As an illustration of the multivalence of human identity, and the unnecessary perplexities that can result from a failure to honestly heed and aptly characterize the human condition — call it the awareness of the total taxonomy of humanity — consider Da Vinci.
I recently acquired a copy of the complete Notebooks of Da Vinci in a handy volume running to 1200 pages.
For years I’ve poked around in, randomly sampled, variously read, sometimes perused, and even almost studied this work. But even that’s a misstatement. The Notebooks aren’t a work. They’re a posthumously assembled collection of Da Vinci’s assorted and unorganized accumulations for works he never wrote. Da Vinci’s books were permanently forthcoming works which he endlessly memoed for working up. Anyone who has read Da Vinci will recollect the innumerable reminders he was forever posting himself for things to do he never did. Indeed, he almost never finished anything. That ars interruptus was a bad habit he shared with Michelangelo. But at least Michelangelo had a pope or two to hound him on his wall and ceiling jobs. Da Vinci operated more like a hobbyist. As a result, the vast bulk of Da Vinci’s output doesn’t consist of finished universal works, but of sketches of an unfinished universe.
The only portions of Da Vinci’s writings that have ever fully satisfied me are those that are arranged by some editors as “Miscellaneous,” or, in this edition, additionally as “Personalia,” “Dated Notes,” and “Books.” These bits and pieces of everyday life include shopping lists, borrowings and payables, short inventories of personal possessions, and other stray scraps of life. From my very first reading, I was entranced by the aesthetic ordinariness of this display of humanity and the profundity of loved ephemera. And so, one day I dredged my desk drawers and storage places for any such scraps of my own. Finding only a few handfuls, I began to collect such things from my life: lists, memos, reminders and notes. And these, I made sure, were authentic ephemera. There wasn’t any hurry. Therefore there was no need to fake reality. For a year or more I diverted my discardable odds and ends from ignominious disposal to a dedicated reservoir instead. Thereupon I selected and edited them into my own Miscellaneous. It remains one of my favorite if small and not yet published works. But I feel that it’s soon forthcoming.
For a couple of centuries now, the standard historical analysis has specified Da Vinci as a Renaissance man. Renaissance men, of course, knew everything. And Da Vinci was one of the greatest painters ever, even the greatest draftsman of all time. Therefore Da Vinci’s writings are naturally comparable. Furthermore, the Renaissance invented science. And Da Vinci wrote incessantly about all things natural. Therefore, Da Vinci was a great scientist. In fact, he was one of the foremost inventors of science. Indeed, given his fascination with technology and the essential role it plays in science, Da Vinci might even have been the first true scientist ever: the man of nature who reasoned the world not in an occluded study with closed concepts, but in the openness of nature with knowledge machines.
The above remarks about Da Vinci and art are obviously true. And if they’re not quite indisputable, they’re open to revisionism only in the highest reaches of taste — or the lowest realms of affectation. Du Champ, for example, was such a connoisseur of incapacity. Meanwhile, notice that “revisionism” is how liberals describe an amended assessment of history they disagree with. With the tone of a moral superiority, liberals imperiously preach their truth as if history is an eternity which shouldn’t be continually reinterpreted in light of new information and an ever different now. But liberals don’t believe in the truth. They consider truth to be a Nazism of geometry. And they don’t believe in eternity, either.
Now, whereas Da Vinci is indubitably an incomparable artist, the rest of his vita is so far off that it exceeds the attributes of inaccuracy and even falsehood. The idea life of Da Vinci isn’t so much a true or false description as it is a myth of human glorification. It’s the hagiography of a secular saint.
But now that I had the complete writings of Da Vinci handily in hand, I was able to sense the correct characterization of Da Vinci’s mind. And notice that what I held was a three-dimensional artifact: a codex. It illustrates why our Philosophy Department bans tablet texts. The reason isn’t some technology-hating Heideggerian neo-primitivism. And notice that Heideggerians are decked out with the latest high tech gadgets just as the nomenklatura in Moscow were bourgeois in their accoutrements of life — cars, vacation homes, private schools and lessons — and the medieval bishops of humble love dwelt in gilded palaces. But just as the Da Vinci story isn’t verifiable but mythical, so these contradictory attitudes aren’t hypocritical but unconsciously mind-divided. They display the bivalence of political-religious schizophrenia. I’ll return to that later with reference to China. And also note that I’ll be responding to our new commentator, Jacob Hatch, on this topic. Check it out on the comment site of the blog he recently responded to. I’ll discuss there how much people’s self-consciousness isn’t often meta-conscious, but just a toggling between states of consciousness.
