Sunday, May 28, 2017
We set up a word at the point at which our ignorance begins, at which we can see no further, e.g., the word "I," the word "do," the word "suffer":--these are perhaps the horizon of our knowledge, but not "truths."
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Rojava (/ˌroʊʒəˈvɑː/ ROH-zhə-VAH; Kurdish: [roʒɑˈvɑ] "the West") is a de facto autonomous region originating in and consisting of three self-governing cantons in northern Syria, namely Afrin Canton, Jazira Canton and Kobanî Canton, as well as adjacent areas of northern Syria like Shahba region. The region gained its de facto autonomy as part of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War, establishing and gradually expanding a secular polity based on the democratic confederalism principles of democratic socialism, gender equality, and sustainability.
Also known as Syrian Kurdistan or Western Kurdistan (Kurdish: Rojavayê Kurdistanê), Rojava is regarded by Kurdish nationalists as one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan). However, Rojava is polyethnic and home to sizable ethnic Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and Turkmen populations, with smaller communities of ethnic Armenians, Circassians and Chechens. This diversity is mirrored in its constitution, society and politics.
On 17 March 2016, its de facto administration self-declared the establishment of a federal system of government as the Democratic Federation of Rojava – Northern Syria (Kurdish: Federaliya Demokratîk a Rojava - Bakurê Sûriyê; Arabic: الفدرالية الديمقراطية لروج آفا - شمال سوريا, translit. al-Fidirāliyya al-Dīmuqrāṭiyya li-Rūjāvā - Šamāl Suriyā; Syriac: ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܠܓܙܪܬܐ ܒܓܪܒܝܐ ܕܣܘܪܝܐ, translit. Federaloyotho Demoqraṭoyto l'Gozarto b'Garbyo d'Suriya; sometimes abbreviated as NSR). While entertaining some foreign relations, the NSR is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria or any international state or organization. The protagonists of the NSR consider its constitution a model for a federalized Syria as a whole. The updated December 2016 constitution of the polity uses the name Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Kurdish: Federaliya Demokratîk a Bakûrê Sûriyê; Arabic: الفدرالية الديمقراطية لشمال سوريا, translit. al-Fidirāliyya al-Dīmuqrāṭiyya li-Šamāl Suriyā; Syriac: ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܕܓܪܒܝ ܣܘܪܝܐ, translit. Federaloyotho Demoqraṭoyto d'Garbay Suriya).
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I said unto myself, if I were dead,
What would befall these children? What would be
Their fate, who now are looking up to me
For help and furtherance? Their lives, I said,
Would be a volume wherein I have read
But the first chapters, and no longer see
To read the rest of their dear history,
So full of beauty and so full of dread.
Be comforted; the world is very old,
And generations pass, as they have passed,
A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
The world belongs to those who come the last,
They will find hope and strength as we have done.
Monday, May 22, 2017
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s foreign ministry on Monday lodged a formal protest with the U.S. ambassador to Ankara over what it said were “lapses of security” during a violent confrontation between protesters and Turkish bodyguards during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington earlier this month.
The summoning of the ambassador, John Bass, sharply escalated a diplomatic rift between Turkey and the United States after the brawl, which prompted outrage in the United States, as well as calls for the prosecution of the Turkish guards and even the expulsion of the Turkey’s ambassador in D.C.
American and Turkish officials have provided directly contrasting versions of how the violence unfolded. Local police officials said the Turkish guards savagely attacked a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence as Erdogan was visiting. The melee, which was recorded by video journalists, showed what appeared to be Turkish security guards kicking and choking protesters as the D.C. police struggled to contain the unrest. The footage also showed that Erdogan was watching, from a distance, as the fighting raged.
Turkish diplomats have criticized the local police for failing to quell an “unpermitted” and “provocative” demonstration.
The Turkish foreign ministry’s statement on Monday went even further, criticizing “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program.” And it demanded that the United States conduct a “full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation.”
The spiraling argument appeared to undermine what by all accounts had been a friendly meeting between Erdogan and President Trump before the violence at the protest. In a joint press appearance at the White House, the two leaders were full of mutual praise and spoke of hopes for a closer and more productive relationship.
But the rift has also laid bare policy disagreements, particularly over the war in Syria, that have stirred tensions in the relationship between the two allies. Turkey has been angered by the Trump Administration’s decision to arm a Kurdish force to fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria as a military partner with the U.S. Turkey says the group is an arm of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the U.S.
Kurdish activists were among the protesters in D.C. on May 16 outside the ambassador’s residence, according to footage of the violence. Some held signs in support of Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of a pro-Kurdish political party who is currently in prison and facing prosecution in Turkey. Others held the flag of the YPG, the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish force.
