VOTE OR EAT … Ahhhhhhhhhh….. BISTO !!!! … That’s the way to do it!


David Davis

Vote or eat. Zimbabwe (that is to say, Southern Rhodesia.)

Stalinist bastard, that Myooogaaayb person.,,…. He won’t be allowed into hell, you know.

Know why?  He’s, er, too bad.

Lucifer (MORGOTH) won’t let him in, he’s er, rather bad.

He’ll be handed a brazier, a fag-lighter, and some paraffin, in a thingy, and he’ll be, er, set adrift, into the outer Void. He’ll have to join Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro (who is dead too) Bin Laden (who will continue to remain dead this year too as well and also next year) the Sendery-Luminosy-man-whose-name-I-can’t-remember-coz-he’s-a-saddo-who-chopped-off-living-people’s-faces-while-alive, Kim-Il-Sung, and the others.

How absolutely stupid and myopic of us all here, not to notice, about the connection between voting and eating, if there is a “government”.

He who does not work, neither shall he eat. For “work”, read “agreement”. Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever.

Tony, my dear chap, you can ask me again about these sub-human droids, and about a diagnostic test to distinguish what kind of machine they appear to be when going about in the world, and how to characterise this machine so as to eliminate it, but you yourself ought to know what I point to.

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11 responses to “VOTE OR EAT … Ahhhhhhhhhh….. BISTO !!!! … That’s the way to do it!

  1. Dave:

    If you were to run a poll in this country among self-described leftists, I doubt you would find 1% who had any time for Lenin or Stalin or Hitler or Mao or Kim-il-Sung or Mugabe. It was Mrs. Thatcher who told us: “Mr. Mugabe is a man we can do business with”, and promptly sold out Southern Rhodesia to the Terrorists.

    I also doubt that you would get much of a response for “Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever.”

    You are imagining threats to your liberty, exaggerating them beyond all reasonable measure, empowering them with powers they do not have, then you revel in hating them.

    Meanwhile, you almost entirely ignore the very real threats to your liberty, which emanate mostly from Right Wing Authoritarians like Thatcher and Blair and MI5 and ACPO, as well as most of the mass media which is controlled by their ilk.

    Since the “Pass A New Law!” hysteria originates from the mass media, the politicians of all shades respond to it to avoid being wrong-footed and blamed.

    Wasn’t it Tim Evans who told me that it’s easier to convince a left-winger of the virtues of markets than it is to convince a Right-winger of the blessings of personal liberty?

    And you totally ignore the “non-political” sources of power. They don’t appear on your radar at all. As a C.S. Lewis fan, you should know better.

    “Isn’t it absolutely _necessary_ to have a fierce “Right” and a fierce “Left”, each on their toes and terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done. Of course, we’re non-political. The real power always is.” — Miss Hardcastle of the N.I.C.E., in C.S. Lewis, “That Hideous Strength.”

    It wasn’t Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever who blew up New York on 9/11, blamed it on Al-Qaeda with no evidence whatsoever. passed repressive laws and launched two wars on the back of it.

    It wasn’t Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever who blew up Madrid, blamed it on Al-Qaeda, then switched the villains to “eta” when it becam obvious involvement in Iraq would cost them the election, then wiped all the hard drives containing the “evidence.”.

    It wasn’t Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever who blew up London on 7/7, then blamed it on people who could not possibly have done it. Then passed miles of repressive laws.

    [ FX: "Wake up out there!!!" ]

    Regards, Tony

  2. Tony my dear chap,

    I have heard all the stuff about the right-wing-authoritarian Thatcher, and the like (as per what you list) for years.

    Because so many apologists for theiving lefty murderers hated, feared and opposed her, and hated, feared and opposed the USA (and in particular its vulgar (in the true sense of the meaning of the word) culture, I range myself against these haters.

    I truly know that you are not one of these people whom I describe. I describe Gramsco-Eageltonians as you know.

    But if you are right, why have I not heard of “ACPO”, and whay are the lefties not trunpeting the case for individual liberty __in all things absolutely, for everyone, for ever__ which would slice the ground from under the feet of the evil agencies you name?