Meanwhile, three-dimensional books produce better cerebral results. Consider just the weight of books. You’ll often hear someone exclaim, “That’s a heavy thought!” The metaphor signifies. The weight of paper produces better writing — and better reading — than e-writing because it’s more muscularly engaging, and human consciousness is an activity of force. I know. I have 6000 books, including a few of my own, on my sagging shelves spilling into piles everywhere in my home. True, the concept of force is anthropomorphic. Therefore force might not describe atoms and mechanics. But it does describe humans. And so, because the posts of The Gun are written with the intention of paper publication, that measure engenders a better excellence. As you’ve noted concerning your own writing with reference to an eternity of readers, your concern is not with e-posts but heavy books. Not e-books. P-books.
Now, here’s what I concluded in my latest reading around and about in Da Vinci.
As an artist, Da Vinci is indeed renaissance. As for what the Renaissance was and whether it ever even happened — the Renaissance bashers have the upper hand in academia these days — that subject will be addressed in the Second Course of Reality 101. Will I provide the correct categorization there? No, I’ll provide a better one. I started working on the Renaissance years ago. Since then I’ve watched my analysis get repeatedly tested and confirmed with theory, usefulness, and humanity.
In contrast to Da Vinci’s Renaissance status as an artist, as an intellectual he’s clearly medieval. His works read nothing like Galileo’s, or any other founding scientist’s, not even Descartes’. Not only does Da Vinci’s content as science rarely arrive. His disposition as science rarely arrives, either. Indeed, the world emotionality of science never even starts in Da Vinci: an emotionality of decisive assertiveness. Curiosity might initiate philosophy, and curiosity kills the cat. But the beginning of theoretical science isn’t the curiosity of the fact, but the confidence of the act. And the initial act of science is the establishment of a world-theoretic structure with the forcefulness of explanatory certitude.
Compare Da Vinci’s studies of flight, especially with reference to the wings of birds, to the work of the Wright Bros., those custom bicycle mechanics who fantasized, designed, and built things. Wilbur and Orville systematically studied wing shapes and their deformations in a wind tunnel. That wind tunnel was a little technical invention of theirs. It was designed by them. It was produced by them. And it was delivered by the. In real time. Since then, wind tunnels have been successfully employed by such shops as Boeing. In contrast, Da Vici’s bird drawings are lovely, but they’re neither ornithology nor aeronautics. And Da Vinci’s helicopters can’t fly even if they were delivered.
I was now satisfied with my identification of Da Vinci. My cost was $1 for the Notebooks, and nothing but pleasure for the expenditure of energy in a free and refreshing confabulation with the Renaissance master.
And now once again I could enjoy Da Vinci in a late afternoon conversation on my patio with a pilsner.
Soon thereafter, however, in just such a leisurely exchange, I came upon a reference to “the Lord” in a small paragraph of religious invocation. (Forster MS. III. 29 r. Victoria and Albert Museum.) It was then that I heard a silence — the silence of the absence in Da Vinci of any religious interest, consideration, concern, acknowledgement, or submission. Such an absence of religion isn’t the spirit of medievalism. Nor is Da Vinci’s silence the frustrated, resentful, or vengeful atheism which the vociferous denial of sanctity means in a time when religion names the concepts of the world and characterizes the enemies of submission as negations.
I realized then that a much better identification of Da Vinci’s writings is to be gained by a comparison with Pliny, the Roman “encyclopedist,” or, more accurately, the incessant Roman collector of intellectual curios, natural and human. In his writings, Da Vinci is the Pliny of Renaissance Italy. At the same time, much of Da Vinci’s material as opposed to attitude or style has now been shown by scholarship to be medieval.
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche surmised that history can go backwards. That’s the one excellent thought in an otherwise prolix and precociously premature book. Of course, classical thermodynamics can’t go backwards globally. But history in concepts and consciousness can. Knowledge isn’t nature. Physics isn’t physics. Da Vinci had progressed backwards from Christian medievalism to ancient Rome. And since so many of the ideas of the medieval period were naturally backwards, Da Vinci had moved forwards. But even then, he hadn’t advanced as far as the ancient Greeks. Da Vinci’s nature studies and surmises aren’t even closely comparable with Aristotle’s biology observations. And Greece didn’t even invent science! (See Reality 101 for the structural explanation of that false advent.)
