A student of mine — the one who wears the Lenin medal: Comrade! — recently informed me in my office — with no white noise generators running — that he doesn’t now expect socialism to be achieved in the present generation.
As for indicators of his character, sincerity, and intelligence, he’s already taken two courses from me while energetically engaging in after-class discussions. The subjects of those conceptually randy confabulations were especially the despicable disasters of the 20th century, national socialist and socialist international. Therefore, when some of his fellow students causally mentioned to me that he was a socialist, I thought they were kidding. Comrade! How could anyone take my courses, get excellent grades, participate in class, be amused by humanity, converse after class, and read my books with justified and delighted awe — and be seriously seeking socialism?
Obviously his fellow students were kidding.
Obviously his fellow students weren’t kidding.
So now I’ve suggested to him the following. Since you’ve already deaccessioned socialism from your soul for one generation — “25 Siberia-free years! Guaranteed! Dead or alive!” — why not deaccess socialism from your sensibilities even further? Forever! Comrade! Liberty for life! After all, the current failure of socialism isn’t due to its false implementation. “NY Progressives Admit: Uncle Joe was Bad Apple! Bushel Undergoing Cleaning.” The failure of socialism is always due to socialism’s addicted misunderstanding of human nature.
And human nature isn’t changing.
Thus, no future upgrade in ideology will ever save socialism. The conceptual platform of socialism is design-defective. And any conceptual dependency on it only produces political pathologies. And the need to mute the pathos of such dishonesty ends in the dependency of deferred pain.
The mandatory happiness of methadone socialism will ever only partially disguise the endorphin grins of socialist lobotomies. Nor will that willful ignorance — that chemical idiocy — won’t improve itself 25 years from now — not if the internal drip isn’t turned off. And if it does improve, the result won’t be socialism. To think otherwise would be to say that, if medieval Christianity fully adopts science, technology, capitalism, body love and nature joy, the result will be modern medieval Christianity. No, the result won’t be medieval Christianity. The result will be a life-luxuriating spiritual naturalism in a universe that makes its place with the gods avaunt. Likewise, if the socialists ever recognize that socialism is an economic proxy religion of ritualized godlessness and catechistic piety, the result won’t be socialism, but republican civil society enterprise.
And that assumes — as I’m assuming with cheerful generosity — that the motivation behind socialism is well-intentioned and high-spirited. Notice the relaxed and ample robustness of the republican disposition. Because otherwise, if socialism isn’t dignified and generous, it’ll only “liberate” itself in iterations of typical power despotism and moral bossiness. But who could be surprised by that? Anyone who’s ever lived with a house nazi, or who’s ever worked with an office fuhrer will recognize the types immediately. And always remember: the Nazis were a socialist party. A nazi mom very is conscientiously concerned for your very best in every way all through every day and night. For amusement, see your local office fuhrer. Spontaneous laughter permits required.
Now here’s what I promised I’d tell him — my student in socialism — the other day. I told him that there was an artist who, having fallen into aesthetic socialism, then worked his way out of it. I don’t mean that the artist’s personal political affections and affectations went in and out of socialism, assuming the latter ever happened. I mean that his art went in and out of socialism. And by that I don’t mean the content of his art. You can easily picture such urban-romantic folk imagery: the honest peasants uncomplainingly laboring around sunny haystacks while in the distance satanic factories stain the skies. Furthermore, I don’t even mean that the overall style was somehow socialistic with a people’s easy access. I mean the brush strokes were socialist.
The artist is Pissarro.
And the socialist brushstrokes are pointillist.
Pointillism was invented as a socialist solution to the personal elitism of art. Some artists have more talent. Some artists can afford better training. And some artists have better style. Indeed, most artists have no style at all except they imitate someone else’s or fake one. As a result, a few artists enjoy monopoly profits, and the rest starve. The rich artists luxuriate in mansions with valuable wives, and the rest end up in attics nagged into hanging themselves. The same is true of fame. The few are immortalized with brazen eternity and embossed timelessness. And the rest are the crumbs of culture the pigeons of time attend to, leaving behind little residues.
The socialist solution to the inequality of painting was to fabricate a technique which all painters could quickly learn, and which they could then easily practice with the same brush-stylistic results. Indeed, this point-painting method of unbrushstrokes is the idea-precursor of the dot matrix system. That reproduction system is now universally used in newspapers, magazines, and books. In mass reproductions, dot matrix replaced engraving. Even in engraving the artist is revealed in every cut of every line. In contrast, as anyone knows who has closely studied contemporary print media reproductions, the dot matrix method is universally selfless.