  3. Apologies, i spelt “thieving” wrongly and have not time to try to find how to edit it.

  4. Dave:

    ACPO is The Association of Chief Police Officers, which used to be an informal get-together.

    Now, they are consciously dedicated to a National Police Force, and a host of other oppresive measures. Hardly a day goes by without them _initiating_ some new, oppressive measure. These people are supposed to be civil servants paid to protect and serve us. Instead, they are bent on the creation of a new Gestapo with over-arching power, not answerable to _anybody_. I’m amazed you haven’t noticed them. You must be filtering it out.

    By and large, the Lefties _ARE_ advocating individual liberty, although not in always in the form you and I might agree on. Look at LIBERTY. Look at Amnesty. Look at the ACLU.

    I remember asking David Ramsay Steele what on Earth motivated socialists to work so hard.

    He replied: “Because they want what you and I want, Tony. A world where — within reason — everyone can do whatever they like, and have whatever they want. They believe they have an economic system that can deliver that.”

    You and I both know that the Statist tyrants you name are vicious enemies of liberty. Not everyone in MI5 is — MI5 is (or used to be) guided by a small-”c” conservative mind-set.

    It would be helpful if you provided the names of six prominent and powerful Marxist Gramsco-Eagletonians, all. Again. As ever. I could then check them out, and see if I can discern the evils you describe. I am not your enemy.

    Chris Tame had a visceral hatred of the sort of people Ayn Rand disapproved of. This was his world-view. In parts, it’s libertarian; but it has its blind spots. He worked hard to create the LA in his own image; but he had a fatal weak spot for authoritarians. We used to argue about this all the time. Some people like a Manichaean world-view. “I ++ : They – - : Therefore get rid of them.” Whereas I see a complex spectrum.

    I would point out that it was the LA — to its great credit — which published “The Full Coercive Apparatus of a Police State.”

    Thatcher did not create it by accident…

    Regards,

    Tony

  5. Dave:

    Can you tell me who wrote this?

    Best,

    Tony

    “A lot of what we imagine as traditional – the Scottish kilt for example – is fairly new-fangled, and this is true of terrorism. Of course, human beings have been at each other’s throats since the dawn of time. But terrorism is also a political idea, which is not quite the same as blowing up your neighbour because his TV set is too loud. And this idea is surprisingly recent.

    Terror first sees the light of day, like so much else in the modern world, in the French revolution. It’s from the Jacobin terror that we inherit the word terroriste, and its first translation into English as ‘terrorist’ was probably the work of Britain’s doughtiest opponent of the revolution, Edmund Burke.

    As an Irishman whose relatives had been active in anti-colonial struggles, and who as a child attended a hedge school (open-air school) in County Cork, Burke knew a thing or two about terror. When the word was pronounced, he thought of the public execution of Irish rebels at Dublin Castle, not just of the guillotine. But he thought of the guillotine too, because to his mind what the French Jacobins were perpetrating was pretty much the catastrophic error committed by the British in Ireland, India and the American colonies.

    Burke is usually considered by the left as a crusty old Tory, though he was in fact a liberal Whig. He spoke up courageously for American independence despite the angry protestations of his constituents, and in a spectacular trial in the House of Commons mercilessly hounded Warren Hastings, chief of the East India Company and representative of British imperialism in the sub-continent. So Burke was not an enemy of the French Terror in the way that any old reactionary would be. Instead, he saw in it the disastrous breakdown of political hegemony; and he thought that this was also the secret of Britain’s failure in some of its major colonies.

    Burke was not opposed to a stiff dose of terror as such. On the contrary, he was honest enough to admit that the law itself is in a sense terroristic, and in his view it needed to be. Only in this way would it intimidate its subjects into a suitable sense of awe. And, without this meek submissiveness, all hell might break loose in London, as it had in Paris.

    So terror, in his view, was not just a sudden violent irruption into an otherwise peaceful situation – there was a dash of terror about law and order itself. It was just that, with his experience of British brutality in Ireland behind him, Burke also believed that this daunting power of the law had to be softened and tempered if it was to be effective. It had to engage the affections of the people, not just their fear.

