In Defense of Passionate Intensity.

Or why we need to pay attention to what is happening with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court.

We all know the lines from the Second Coming by WB Yeats:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;”

Indeed the centre is falling apart.  I recall Rose and I watching from our 15th floor Jersey condo as the flames destroyed the Twin Towers on 911.  I was on the phone to my brother in Ohio, telling him that one tower had just gone down, while Rose was frantically trying to get my attention and pointing out the window.  I looked.  There were NO towers.  Only an unending plume of smoke that hovered for days.

But even that awful moment was not as terrible as the inexorable crumbling of American society that came in the aftermath:  the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act, the Great Recession, and more.  Bill and Hillary Clinton’s policies of Mass Incarceration continue under bipartisan rule.  Jingoistic madness reigns supreme, interspersed with milestones such as Trump’s ascension to the White House.  Now an unrelenting assault on what is left of the social safety net, and doubling down on Hillary’s pursuit of “full spectrum dominance” in foreign affairs.  The Deep State is now openly calling the shots.

I don’t mean to cast gloom and doom over everything.  That’s easy enough to do, but in fact it’s really just downright lazy.  It avoids the hard work of figuring out what can actually be accomplished with the organized forces we have and the stirring social motion that is beginning to emerge around us.  These milestones — these critical moments — are useful because they throw into sharper relief the forces in motion, both left and right.  They force us to take a moment to reappraise.

Busting up the Bipartisan Kabuki.

Such a moment is the nomination of accused serial-rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The mainstream media is geared up to do its job.  They are treating it as Episode 24 of the ongoing “He said She said” drama in which the usual actors play their usual roles with the prescribed outcomes of Guilty or Not Guilty accompanied by the well-scripted rage of both sides leading … where?  The Republican and Democratic parties are somehow dimly aware somewhere deep in their little lizard brains that the stakes are getting higher.

So Dianne Feinstein plays it cagey, with the Democrats acting their parts as partisan warriors for the downtrodden, but keeping the drama confined to the lead actors, while the Republicans are doubling down in playing the “Sluts and Nuts” game when the seemingly smarter play would be to get another nominee (if they could) who didn’t leave such a well-worn trail of debauchery, but who could still be relied on to give judicial blessing to the growing militarized Police State.

Cynics like to ascribe omnipotence to our rulers (another variation of political laziness).  These rulers wreak havoc on the peoples of the world.  (“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned,” as Yeats would have it.)  Yet events continue to spiral out of their control.  To their every action, there is a counter-action.  The Kavanaugh nomination is key to their plans as they hope to lock in place a reactionary majority Supreme Court as the cornerstone for their own 1,000-year Reich.

Yet the show is already irrevocably off-script.  While Kavanaugh pleads his personal innocence, the whole affair has exposed a corporate elite whose very essence is revealed as that of a male frat-boy party.  Is my language excessive?  Hardly.  It’s all there in such elite publications as the Washington Post and New York Times, the whole Mark Judge saga which is so bad that the Republicans won’t even allow him to testify in Kavanaugh’s defense.  Off-balance Republicans and Democrats alike are limited to quibbling over what extent this can all be ascribed to youthful indiscretion (they remember their own coming-of-age).  The Washington Post captures their dilemma, writing, “Republicans struggled to balance taking Christine Blasey Ford seriously with their objective of confirming Brett M. Kavanaugh.”  Yesterday (Thursday) was a shootout at the Judiciary Committee Corral.  Today (Friday) it’s hugs and kisses over a bipartisan deal to drag the spectacle out for one more week.  But the show that’s reaching the American people is that these elite prep schools and Ivory Towers like Yale University are just the training grounds where the future leaders of BOTH parties learn how to become men.  That being the case, just what kind of men are they?

And whether confirmed or not, Kavanaugh’s ascension (or near ascension?) marks a further delegitimization of the rule of the Supreme Court and the American system of law.  I won’t even shed crocodile tears over a system based on imperial full spectrum dominance and enforced poverty worldwide.  Its delegitimization is in fact long overdue.

That women are utterly revolted by this horrendous display can be expected.  But again off-script is the fact that more and more men are expressing open revulsion not merely towards Kavanaugh but that whole sick scene.  Growing up a working-class man is not the best way to learn decency and respect towards women.  One mustn’t idealize.  But something is going on here, and it is going deep.  How deep, we are just finding out.

Culture is a war.

A few lines later in the Second Coming poem are the lines that many in the literati consider the most depressing.  Not only do things fall apart and the centre cannot hold, but:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

But where do we get the notion that those lacking all conviction are the “best” at all.  At the simplest level, it should be obvious that those lacking all conviction are not the people who have made history in this world.

There is an assumption common to both the left and the right, that in a head-to-head confrontation, the values of thuggery, jingoism, machismo and sexism will triumph over the values of decency and gentleness.  Thus in the movies, the decent people need to rely on some “tough guy” to come to their defense or, at best, lead them.  Conan the Barbarian rescues the jewel-bedecked princess.  In this vein, the right has long felt that being engaged in culture war is inherently to their advantage.

These attitudes have a tremendous class bias, that the middle-class, the more educated, are the decent and the gentle, while working class people (especially men) are the thugs.  And when race is brought into the picture, this gets multiplied by ten.  Such attitudes have long been false, harking back to the civilizing mission of the conquistadores and colonizers.  “Lawyers, guns and money” have allowed them to project a certain civilized façade, and the media — hardly a working-class bastion — have reinforced them.  But all that aside, this Kavanaugh affair has caused men across the board to begin re-examining a lot of things.  So as yesterday Christine Blasey Ford went toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful thugs in the world (Kavanaugh being only the Supreme thug), how can any man worthy of being called a man do less once the veneer has been stripped away from the brutality that lies at the core of American society?  There’s something happening here.

For a new Cultural Revolution.

Since the 60’s, the left has been struggling with demoralization.  After all, it was defeated.  Today, we need to regain that lost passionate intensity as never before, that commitment to fight for both justice and decency.  “Fight” should stop being a dirty word.  I don’t mean to give a pep talk.  I hate pep talks.  Leftists have a long, sorry history of seeing revolution right around the corner, inspired by the latest progressive peep from corporate liberalism.  But leftists also have a long history of missing the train at the times when things are changing, when masses are beginning to step forward.  I could give a litany of such developments, but I don’t do pep talks.  Look around, see what’s happening in the world.  See what’s happening in Florida.  Look at our own Green Party of Florida compared to where we were one year ago.

Our world is destabilizing.  To try to stop that destabilization is an exercise in futility.  To try to accelerate it, well, it’s happening in any event.  Best to build and be ready, see the emerging possibilities then seize them.

We must become the ones with the passionate intensity.

— Jeff Roby
September 28, 2018

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