Pissarro’s personal politics was either always socialism, or it became his political religion at mid-life. Offhand I don’t know this any more than I know if Pissarro preferred Brie to Emmentaler. Thereupon Pissarro began practicing the pointillist method made famous by Seurat. Seurat’s most acclaimed work of a rather small output —even smaller, perhaps, than Vermeer’s — is to be found in the great Art Institute of Chicago, an old hang-out of mine. The painting is “La Grande Jatte.”
Pissarro practiced this style — or unstyle — for a number of years. Sometimes his paintings show residual bourgeois lapses with stroke-like points. Comrade! When his paintings are purely pointillist, they have the same color-bright cheerfulness as Seurat’s. Pretty pictures portraying recognizable happiness can be understood by uneducated and tasteless people. Think of Mao hailing the people. “Happiness, comrades! Shine your teeth for our Paramount Leader! Pretty people’s colors!” That trait of rainbow happiness was a lure for Pissarro who otherwise usually painted with an overcast on his palette. Meanwhile, of course, the brightness difference between Pissarro and Seurat would be adjusted later. Comrades! An unstyle will be painted everywhere the same way and on the same day by every unartist always. Dot matrices done by machines are always the same!
Indeed, the democratic Greeks were socialistically right in the mob-demotics of their language. Ancient Greek provided no verbal distinction between artisan and artist. Socrates’ father worked on the Parthenon, that famous jobs program of Pericles. Dad might have been a lowly stone cutter, a dumb musculature covered with dust. Or he might have been a genius sculptor finessing the friezes with his colleague, Phidias. Of course, those imperial friezes are now in post-imperial London. There they can actually be seen. England relinquished India, but not the Elgin marbles. But then England saved them from the cement kilns of the Greeks. As for India, England saved the women there from suttee. Someone owes someone some thanks here. They might begin by tempering the resentment of their envious gripes.
And notice that Father Socrates was a mason. A mason. Get it? Now we know why we must decipher the esotericism of Plato’s books, even the exoteric 7th letter unto its unsaid 7th seal.
Regardless, for an unstyle there should be unartists who know they’ll be unpersons should they ever try to improve on the people’s mandatory mediocrity. Comrade! You’d better be the same in socialism! An insistence on difference is a bourgeois residue of metaphysical hocus-pocus. Individualism is merely secular Romanticism’s sentimental yearning for a religion of eternal uniqueness that’s now historically and irrecoverably lost. To now seek personal distinction in a commodity economy now where no real difference between goods or humans exists is anti-progressive and crypto-reactive. It’s only the evasion of the coming commodification of consciousness. Comrade! You are what you buy. And you think what you covet. Indeed, I’ve resisted granting Alex — Comrade! — a name of his own. Individuality is personal imperialism, the last stage of bourgeois consciousness.
Now consider Pissarro again.
With the leisure of a long life and a cheerful contempt for contemporary fame — even the Homeric Greeks knew contemporary fame is an oxymoron only Boeotians could love — Pissarro progressively restored brush strokes to his canvasses until the points finally disappeared. True, the pastel-bright palette somehow got overcast again. But Pissarro’s personal sun blew out clouds of the fake anonymity that had hovered over him and Pissarro was re-illuminated.
Pissarro thereby had personally discovered a cosmological point about painting. Whether he was aware of his revelation in concepts, and, if so, whether he conveyed them then in conversations or writings are things I don’t know. But I doubt it happened. Most painters aren’t philosophers, and most philosophers aren’t painters.
This is what happened. With his corporeal or immanent personality, Pissarro realized that painting, like all great arts done greatly, is a personal and a private matter. Art is an affair with the world. But it’s an affair that all humanity is welcome to watch and audit.
When in the close study of better Rembrandts and Monets, one of my favorite joys is to relish their brushstrokes — to visually caress them with luxury and delight, and to revel in the deep incessance of their varieties of passion. Or, more accurately, to be stroked by them in expected avalanches of unending expectations novelly realized. (For the explanation of that procedure in art, see my eventually forthcoming Second Course to Reality 101. I’m confident it won’t be Da Vincean. Indeed, the Introduction and the first long lecture — “The Meaning of Life” — is already available. See the link on the bottom of the post site at the bottom of the “Embargo of the Bad Guys” post.)
Meanwhile, innermost personal revelations through inimitable intonations, and the unexpected intimate caresses of the deep eye are impossible in pointillism. Seurat’s inevitable and even mandatory flatness is therefore a defect in the art of consummation. But this is also true of Signac whose pointillism consists more of tesserae than points. Signac is a grand master of hospitable composition. His paintings are constructed with a great and open vitality. This living openness grants immediate and easy access to inexhaustible picture travel adventures. But the dynamic wonder wanes because of the lifelessness of his pigment applications. They lack personality. They’re mechanical. They’re colorless. They’re like embraces whose plunging kisses aren’t intimate.