It is not clear from the footage exactly what set off the melee, but Turkish security guards, as well as men in suits who were standing among a pro-Erdogan contingent can be seen attacking the protesters, including repeatedly kicking a man who lay prone on the ground. Another video shows that Erdogan himself watched the protest, after emerging from his car in the ambassador’s driveway.
Turkey’s semiofficial state Anadolu news agency on Saturday released its own, edited video version of the protest that it said showed the genesis of the attack: a water bottle, thrown by a protester.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017
I can tell that somebody sold you
We said we've never let anyone in
We said we'd only die of lonely secrets
The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God
I thought that this would all work out after a while
Now you're saying that I'm asking for too much attention
Loss of no other faith is light enough for this place
We said we'd only die of lonely secrets
The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
Monday, May 15, 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Slavoj Zizek is International Director at the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities, University of London, and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His most recent book is Disparities.
The lesson of the recent referendum in Turkey is a very sad one.
After Recep Tayyip Erdogan's dubious victory, Western liberal media were full of critical analyses: the century of the Kemalist endeavour to secularize Turkey is over; the Turkish voters were offered not so much a democratic choice as a referendum to limit democracy and voluntarily endorse an authoritarian regime.
However, more important and less noticed was the subtle ambiguity of many Western reactions - an ambiguity which recalls the ambiguity of Trump's politics towards Israel: even while he stated that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many of his supporters are openly anti-Semitic.
But is this really an inconsistent stance?
A cartoon published back in July 2008 in the Viennese daily Die Presse depicted two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sit at a table, and one of them holding a newspaper and commenting to his friend: "Here you can see again how a totally justified anti-Semitism is being misused for a cheap critique of Israel!"
This caricature thereby inverts the standard argument against the critics of the policies of the State of Israel. But when today's Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israeli politics reject Leftist critiques of Israeli policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to its reasoning?
Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer: he was anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since he saw in the State of Israel the first line of defence against the Muslim expansion; he even wanted to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt, but he wrote in his "Manifesto":"There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the UK and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the UK. The US on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem."His figures thus realize the ultimate paradox of the Zionist anti-Semite - and we find the traces of this strange stance more often than one would expect. Reinhard Heydrich himself, the mastermind of the Holocaust, wrote in 1935:"We must separate the Jews into two categories, the Zionists and the partisans of assimilation. The Zionists profess a strictly racial concept and, through emigration to Palestine, they help to build their own Jewish State ... our good wishes and our official goodwill go with them."As Frank Ruda has pointed out, today we are getting a new version of this Zionist anti-Semitism: Islamophobic respect for Islam. The same politicians who warn of the danger of the Islamisation of the Christian West - from Trump to Putin - respectfully congratulated Erdogan for his victory. The authoritarian reign of Islam is fine for Turkey, it would seem, but not for us.
We can thus easily imagine a new version of the cartoon from Die Presse, with two stocky Nazi-looking Austrians sitting at a table, one of them holding a newspaper and commenting: "Here you can see again how a totally justified Islamophobia is being misused for a cheap critique of Turkey!"
(Samuel) Huntington's Disease
How are we to understand this weird logic? It is a reaction, a false cure, to the great social disease of our time: Huntington's. Typically, the first symptoms of Huntington's disease are jerky, random and uncontrollable movements called chorea. Chorea may initially manifest as general restlessness, small unintentional or uncompleted motions, lack of coordination.
Does an explosion of brutal populism not look quite similar? It begins with what appear to be random acts of excessive violence against immigrants, outbursts which lack coordination and merely express a general unease and restlessness apropos of "foreign intruders," but then it gradually grows into a well-coordinated and ideologically grounded movement: what the other Huntington (that is, Samuel) called "the clash of civilizations." This lucky coincidence is telling: what is usually referred to under this term is effectively the Huntington's disease of today's global capitalism.
According to Samuel Huntington, after the end of the Cold War, the "iron curtain of ideology" had been replaced by the "velvet curtain of culture." Huntington's dark vision of the "clash of civilizations" may appear to be the very opposite of Francis Fukuyama's bright prospect of the "End of History" in the guise of a world-wide liberal democracy. What could be more different from Fukuyama's pseudo-Hegelian idea that the final formula of the best possible social order was found in capitalist liberal democracy, than a "clash of civilizations" as the fundamental political struggle in the twenty-first century? How, then, do the two fit together?
From today's experience, the answer is clear: the "clash of civilizations" is politics at "the end of history." The ethnic-religious conflicts are the form of struggle which fits global capitalism: in our age of post-politics, when politics proper is progressively replaced by expert social administration, the only remaining legitimate source of conflicts are cultural (ethnic, religious) tensions. Today's rise of "irrational" violence is thus to be conceived as strictly correlative to the depoliticization of our societies - that is, to the disappearance of the political dimension proper, its translation into different levels of "administration" of social affairs.