    This was what Antonio Gramsci was later to call hegemony. Burke may not have had the word, but he certainly had the concept. He believed, for example, that the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy in his native country had never succeeded in making the transition from a dominant to a hegemonic class. The Irish small farmers tugged their forelocks to them in public, and then waited until night fell so they could go out and smash up their property. The British ruling class, Burke considered, had developed practices and customs over centuries that bound the affections of their subjects to them. (He was obviously not thinking of Peterloo.) In Ireland, however, this had lamentably failed to happen. And if you lack hegemony, then you will be forced to use terroristic coercion instead.

    Burke looked at all this in gender terms. The law was masculine, but hegemony was a way of feminising it, making it sweeter and softer. For coercion to do its work, it must drape itself in the alluring dress of a woman. The law for Burke is a cross-dresser. But there is always an ugly bulge in its decorous garments. In Burke’s eyes, women are beautiful, while men are sublime. And the most potent form of authority is one that combines the two. Like the stereotypical female seducer, the law must lull us into sweet oblivion of its own sublime terror. Like God, it is terrible to look upon with the naked eye; but if we view it through the veils of hegemony, we can find its edicts more to our taste.

    As well as being one of the earliest theorists of hegemony, Burke was also one of the first theorists of sado-masochism. The two are in fact intimately related, which might have come as a surprise to Antonio Gramsci. If we come to love the law, it is because in Burke’s eyes we reap delight from being browbeaten and humiliated. Freud would say much the same a century later about our relationship to the superego. But this relish in being dominated, for both thinkers, only goes so far. If the law strips off its seductive drapery and exposes the full extent of its unlovely power – if, so to speak, it becomes a flasher rather than a cross-dresser – we will find it repulsive and revolt against it. Terror breaks out when hegemony breaks down. And this, for Burke, is what had happened in his own time all the way from Boston to Bombay.

    In his own way, then, Burke acknowledged what scarcely any Western politician today is brave enough to acknowledge: that the only solution to terror is justice. Which is not to suggest for one moment that he endorsed this dreadful force that rips off the heads of innocent men and women from their shoulders. On the contrary, he was Britain’s most eloquent denouncer of it when it broke out across the English Channel. Rather, Burke is not mealy-mouthed about terror, however much he may rightly abhor it. He was bold enough to recognise that in a sense it forms part of everyday life – just as for Freud, the cruel, vindictive power of the superego, and the terrifying force of the death drive, are part of what he calls the psychopathology of everyday life. Terror is indeed an appalling, extraordinary, morally obscene event; but in a sense it is also as close to us as breathing. Only by confronting it, rather than repressing it, can we hope to get beyond it.

    If the political concept of terror first took root in revolutionary France, then one vital fact about it instantly follows. Terror began as state terror, which is how it has most typically continued. The Jacobin Terror was not a strike by a secretive cabal of fanatics against the state, but a strike by a secretive cabal of fanatics known as the state. Terror has an impeccable bourgeois pedigree.

    Burke was shrewd enough to see that some form of terror lies at the origin of most political states. Most states come into being by invasion, occupation, usurpation, revolution and so on. The coming of law and order was neither lawful nor orderly. This is another sense in which terror and everyday life – social life – are bound up together: without past terror, no present society. The embarrassment of the French Revolution was that it had made this truth painfully visible. Since this was a state in the tumultuous throes of its birth, it ripped the veils from that original violence – something that was true of most other states as well, but that most of them (Britain, for example) had managed over the centuries to live down. What was appalling about the Jacobin Terror from this viewpoint was not just its bloodthirsty ferocity but the fact that it let the ideological cat out of the bag. And this is certainly one reason why it put the wind up Westminster.

    Middle-class capitalist societies are particularly shame-faced about the violence that founded them. This is because the middle classes, more than any other social formation, are necessarily committed to peace, stability and security. Without such a framework, capitalism cannot operate. So they are eager to make the transition from bandits to bankers. Like a hippy applying to law school, they need to put their disreputable political past behind them. They must thrust it into the political unconscious, repressing the original sin that brought them to birth. States that are too raw and recent to do this – Israel and Northern Ireland, for example – are likely to have a hard time. They are much less likely to appear natural, inevitable, time-hallowed phenomena, like Dennis Skinner or the House of Lords.