This same multivalence found in human personalities can be discovered in the personalities of nations. For example, I’ve often heard it asserted that the Soviet Union had a large and advanced industrial infrastructure. That’s in fact true. And the USSR beat Germany on the Eastern Front with mostly its own war machinery. Meanwhile, Germany was a world leader in industry and technology. Therefore, it’s contended, the USSR must have been an equally advanced country both politically and socially. Marx himself said technology and politics historically move together. Right! But Marx was wrong. Along with the T-34 tank, Stalin reintroduced serfdom to Russia under the “progressive” name of collective farms. Serfdom: that means that farmers are legally bound to land which isn’t theirs. And the political arrangements of Stalinist Russia were equally recidivistic and ridiculously retrograde. The USSR was an oligarchy topped with a despot — again under “progressive” names like “The Assembly of the Soviets” and “Comrade.” Thank God, comrades, that Stalin at least didn’t insist on being called “Dear Leader!” In other words, it’s true that Stalin moved Russia “forward” with modern weapons systems, but he also moved Russia backwards with the politics and economics of the Dark Ages. Which is the true Soviet Union? Forwards or backwards? Both. Likewise, which is the true Da Vinci? The Renaissance man of art, the medievalist of incipient technology and mathematical mechanics, or the neo-Roman collector of intellectual curiosities? All three. And any insistence on a unity in either case, organic or necessary, or any other case will only fool people — starting with the originator of the claim.
You express interest and concern for what North Korea internally wants to be and what it wishes to do, and how that’ll all work out in the global scene.
I don’t care what North Korea wants.
What North Korea wants is its own business. And what the United States wants is our business. And if our two businesses don’t meet and greet and overlap, then we Americans couldn’t possibly have any interest in North Korea. In that case, North Korea would be just like Japan was in the 18th century when Japan was completely closed off from the world. Japan had no interest in the outer world. Of course, there’s an exception. There’s almost always an exception. That exception was the one ship allowed in each year from Holland.
Consider in a quick sidebar the fecundity of nature, human and mundane. A few German spelunkers go caving in New England and, with an invasive fungus they accidentally brought with them from Europe, they reportedly killed off 99% of the small brown bat population of the Eastern United States. I’m glad to report, though, that the bats that come out above my house at dusk were never deca-decimated. And Dutch art with that minimal one-ship contact — like the Black Death in 1349 — influenced Japanese art so that, with the Meiji restoration, a certain familiarity could then influence French art. Toulouse-Lautrec’s acclaimed posters are virtual studies of Hiroshige’s late poster style and even his geisha — “night girl” — content. And, unlike Lautrec’s usually lugubriously moralistic paintings, his posters are playful and even whimsical about the human condition, a thing not country-Christian but urban-Buddhistic like Hiroshige’s. What a beautiful spiral of cross-fertilization this art fertility is — like the turns of the golden ratio in the sunflower!
Now, with that solitary Dutch exception, the rest of the world had no interest in Japan. How could it? The world had no relations, diplomatic or commercial, with Japan. The world couldn’t have even known what its interests might have been. It’s my understanding that the Tokyo of Hiroshige — of “The 100 Famous Views of Edo” — was unknown not only to the West. It was unknown to the whole world. Apparently no one knew that Tokyo was as large as London was in 1850 — or even larger in population! But, of course, there were no U2s back then, or SR-71s, or NRO satellites. No instant Landsat online views!
Now, compare North Korea to the People’s Democratic Republic of Central Nowhere. That advanced and progressive freedom liberation nation is a concept country I use in my lectures and for my personal amusements. It obviously doesn’t exist anywhere on any map. It’s meant to illustrate what interests the United States could possibly have with a nowhere place without significant resources led by a wretched despot sustained by servile citizens.
North Korea is an example of such a world-irrelevant country. North Korea has virtually nothing we need or want and can’t get elsewhere. And we certainly don’t want the Kim Clique’s — or Kim Clinique’s — political art! Well, maybe MOMA would love to plump for a diversity show of retro-socialist post-junk sculpture. Junk sculpture was a mid-century aerial bombing/pre-recycling art style whose look was popular with the victory-resenting victors in the West. And Germany — at least in Cologne at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum — was co-sympathetic with such aesthetic wreckage. MOMA would probably sponsor this alternative sensitivity show if it were subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Or is it the National Endowment for the Visual Ideology? Regardless, I don’t think it’ll happen on Trump’s watch.