Pissarro therefore decided to relinquish the empty universality of his socialist unpersonhood. And he reduced himself back down to being nothing more than his actual innermost intimate aesthetically immortal self.
I’m reading Jung’s The Undiscovered Self just right now. Jung is no geopolitician of nation states or statesman of ideas. But he would enjoy Pissarro’s anti-statist gambit of self-recovery.
I illustrated for my son the other day what this neo-revisionist recon did for Pissarro. For an illustration, I relied on the great self-portrait from Pissarro’s last year (1903, Tate Gallery, London). The text accompanying my most recent art volume acquisition describes the now old Pissarro as a “gentle-looking, wise and unassuming” man. When I showed my son the image, at first I revealed to him only the left side of Pissarro’s face, i.e., the right side of the canvass. And, indeed, Pissarro looks like a kindly old park-bench pensioner with Santa Claus glasses on. Then, while my son’s gaze was still captive, I quickly slid the paper to show only the other side of Pissarro’s face. My son lurched back! “Wow!” he exclaimed with reflexive shock as he searched for balance. Yes, I sagely agreed, this is no quaint old bearded geezer — some slender Santa Klaus or playful dreidel duffer. The eye-gaze is power fraught: commanding, redoubtable, intolerant, superior, imperious, masterful, and superb. Watch out, dwarves!
Meanwhile, Uncle Sam today does seem like some quaint old park-bench geezer. Sam the Man was always a lanky sort of guy, even grey. But he was spry and wiry, tough and robust. I’ve always assumed Sam was modeled on Abe who, like Walter Brennan, looked old even when he was young. In contrast, John Bull is your complacent beef-eating gentleman of England soon to be suffering from gout.
And now Washington has the gout.
Like you, I’m suffering from the same painful slowness of the present legislative motion in Washington. Maybe we should put Congress in a bath chair and wheel it off to a water resort for the cure. Throw in some bath salts. And maybe an enema.
Of course, as you note, the divided power arrangements in Washington were designed to impede both democratic impulsiveness and monarchical impetuosity. But separation of powers and bi-cameralness aren’t meant to render government incapacitated and even impossible. The Poles’ aristocratic assembly did this in the 17th century. There, important business required unanimity. The result wasn’t accord like Rousseau promised. “Comrades of Geneva!” The result was the partitioning of Poland amongst the more energetic regimes of Prussia, Russia, and Austria in the 18th century. And now Poland exists as an autonomous nation because of the geopolitical generosity of the United States along with a hearty contribution from Britain. And Putin has ideas of an alternative generosity. Toczarich!
If the United States becomes enervated from the constipation of a legislative system meant to restrain but not to incapacitate, then the US will impair itself, even irreparably. This admonition isn’t meant to be some scary national fantasy. “The end is near!” Consider Europe. Europe is quickly approaching irreversible damage. Europe might already be partially necrotic. Is that decay I smell? Regardless of the results of this political European gangrene, the cause is Europe itself through its combination of citizen sub-reproduction and an immigrant “policy” — the default of national incapacitation — that allows in waves of peoples from cultures energetically opposed to European civilization. From a distance, I’ve often dumbly wondered how Rome could have ever been overrun by primitive brutes that then caused internal ruination. Then I look at Europe. And I watch this real time laboratory of life incapacitation and spirit resignation run by pleasant people with jealous pensions.
You’re right to think there’s no present solution to the current inaction of Congress on major points: immigration; health care; reduced subsidization of the world police beat; repatriation of corporate assets towards the rejuvenation of American industry; transformation of the K-12 education system. After all, the problem of inaction is chamber-specific. And any procedural solution is constitutionally intra-cameral.
But, as the last point in the above list indicates, there are substantial non-federal solutions to many of these unnecessary nationalized problems.
According to The Federalist, the US is a compound republic. More accurately and contemporaneously, the US consists of 51 republics. There are also a few territories and other bits and pieces of land catalogued under a handful of legal designations. And then there’s that oddment designated “Washington.” That’s a mis-eponymous name!
Consider the Republics.
Education isn’t the business of the federal government. According to the 10th Amendment — that single sentence so prudently insisted on at the onset of America — education is a state matter. The Department of Education — a rather recent “innovation” for “progress” in Washington — has been horning its way into American education for years. Nonetheless, most funding for K-12 education still comes from the states. As Marx would say, “Follow the money! History does!” Education policy should do that. The states should refuse federal education monies for a rally cry, and take charge of themselves. How? First, lead themselves. Second, don’t respond to Washington. Third, leave Washington behind. Even the federal judges will soon be huffing and puffing as they come off their tennis courts and ty to catch up — and catch their breaths.