    Yet living down the violence that founded the state in the first place is no easy task. This is because that furious power lives on in the present – and it lives on, of all ironic places, in the form of sovereignty itself. Terror now ceases to be anarchic, and becomes ‘sublimated’, as Freud would put it, into that majestic, intimidatory power known as law and order. Just as for Freud the superego and the id (the chaotic forces of the unconscious) are on intimate terms with each other, so, paradoxically, terror and social order draw life from one another. Terror ceases to be lawless and becomes legitimate. It no longer takes place on the cobblestones of Paris, but withdraws from public view to the prisons and torture camps of respectably established regimes.

    But there is another way in which terror lives on in capitalist societies. Burke argued that market competition itself, with its ferocious struggle for dominion, was itself a strain of the revolutionary violence that founded the state, one still lingering inside it. Without these virile, aggressive energies, he thought, social life would become feminised in all the worst ways. We would simply sink into apathy and inertia. We would become excessively beautiful, rather than vigorously sublime.

    It’s clear that there is no moral equivalence between blowing up a crowded bus station and driving your competitors out of business. The point is that capitalist society itself, as Marx never ceased to point out, is the most revolutionary formation in human history. It is eternally agitating, transforming, shattering, dissolving and reinventing – and all this as part of everyday life. So it is an object lesson in the way that under capitalism, turbulence and everyday life do not form a seamless narrative: first the revolutionary turbulence that launched the state, then the sedate tranquility of everyday life. On the contrary, the two are deeply interwoven. And this means that there is always a fearful instability at the very heart of such political stability, which its enemies can exploit.

    The philosopher Hegel, Edmund Burke’s contemporary, saw precisely this. He, too, was a witness of the birth of the new middle-class order in France; and he, too, spotted something terrifying at its heart. The name he gave to this terror was absolute freedom – or, as he scathingly called it, ‘the freedom of the void’. Bourgeois society dreamed of a freedom so pure and absolute that it could tolerate no boundaries or restrictions. And this, in a creaturely, constricted world, was bound to present itself as a form of terror. In the end, this pure freedom even became an obstacle to itself, and thus ended up devouring itself, like the Jacobin Terror. Eventually it was the revolutionaries themselves who filled the carts trundling their way up to the guillotine.

    Absolute freedom eats itself up. Yet its violence, today as in Hegel’s time, continues to infiltrate the daily life of capitalist societies. Absolute freedom means negative freedom: a freedom from all restraint, which can see limits only as barriers to humanity, not as constitutive of it. The world is imperilled not by hard-nosed cynics who insist that nothing is possible, but by wide-eyed, ‘can-do’ idealists for whom anything is possible. Most of these are known as Americans. When the ancient Greeks encountered this kind of blasphemous overreaching, they called it ‘hubris’ and looked fearfully to the skies. And it is from the skies that it has had its tragic come-uppance.

    Socialism is not about reaching for the stars, but reminding us of our frailty and mortality, and so of our need for one another. In contrast, absolute freedom regards the world as just so much pliable stuff to be manipulated in whatever way takes its fancy. This is why postmodernism, or some aspects of it, is one of its latest inheritors. For all its consumerist greed, this uncompromising freedom is a virulently anti-materialist force; for matter is what resists you, and absolute freedom is as impatient with such resistance as the US is with the resistance in Iraq. The world becomes just raw material to cuff into shape. Michael Jackson’s nose is its icon. It is only when such raw materials begin to include whole people and nations that it becomes a form of deadly terror.

    Most of the time, this ravaging beast called absolute freedom is kept safely caged. It is hemmed in by laws, procedures, obligations, regulations, the rights of others. Yet the dream of being the only individual in the world (for this is what such freedom would finally involve) never quite fades, given the narcissism of the human species. From time to time, then, this madness, which lurks at the very core of conventional middle-class society, breaks out anew. It is like a lunatic who gives the slip to his keeper and goes on the rampage. This is how Burke saw the Jacobins, who ended up disappearing down the black hole of their own sublime negativity.