Now, if this were the end of the North Korea story, it wouldn’t be a national American concern. It would be like so many other countries that aren’t of general concern. Of course, we maintain embassies in countries which have minimal military or commercial interests for America. But such countries don’t bother us, and we don’t bother them.
But North Korea is bothering us.
North Korea is bothering us with threats of a nuclear strike.
The answer is probably to be found in the geopathology of despot types. Kim feels petty. Unappreciated. Cut off. Surrounded. Ostracized. Small. In short, crummy. Kim feels like a punk who wants respect without having earned any. So he aims to get it by force. A punk gets respect by acquiring a handgun, shooting it off, and then flashing it around the neighborhood with a leer. Kim is doing the same thing, but with larger loads in a larger ‘hood.
We’ll say that there’s no military solution to Kim. Of course, by military solution we mean his political termination at the end of hostilities with or without his personal contribution to peace and accord.
We’ll also say that there’s no insurrectionary solution to Kim. North Korea is too hermetically controlled for us to politically provoke a revolt from the outside. We tried that in Eastern Europe before during the Cold War. The record is appalling. Of course, Philby didn’t make it any easier for us by informing the Soviets when and where every agent would parachute in.
We’ll also say that there’s no diplomatic solution to Kim. Kim Kong, that is, not Kim Philby. Kim Philby is now a bedtime entertainment. Kim Kong doesn’t want a solution. Kim wants a problem. Indeed, Kim wants to be the problem. And, indeed, he is succeeding.
You’ve concluded, therefore, that there’s no solution to Kim.
As Charlie Chan would say, Contradiction, please.
Even Bannon didn’t say there’s no solution.
Bannon said there’s no military solution. For that, he’ll be rewarded with speaking tours and maybe even a book contract.
Meanwhile, there is a possible solution.
The solution is the economic option.
And that option is being implemented right now in real time. Or, at least, its words are in play.
The option is blockade.
Of course “blockade” is an internationally recognized legal maneuver whose name can only be invoked during a war, and then only in proper and recognized ways. Remember Lincoln’s problem? In his deepest heart and the recesses of his leadership, Lincoln denied that the South had seceded from the Union and hence founded a new nation. He admitted only that the South was trying to secede by rebelling. Thus the Southerners were called Rebels, not Seceders. But Lincoln also wanted a blockade around the South. Whereupon Stanton, his helpful Secretary of War, reminded Lincoln that a blockade requires the national status of the blockaded party for it to be legal. Therefore, a blockage would necessarily imply the South had in fact successfully seceded. Wahl, now, shucks! Lincoln was too deep to be held captive to mere reason or even logic. And that’s despite the fact that, in a political campaign speech, Lincoln once explicated a syllogism about the Constitution. Imagine Clinton — him or her — expatiating on logic. Or imagine Americans these days listening to such reason from a TV. “Logic!? Where the %$#@& is that $%&#@ remote!” Click. ‘And he scores!!!!! Game over!!!!!’ “What?!?! Do you mean I missed that &$%#@ play for some #$@%& politics? #$%$#@#$%!!!!!”
There are polite and proper non-wartime words that name such peacetime impositions on countries’ external commerce. These words are “sanctions” and “freezes.” In other words, import and export embargoes are imposed on a country which, if complete, form a peacetime blockade.
In the past week, a unanimous UN Security Council granted the US its motion for increased sanctions on North Korea. That is, it granted some but not all of the items urged by the US.
The lading list of interdicted North Korean exports need not distract us. They include such commonplaces as iron, coal, seafood, produce. All of these items can be acquired by the rest of the world from innumerable other countries. But North Korea needs to sell them for cash. For hard currencies. For real money. Not Kim cash.
In contrast, the list of interdicted North Korean imports is rather more interesting. The US moved that the sale of all petroleum products to North Korea be halted. But only such things as natural gas condensates were banned. Petroleum itself wasn’t.
An oil embargo was imposed on Japan by the US in 1941 on top of previous bans — such as scrap iron. The US also froze its domestic Japanese accounts. Again, this hasn’t been done — yet — to North Korea by the UN.
Here, then, is a scenario for Condition Kim and his regime’s termination with gentle justice.
Consider the algorithm of liquidation.
The world community begins to squeeze North Korea economically. But even as the pains are introduced for North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons, compensatory prizes are offered for their elimination.
As Korea initially blusters and resists, the squeeze gets harder. Fewer imports. Fewer exports. Freezing of accounts. And the offered prizes get progressively and commensurably better.