Consider some recent federal engorgements of state prerogatives. Nowhere does the Constitution grant the federal government the power to establish the drinking age in America. Why would it? No one — not even Hamilton, that national sexy Broadway hero — would have approved of the Constitution if it contained such intrusive centrist powers. True, the federal government has no power over the drinking age in America de jure. But de facto it now does. Washington need merely nicely offer to withhold federal highway funds from any state that declines to submit to its edict of 21. Even for drinking beer. Beer?! The drinking age for beer in Germany is 16. I fail to see that a Supreme Court decision — something so much easier to effect than a Constitutional amendment — couldn’t find such proxy legislation to be an obvious unconstitutional infringement of state sovereignty. The federal intent is clear: the usurpation of state sovereignty for national power concentration. And all the rest is the moral malarkey of social statistics. All the rest is the moral malarkey of social statistics. Not that I want to be killed by a drunk driver! But I don’t want to be socially emasculated by a mad mother, either. Let the Greeks do that in their mythology. That’s close enough to me and mine. The federal government now effectively legislates the drinking age in the 50 sovereign states. That’s unequivocally unconstitutional in all hermeneutical readings of the meaning and the being of the text.
Nonetheless, my proposed Supreme Court maneuver might be “a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected” from the Supreme Court. It, too, is a branch of the growing and engrossing federal government.
Marriage, like education and drinking, is a matter left to the states by the Constitution. But recently the Supreme Court issued a ukase — Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) — that state laws banning same sex marriage are unconstitutional. In one smooth maneuver, the Court stripped the states of their constitutional prerogatives over marriage, sovereign powers they’ve exercised for over two hundred years. The Court did this by citing the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.
The Court often does that these days.
The paragraph-long first section of the 14th Amendment has become something of an omni-writ. Just fill in the blank and issue. When that won’t do, there’s always the Interstate Commerce Clause. Between these two, the Court can strip the states of almost anything they fancy for the advancement of Washington. Meanwhile, the other two branches can always threaten to cut off federal funds. With these three options, there’s almost no power vested in the sovereign states that couldn’t be eventually eliminated legally. Procedurally. Properly. Hitler became Chancellor and then Fuhrer of Germany through constitutional methods. Everything was “proper.”
Of course, you don’t strip it all away at once. That’s unsettling, and even visible. Be patient, my heart. And slowly erode the states away. Von Hayek watched that happening to local power and autonomy in England according to the political production of the Fabians, playbook by G. B. Shaw. In a similar planned play, Washington is scheduled be the central government, and the states mere administrative units. Comrade! I mean citoyen! I mean fellow Americans! And Texas, we may hope, will consider secession. It’s already got the name and the flag. And the experience.
And then, as happens with any centrist regime, most of the ambitious people will then be in Washington. This will confirm the elite opinion that only provincials live in the provinces, and that they shouldn’t be trusted with any sovereign power. France operates like that. Just ask Foucault. Foucault’s father, I’m told by our commentator, Jacob Hatch, was a rich surgeon. But not in Paris. Embarrassment! Embarrassment for Foucault as a socialist that his childhood was money-enriched. Embarrassment for Foucault as a socialist that he was Paris power-deprived. The only post-Napoleonic solution in France is to be rich and powerful in Paris. Oui, comrades, voila!
That you have cause to refer to a once-upon-a-time American coup shows the despair to which contemporary national politics has driven you. In one of my courses — the one you took? — a student even tried rebuking me for discussing The Coup. “You’ve told us what a world historical accomplishment the founding of America was. And now you tell us a coup occurred! I can’t believe it! You shouldn’t have told us!” Well, maybe I shouldn’t have told you. Besides, it’s hard to rebuke me. First, I must be systematically at fault, and second, you must be better than me at what I do.
Besides, I’ve even told other semesters of a book I’ve conceived of: A Coup in Philadelphia. I advise them that if I had a co-author to do the background research, information accumulation, and paper management, I’d write the book. And I’d do it with it in 500 highly readable pages with an accessible apparatus. Such books win the Pulitzer Prize for history. Thucydides’ book would never have done that!
For our cheerful and robust readers of The Republican Gun who haven’t taken my classes and for whom reality is an adventurous opportunity, let’s briefly rehearse what this unmentionable event is that you’ve lugubriously referred to.