    Being alone with oneself for all eternity is a traditional image of hell, like being stuck forever with some bar-room bore. Yet it is this hellish condition, astonishingly, that the neo-conservative thugs and fanatics in the White House are most entranced by. Not for themselves, to be sure, but for their nation. Their vision of paradise is a world that holds nothing but the United States, even though it is some other people’s vision of hell.

    There is one problem, however, that they, in common with the Jacobins, are unable to resolve. If you end up crushing and subjugating all the resistance around you, who will be left to tell you who you are? For you cannot work this out in isolation. Identity involves otherness. And if you find that otherness intolerable, your own sense of yourself will gradually begin to implode. You will be left knowing nothing whatsoever, least of all yourself.

    The nation with its military bases in every continent is, not accidentally, the one most ignorant of geography, imagining as it does that Malawi is a Disney character. Like the Jacobins in Edmund Burke’s eyes, it is blinded by an excess of its own light. In the end, it is its own triumphal technology that helps to bring it low, as its enemies lay hands on this technology and turn it against it. Like the opponent of a skilled judo fighter, it is entangled in its own ungainly strength. It is this, not its weakness, that is its fatal flaw. And this process, by which your own brute force brings you toppling to the ground, is happening in Iraq as I write.”

  6. Dave:

    Who wrote this?

    Best,

    Tony

    A lot of what we imagine as traditional – the Scottish kilt for example – is fairly new-fangled, and this is true of terrorism. Of course, human beings have been at each other’s throats since the dawn of time. But terrorism is also a political idea, which is not quite the same as blowing up your neighbour because his TV set is too loud. And this idea is surprisingly recent.

    Terror first sees the light of day, like so much else in the modern world, in the French revolution. It’s from the Jacobin terror that we inherit the word terroriste, and its first translation into English as ‘terrorist’ was probably the work of Britain’s doughtiest opponent of the revolution, Edmund Burke.

    As an Irishman whose relatives had been active in anti-colonial struggles, and who as a child attended a hedge school (open-air school) in County Cork, Burke knew a thing or two about terror. When the word was pronounced, he thought of the public execution of Irish rebels at Dublin Castle, not just of the guillotine. But he thought of the guillotine too, because to his mind what the French Jacobins were perpetrating was pretty much the catastrophic error committed by the British in Ireland, India and the American colonies.

    Burke is usually considered by the left as a crusty old Tory, though he was in fact a liberal Whig. He spoke up courageously for American independence despite the angry protestations of his constituents, and in a spectacular trial in the House of Commons mercilessly hounded Warren Hastings, chief of the East India Company and representative of British imperialism in the sub-continent. So Burke was not an enemy of the French Terror in the way that any old reactionary would be. Instead, he saw in it the disastrous breakdown of political hegemony; and he thought that this was also the secret of Britain’s failure in some of its major colonies.

    Burke was not opposed to a stiff dose of terror as such. On the contrary, he was honest enough to admit that the law itself is in a sense terroristic, and in his view it needed to be. Only in this way would it intimidate its subjects into a suitable sense of awe. And, without this meek submissiveness, all hell might break loose in London, as it had in Paris.

    So terror, in his view, was not just a sudden violent irruption into an otherwise peaceful situation – there was a dash of terror about law and order itself. It was just that, with his experience of British brutality in Ireland behind him, Burke also believed that this daunting power of the law had to be softened and tempered if it was to be effective. It had to engage the affections of the people, not just their fear.

    This was what Antonio Gramsci was later to call hegemony. Burke may not have had the word, but he certainly had the concept. He believed, for example, that the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy in his native country had never succeeded in making the transition from a dominant to a hegemonic class. The Irish small farmers tugged their forelocks to them in public, and then waited until night fell so they could go out and smash up their property. The British ruling class, Burke considered, had developed practices and customs over centuries that bound the affections of their subjects to them. (He was obviously not thinking of Peterloo.) In Ireland, however, this had lamentably failed to happen. And if you lack hegemony, then you will be forced to use terroristic coercion instead.

