted, culturally conditioned perception of our own time. In ancient Greece it was common for a young boys first sexual experience to be with an older man. This was considered part of normal sexual development and once the young man reached a certain age he was expected to "progress" to women, marry and have children. Regardless of ones feelings on the merits or evil of such a policy one must agree that this is not socially or legally accepted now. But Greek democracy is certainly an important element of that civilization which is held up as a great idea.

So if societal norms can be defined by culture then it is not completely implausible that other norms which seem like part of the "empty space", the neutral ground we occupy are also culturally defined.

"Thou shalt not kill"

A relatively common tenet of religion, yet statistics show a staggering number of deaths in the course of human history are the result of wars between religious sects, usually both of whom hod as a fundamental premise "thou shalt not kill". All you Zen Buddhists don't think you are exempt, Imperial Japan, kamikaze, samurai, domination of entire cultures, done by a bunch of guys that burned incense and meditated on death every day. see "The Hagakure".

Without placing any value judgment on these cultures let us simply examine the source of all the death. One might agree that if a large part of the killing (to be more specific than death) in a culture is philosophically rooted in "ethics" one may begin to question the value of such an ethics. Especially since any ethical system manifesting itself as a religion or political movement today has as its underpinnings the command "thou shalt not kill".

The US Criminal Code has some pretty specific injunctions against killing. Yet one might argue that a prohibition against killing, which makes no exceptions, would make the construction and maintenance of millions of killing devices, including human beings specifically and methodically trained for that purpose, unnecessary.

We may scoff and say "of course we must have an army" but this brings us not to question the necessity of an army but a larger question: if way may all agree that killing is necessary in human culture why do all our ethical (as manifested by legal) systems forbid it?

Why does not the law specifically enumerate the conditions under which a human being may be killed. Capital punishment exists yes, but as a very specific case for one individual. There are no provisions in US law for mass killing, aerial bombardment, etc. Does this legality derive from the President's War Powers? If so should the President be given a specific exemption from the US Criminal Code, is he personally responsible for the deaths that occur during war as the leader of the Tribe.

Our ethics are lying to us, telling us things that we know cannot possibly be true.

"Though shalt not steal"

Also encoded in many ways in law everywhere. But the entire definition of this law resides in the meaning of the word "steal". My image is immediately of myself putting food in my pocket or backpack in a grocery store when I am stealing something to eat.
But this is of course a conditioned response. Shouldn't I imagine something larger, Portugese in Brazil, Spaniards in Mexico, Russians in Afghanistan, British in the Middle east. If one culture can appropriate all the resources from another and subjugate the entire population under laws that still exist can I really think that "steal" has anything to do with my microwavable Uno's pizza (highly recommended meal when your only means on cooking is a university microwave).

If our entire culture is built on stolen land, stolen, labor, and raw materials it seems odd that an injunction against stealing is part of our legal and moral education.

But then we realize a silent law to which we have grown accustom since childhood and which is contained in hidden form in many sayings and proverbs: What is a crime for an individual is normal behavior for a collective.

If one man kills one man there is a trial, a great public outcry, a dramatic sentencing of the (usually by now) repentant criminal who then goes to prison and studies Islam or Christianity or some other form of ethics and transforms himself into a good cog in the system.

If the Georgian Army massacres a bunch of civilians and then the Russian Army massacres a bunch of Georgians, and on the same day 20 road side bombs go off and a stray bomb hits a school in Afghanistan our moral sensibilities are not offended.

This brings me to another element of "Iron Man" that makes it a great cultural barometer. Jeff Bridges is a bad guy in "Iron Man" partly because he tries to have Tony killed, locked out of his company etc. but his big transgression is his sale of weapons to the "terrorists". These are the same guys who killed all our boys in the first scene, the embodiment of evil, torturers, dumb cavemen who need the expertise of a 30 year old MIT grad to make a weapon. (These are supposedly the same people that when confronted by weapons shortages defeated the Soviet Empire by dropping rocks on the helicopter blades of attack helicopters when they flew through canyons. If one of Tony Stark's hot rods broke down back home any one of those guys could probably fix it faster than his mechanic and they need him to build them sonething, at least ransoming him would have been more realistic). Jeff Bridges sells these "terrorists" weapons. He gives the super advanced technology that is the backbone of US domination of the Other to the Other and for this he is labeled evil.

I think another one of Jeff Bridges characters, The Big Lebowski, would have approved of this action. "This aggression will not stand man". If you are at war you better expect that the other side is going to fight you with every thing they can get, the fact that this bothers us so much is another huge conflict within our ethical system.

There are those who are allowed to possess and use weapons of mass destruction, like the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and those who may not. If Iran and North Korea and Venezuela and Libya and Hezbollah and Al Queda all had nukes everyone would have to play by the rules. If you are an American or European your government is protecting you from that world. Or are they simply preventing a world in which the maxim "all men are created equal" actually means something. Western Civilization has been holding all the cards for a long time, our rules are the only rules that mattered. We decide who is evil and must be destroyed and funnel large amounts of our populations resources into carrying out that destruction. What happens when we're not making the rules any more. Better hope whoever is in charge next doesn't decide we are evil.

Let's hope that evil really is just a social construct.