In the summer of 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states converged on Philadelphia. One state sent none. The delegates were charged with proposing amendments to the blatantly defective Articles of Confederation. These amendments would then be conveyed back to the states to be voted on. It was ardently and even desperately hoped that their adoption would improve and strengthen the incapacitated and imperiled new national government.
The 55 delegates worked behind closed doors. No secretary was present to take notes. The delegates worked with the windows closed despite the heat. They didn’t want the press listening in from outside huddled beneath the windows in the street. And the delegates themselves were forbidden from keeping any records of the transactions. Madison somehow forgot that injunction each night in his rooms.
Soon after the Convention began, the futility of amending the Articles was universally obvious. Patching the Articles would have been like mending a fond old piece of clothing consisting more of holes than of fabric. And the Articles were neither old nor fond! At the expenditure of a great amount of thread and effort, the result would be a seamstress’s absurdity, a pathetic pastiche. Like much 20th century art.
But since it was the 18th century — energetic, enlightened, significant, confident, and proud — the delegates set out to design a new and better fabric for the United States: an elegant, tough, and powerful weave they accomplished by summer’s end. It was then sent out, as planned, to the states for adoption. This new sovereign fabric was the Constitution. Today it’s the world’s oldest and greatest foundational nation-forming document. The famous Federalist Papers was a set of newspaper pieces written for the citizens of New York to persuade them to vote Yes. New York did so vote, the ninth state was in, and the country under the Constitution was up and running. “Behold, America!” And the rest, as they say, was the amazement and the education of the world. Stupor mundi! Indeed, some people are still trying to graduate from its lessons or stupidly play hooky.
In this heart-warming and all-true story, there is, as I myself once noticed, the small matter — a little detail — the merest trifle — of something missing.
What happened to the United States?
I don’t mean the United States that came into existence with the adoption of the Constitution in 1788 and became viable with the First Congress in 1789. Annus mirabilis. That country is USA II. It’s what I call — in film-making terminology — America Take 2.
No, I mean: What happened to USA I? What happened to the United States of America of the Articles of Confederation? Where did that nation go to?
Well, umm, ahh, the 55 delegates working in complete secrecy in a closed chamber discarded the Articles in the corner trash receptacle. And the delegates immediately started to work on the Constitution for USA II.
But, pray tell, where then was the United States that hot summer in the sultry first city of America?
It was in that secret and sealed room in the hands of those 55 men. Those men had quietly sequestered the sovereignty of the United States and, without any further ado, expeditiously set out to create a new nation around it.
The sovereignty of the United States in the summer of ’87 was in that one hot room.
That’s a coup d’état.
Since coups are the stuff of faraway and nameless banana republics and cruel and ruthless colonels, it could be disheartening to discover that a coup like a serpent slithered and hissed in the heart of America at its conception like an original sin. Madison admitted the same with trepidation when he addressed the matter briefly in the midst of a late Federalist paper. He cleared his throat a few times, said the matter was one of the utmost delicacy, verbally nodded sagely, then said ‘And now let’s continue with our work of getting the Constitution adopted.’
And after all, impolite things have happened at other forceful and formative moments in the history of the United States.
First, Jefferson unconstitutionally doubled the size of the United States with a personal fiat or power whimsy. Then he asked Congress to cover his executive exuberance — or protuberance — with some legislative propriety. This the Congress provided.
Second, Lincoln suspended habeus corpus to jail thousands of his personal political enemies in the North for the duration of the War. Even though the Supreme Court then posthumously rebuked Lincoln for his unconstitutional criminality, the Savior of the Union was covered as the Immortal Martyr of America.
Third, Roosevelt secretly ran the Atlantic fleet in a personal and private war against Germany in 1940. In 1941, Hitler covered Roosevelt by declaring war on America. Hitler did this with apparently no good geopolitical reason in either mind or imagination, both of which in Hitler were fertile but inflexible, cunning but ugly.
In each of these three executive actions, the results have been justified by the situations. Jefferson himself gently scorned any nice insistence on the law that nastily loses the nation. And all three actions turned out well. Nonetheless, they aren’t recommended procedures, and they shouldn’t be done again. Nor should such great stat actions be confused with lesser illegalities such as Clinton’s destruction of her server. That crime served only her and her power partisans, not America. Such affronts to the Republics should be countered convincingly at law.
As is true of an occasional extra-legal greatness, so too is the Founding Coup of 1787. And “the 55” were men of character, integrity, and greatness. The coup worked. The coup was superb. And history covered it along with Madison’s “Ahem! Hmmm.” But it shouldn’t be done again.
All of the above events are clearly like birth. And death. And a few other biological activities. They can only be done once.
And once is enough.