    Burke looked at all this in gender terms. The law was masculine, but hegemony was a way of feminising it, making it sweeter and softer. For coercion to do its work, it must drape itself in the alluring dress of a woman. The law for Burke is a cross-dresser. But there is always an ugly bulge in its decorous garments. In Burke’s eyes, women are beautiful, while men are sublime. And the most potent form of authority is one that combines the two. Like the stereotypical female seducer, the law must lull us into sweet oblivion of its own sublime terror. Like God, it is terrible to look upon with the naked eye; but if we view it through the veils of hegemony, we can find its edicts more to our taste.

    As well as being one of the earliest theorists of hegemony, Burke was also one of the first theorists of sado-masochism. The two are in fact intimately related, which might have come as a surprise to Antonio Gramsci. If we come to love the law, it is because in Burke’s eyes we reap delight from being browbeaten and humiliated. Freud would say much the same a century later about our relationship to the superego. But this relish in being dominated, for both thinkers, only goes so far. If the law strips off its seductive drapery and exposes the full extent of its unlovely power – if, so to speak, it becomes a flasher rather than a cross-dresser – we will find it repulsive and revolt against it. Terror breaks out when hegemony breaks down. And this, for Burke, is what had happened in his own time all the way from Boston to Bombay.

    In his own way, then, Burke acknowledged what scarcely any Western politician today is brave enough to acknowledge: that the only solution to terror is justice. Which is not to suggest for one moment that he endorsed this dreadful force that rips off the heads of innocent men and women from their shoulders. On the contrary, he was Britain’s most eloquent denouncer of it when it broke out across the English Channel. Rather, Burke is not mealy-mouthed about terror, however much he may rightly abhor it. He was bold enough to recognise that in a sense it forms part of everyday life – just as for Freud, the cruel, vindictive power of the superego, and the terrifying force of the death drive, are part of what he calls the psychopathology of everyday life. Terror is indeed an appalling, extraordinary, morally obscene event; but in a sense it is also as close to us as breathing. Only by confronting it, rather than repressing it, can we hope to get beyond it.

    If the political concept of terror first took root in revolutionary France, then one vital fact about it instantly follows. Terror began as state terror, which is how it has most typically continued. The Jacobin Terror was not a strike by a secretive cabal of fanatics against the state, but a strike by a secretive cabal of fanatics known as the state. Terror has an impeccable bourgeois pedigree.

    Burke was shrewd enough to see that some form of terror lies at the origin of most political states. Most states come into being by invasion, occupation, usurpation, revolution and so on. The coming of law and order was neither lawful nor orderly. This is another sense in which terror and everyday life – social life – are bound up together: without past terror, no present society. The embarrassment of the French Revolution was that it had made this truth painfully visible. Since this was a state in the tumultuous throes of its birth, it ripped the veils from that original violence – something that was true of most other states as well, but that most of them (Britain, for example) had managed over the centuries to live down. What was appalling about the Jacobin Terror from this viewpoint was not just its bloodthirsty ferocity but the fact that it let the ideological cat out of the bag. And this is certainly one reason why it put the wind up Westminster.

    Middle-class capitalist societies are particularly shame-faced about the violence that founded them. This is because the middle classes, more than any other social formation, are necessarily committed to peace, stability and security. Without such a framework, capitalism cannot operate. So they are eager to make the transition from bandits to bankers. Like a hippy applying to law school, they need to put their disreputable political past behind them. They must thrust it into the political unconscious, repressing the original sin that brought them to birth. States that are too raw and recent to do this – Israel and Northern Ireland, for example – are likely to have a hard time. They are much less likely to appear natural, inevitable, time-hallowed phenomena, like Dennis Skinner or the House of Lords.

    Yet living down the violence that founded the state in the first place is no easy task. This is because that furious power lives on in the present – and it lives on, of all ironic places, in the form of sovereignty itself. Terror now ceases to be anarchic, and becomes ‘sublimated’, as Freud would put it, into that majestic, intimidatory power known as law and order. Just as for Freud the superego and the id (the chaotic forces of the unconscious) are on intimate terms with each other, so, paradoxically, terror and social order draw life from one another. Terror ceases to be lawless and becomes legitimate. It no longer takes place on the cobblestones of Paris, but withdraws from public view to the prisons and torture camps of respectably established regimes.