The world community squeezes North Korea so hard in conjunction with the rising prizes offered, the generals, who support Kim, commit a coup and topple him. The generals do this because their current compensations as well as future prospects in their blockade-crippled country are now less attractive than the prizes offered which, given a coup, could also include political power, temporary or even longer, like love. Kim himself, of course, can’t be expected to retire alive. Hitler never did or would have. Despots are degenerate monarchs, and are rulers till death do they depart. Furthermore, Hitler realized that most of humanity considered him to be a world vermin, and that upon capture he’d be treated like a filthy pest in a test-tube trial before the inevitable judgement of “Guilty” remanded him to the state exterminator. Later, Adolf Eichmann was actually so tried.
No, Kim won’t retire to dabble in real estate and offshore accounts. For Kim, it’s supremacy or death. Therefore the UN must induce Kim’s cadre colleagues to retire Kim and his ugly art with extreme aesthetic prejudice.
One possible problem with this scenario is provided by Japanese history. The US oil embargo of Japan was so complete, Japan decided it had no choice but to invade the Dutch East Indies to secure fuel for its fleet. This set off the Pacific portion of World War II. In other words, Kim might engage in warlike activities — he might start doing nukes — because the squeeze has him seeing stars before Kim’s generals see the light and they enlighten North Korea by unplugging the current Kim Klan Klutz from the grid of history.
With the exception of that caveat, the effectiveness of such a blockade could be decisive. I’ve read military scholarship claiming the aerial destruction of Japan’s transport system — especially bridges — would have brought Japan to effective starvation somewhere in 1946, and therefore effected the collapse of the Hirohito regime. A world embargo on North Korea without any internal bombing may be capable of comparable results. It all depends on how hungry North Korea gets and how economically challenged it gets — to use nice neo-speak — before survival is a better option than pride. The price of credible pride is always victory. Of course, this entails an effective blockade. It means no blockade running from China, our Dear Ally on the Security Council. Do I remember correctly that it was FDR who insisted on China having a permanent Security Council seat? Poor dear old China! Onward Christian Missionaries! Can’t you just see Marx and Hegel toasting steins in eternity over the cunning of reason and sharing an order of hors d’oeuvres from the slaughter bench of history while discussing the back blasts of human short-sighted expediency? Like Wilhelm and Lawrence arousing the Arabs to discomfort the inefficacious Turks in WWI.
Now, as you’ve noted about Saddam and Kaddafi, if Team Hirohito had had nuclear weapons, Japan might have used them in a hungry 1946.
And we would have responded with unimpeded moral amplitude (UMA).
And that’s precisely what should now be avoided on the way to the elimination of Korea Kim.
Now consider China in view of the multivalence of people and nations. China has an immense and energetic market economy. And its government has a typical 20th century communist oligarchy of pseudo-bourgeois elites whose sovereignty consists of oppressive suppression. “We the Tienenman People!” According to Marx, this combination is impossible. The superstructure of government follows the foundational reality of economics. Therefore, once Deng opened Red China to capitalism, he signed the death warrant of the Chinese Communist Party. In the same way, Gorbachev’s opening of the USSR inevitably closed it down with destined coitus as in a Greek tragedy or satyr play. The capitalist economy of China is producing a great class of wealthy and self-directing confident and proud bourgeoisie who will eventually insist on a government of capital, by capital, and for capital. Therefore they’ll insistently want and proudly demand a constitutional parliamentary republic. Thus spake Karl Marx.
Given this revolutionary read of economic reality, the West need merely be complacently patient with history and await the millennial coming of the Chinese civil war, a revolution which will inevitably replace Peking’s communist oligarchy with a representative parliament. Hence the yuan will automatically be fairly priced. And “dollar stores” will all close or rename themselves.
But what if the present Chinese regime is bivalently stable? What if the Chinese leaders are capable of maintaining a central command government over a civil capitalist market through the guise or reality of Confucianism? The result wouldn’t be an unstable Hegelian contradiction awaiting its dialectical revolution to stably resolve in progress. It would be a stable regime of authoritarian submission and money worship compensated by longevity and sex with or without rhino horn supplements
Call it Confucian Capitalism.
The night sex as a tolerated deviance will be Taoist.
In practice, what would that look like?
“And now the evening news.
“At noon today the paramount leader in a turn to cosmic accord seated himself within the center of the world concentric People’s Democratic Republic, and he gazed south.
“This afternoon the markets rose 2.3%.
“And now, in further news, the Ministry of Environmental Fertility announced today a breakthrough in the production of synthetic rhino horns.”