    But there is another way in which terror lives on in capitalist societies. Burke argued that market competition itself, with its ferocious struggle for dominion, was itself a strain of the revolutionary violence that founded the state, one still lingering inside it. Without these virile, aggressive energies, he thought, social life would become feminised in all the worst ways. We would simply sink into apathy and inertia. We would become excessively beautiful, rather than vigorously sublime.

    It’s clear that there is no moral equivalence between blowing up a crowded bus station and driving your competitors out of business. The point is that capitalist society itself, as Marx never ceased to point out, is the most revolutionary formation in human history. It is eternally agitating, transforming, shattering, dissolving and reinventing – and all this as part of everyday life. So it is an object lesson in the way that under capitalism, turbulence and everyday life do not form a seamless narrative: first the revolutionary turbulence that launched the state, then the sedate tranquility of everyday life. On the contrary, the two are deeply interwoven. And this means that there is always a fearful instability at the very heart of such political stability, which its enemies can exploit.

    The philosopher Hegel, Edmund Burke’s contemporary, saw precisely this. He, too, was a witness of the birth of the new middle-class order in France; and he, too, spotted something terrifying at its heart. The name he gave to this terror was absolute freedom – or, as he scathingly called it, ‘the freedom of the void’. Bourgeois society dreamed of a freedom so pure and absolute that it could tolerate no boundaries or restrictions. And this, in a creaturely, constricted world, was bound to present itself as a form of terror. In the end, this pure freedom even became an obstacle to itself, and thus ended up devouring itself, like the Jacobin Terror. Eventually it was the revolutionaries themselves who filled the carts trundling their way up to the guillotine.

    Absolute freedom eats itself up. Yet its violence, today as in Hegel’s time, continues to infiltrate the daily life of capitalist societies. Absolute freedom means negative freedom: a freedom from all restraint, which can see limits only as barriers to humanity, not as constitutive of it. The world is imperilled not by hard-nosed cynics who insist that nothing is possible, but by wide-eyed, ‘can-do’ idealists for whom anything is possible. Most of these are known as Americans. When the ancient Greeks encountered this kind of blasphemous overreaching, they called it ‘hubris’ and looked fearfully to the skies. And it is from the skies that it has had its tragic come-uppance.

    Socialism is not about reaching for the stars, but reminding us of our frailty and mortality, and so of our need for one another. In contrast, absolute freedom regards the world as just so much pliable stuff to be manipulated in whatever way takes its fancy. This is why postmodernism, or some aspects of it, is one of its latest inheritors. For all its consumerist greed, this uncompromising freedom is a virulently anti-materialist force; for matter is what resists you, and absolute freedom is as impatient with such resistance as the US is with the resistance in Iraq. The world becomes just raw material to cuff into shape. Michael Jackson’s nose is its icon. It is only when such raw materials begin to include whole people and nations that it becomes a form of deadly terror.

    Most of the time, this ravaging beast called absolute freedom is kept safely caged. It is hemmed in by laws, procedures, obligations, regulations, the rights of others. Yet the dream of being the only individual in the world (for this is what such freedom would finally involve) never quite fades, given the narcissism of the human species. From time to time, then, this madness, which lurks at the very core of conventional middle-class society, breaks out anew. It is like a lunatic who gives the slip to his keeper and goes on the rampage. This is how Burke saw the Jacobins, who ended up disappearing down the black hole of their own sublime negativity.

    Being alone with oneself for all eternity is a traditional image of hell, like being stuck forever with some bar-room bore. Yet it is this hellish condition, astonishingly, that the neo-conservative thugs and fanatics in the White House are most entranced by. Not for themselves, to be sure, but for their nation. Their vision of paradise is a world that holds nothing but the United States, even though it is some other people’s vision of hell.

    There is one problem, however, that they, in common with the Jacobins, are unable to resolve. If you end up crushing and subjugating all the resistance around you, who will be left to tell you who you are? For you cannot work this out in isolation. Identity involves otherness. And if you find that otherness intolerable, your own sense of yourself will gradually begin to implode. You will be left knowing nothing whatsoever, least of all yourself.

    The nation with its military bases in every continent is, not accidentally, the one most ignorant of geography, imagining as it does that Malawi is a Disney character. Like the Jacobins in Edmund Burke’s eyes, it is blinded by an excess of its own light. In the end, it is its own triumphal technology that helps to bring it low, as its enemies lay hands on this technology and turn it against it. Like the opponent of a skilled judo fighter, it is entangled in its own ungainly strength. It is this, not its weakness, that is its fatal flaw. And this process, by which your own brute force brings you toppling to the ground, is happening in Iraq as I write.

  7. I am beginning to feel that I am not a sufficiently intellectually-robust and informed person to run this blog.

    My purpose is to inject some psychological and moral certainty into the libertarian position. If what I say on here is to be continually undermined by facts which I am not aware of, then I’m obviously not a good and persuasive blogger for this cause.

  8. And no I don’t know who wrote it, Tony.

    I thought you did, as it’s here.

    Look, I have work to do, I have a family to pay for and run, I don’t spend time reading stuff. I can’t.

  9. Tony, look, this is just a blog. We’re not re-determining the rightness or wrongness of philosphers on here, even if I say some of them talked shite and some did not, and whjether Thatcher was an evil harridan-of-hell or whether Pol Pot was.

    Things are depicted in harsh-black-and-white, roughly-drawn, cartoon format. (But in html (I guess?) if I even knew what that stuff was. I don’t.)

    If I really wanted to argue about stuff that bears on individual liberty from first principles, with all the facts in front of me about the unfathiomable evils of the West’s right-wing-statist cabals and their manipulation of all that occurs, then I would divorce my wife, sack my children, go on social security, and type all day with a 100mbps broadband connection in front of me to all the world’s best libraries.

    That’s not what I’m trying to do.

    I’m trying, at my personal expense, and using my time, to incentivise a few hundred more people a month to come to the LA website, read our stuff, including papers by the Randian Dark Lord Chris Tame, and some others (I think you are also a p- p- published author?) and take a view about whether they think I’m either funny and satirical and cynical enough to be read for a bit, or whether they’d like to pay for a few more papers to be written.

    By the way, Firefox is sort of OK but I still don’t like it really. D

  10. Dave:

    You ARE a treasure!

    Reading a few blogs as I do, I realize that being populist and provocative is the norm. And being an advocate for libertarian causes, I realize that there are many ways of doing this.

    Yours is one of the few blogs which provokes me into replying. Ann Coulter’s is another. Perhaps that’s one way of telling you that you’re doing your job. And if you write from where your heart is, that’s better than any amount of contrivance.

    This is NOT “just a blog.” It’s a discussion venue for people interested in ideas (why else be a libertarian?)

    I also read Chris Tame, for many years a closest friend, who would have preferred to be a Lucifer figure (“Light-bearer” from the Latin Lux+ferre) rather than a Dark Lord.

    I cheerfully admit to endeavouring to raise the intellectual standard wherever I go. I don’t think all your readers are idiots. And blogs propagate memes at great speed.

    Persevere with Firefox — it is worth the effort. And it will ease your transfer to Linux in due course.

    The essay I posted is written by Terry Eagleton — the first one by him I’ve ever read. I thought it had some interesting things to say. I wanted to see if its Eagleton-ness flaunted itself sufficiently to you for you to recognize it — that’s all. >:-}

    And I do miss having a family, now Gerald jr. and Kira are grown-up. Kira is a Grade 8 flautist!

    Best,

    Tony

  11. Dave:

    And I would like you to understand that — as Karl Popper says — we all know very little compared to how much there is to know. Our knowledge ineluctably proceeds by means of conjectures and refutations.

    RightWeb will give you a quick “take” on most of the Right-wing outfits and dramatis personae.

    Best,

    Tony