If we accept this thesis concerning the "clash of civilizations," the only alternative to it remains the peaceful coexistence of civilizations (or of "ways of life" - a more popular term today): so forced marriages, misogynistic violence and homophobia are fine, just as long as they are confined to another country which is otherwise fully included in the world market.
The New World Order (NWO) that is emerging is thus no longer the Fukuyamaist NWO of global liberal democracy, but a NWO of the peaceful coexistence of different politico-theological ways of life - coexistence, of course, against the background of the smooth functioning of global capitalism. The obscenity of this process is that it can present itself as progress in the anti-colonial struggle: the liberal West will no longer be allowed to impose its standards on others; all ways of life will be treated as equal.
It is little wonder, then, that Robert Mugabe exhibited such sympathy for Trump's slogan "America first!": "America first!" for you, "Zimbabwe first!" for me, "India first!" or "North Korea first!" for them. This is already how the British Empire, the first global capitalist empire, functioned: each ethnic-religious community was allowed to pursue its own way of life (for instance, honour killings or the burning of widows by Hindus in India were permitted). While these local "customs" were either criticized as barbaric or praised for their premodern wisdom, they were tolerated because what mattered was that they remained economically part of the Empire.
There is thus something deeply hypocritical about those liberals who criticize the slogan "America first!" - as if this is not more or less what every country is doing, as if America did not play a global role precisely because it suited its own interests. The underlying message of "America first!" is nonetheless a sad one: the American century is over; American exceptionalism is no more; America has resigned itself to being just one among the nations. The supreme irony is that the Leftists, who for a long time criticized the U.S. pretension to be the global policeman, may begin to long for the good old days when, hypocrisy notwithstanding, the United States imposed democratic standards onto the world.
There are already signs that this is happening. In the reactions to Trump's retaliatory missile strike on a Syrian army military base (as a punishment for the use of chemical weapons), the contradictions between those who oppose (and support) Trump exploded: the strike was applauded of some "human rights" liberals and rejected by some Republican conservative isolationists. In short, the paradox is that Trump is at his most dangerous when he acts most like Hillary Clinton.
We can see what "America first!" means in action from the following Reuters news report: "A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters' faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters." Yes, Putin's regime should be relentlessly criticized - but, in this case, has not the United States regularly done the same thing? Did a U.S. team not help Boris Yeltsin win a key election in Russia? And what about the United States' active support for the Maidan uprising in Ukraine?
This is "America first!" in practice: when they are doing it, it's a dangerous plot; when we are doing it, it's supporting democracy.
In this NWO, universality will more and more be reduced to tolerance - tolerance for different "ways of life." Following the formula of Zionist anti-Semitism, there will be no contradiction between imposing in our own countries the strictest "politically correct" pro-feminist rules and simultaneously rejecting any critique of the dark side of Islam as neocolonialist arrogance.
Between Private Capital and State Power
In this New World Order, there will be less and less place for figures like Julian Assange, who, in spite of all his problematic gestures, remains today's most powerful symbol of what Kant called "the public use of reason" - a space for public knowledge and debate outside of state control. No wonder that, against the expectations that Trump will show more leniency towards Assange, the new U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recently stated that the arrest of the Wikileaks founder was now a "priority."
It is well-known what lies ahead: Wikileaks will be proclaimed a terrorist organization, and rather than genuine advocates of public space like Assange, public figures which exemplify the privatization of our commons will predominate. The figure of Elon Musk is emblematic here: he belongs to the same series with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, all "socially conscious" billionaires. They stand for global capital at its most seductive and "progressive" - which is to say, at its most dangerous.
Musk likes to warn about the threats that new technologies pose to human dignity and freedom - which, of course, doesn't prevent him from investing in a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, a company which is focussed on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interface with computing devices: "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence."
Every technological innovation is always first presented like this, emphasizing its health or humanitarian benefits, which function to blind us to the more ominous implications and consequences: can we even imagine what new forms of control this so-called "neural lace" contains? This is why it is absolutely imperative to keep it out of the control of private capital and state power - that is, to render it totally accessible to public debate. Assange was right in his strangely ignored book on Google: to understand how our lives are regulated today, and how this regulation is experienced as our freedom, we have to focus on the shadowy collusion between private corporations which control our commons and secret state agencies.
Today's global capitalism can no longer afford a positive vision of emancipated humanity, even as an ideological dream. Fukuyamaist liberal-democratic universalism failed because of its own immanent limitations and inconsistencies, and populism is the symptom of this failure - its Huntington's disease. But the solution is not populist nationalism, Rightist or Leftist. The only solution is a new universalism - it is demanded by the problems humanity is confronting today, from ecological threats to refugee crises.
Protecting the New Commons
In his book What Happened in the Twentieth Century?, Peter Sloterdijk provides his own outline of what is to be done in twenty-first century, best encapsulated in the title of the first two essays in the book, "The Anthropocene" and "From the Domestication of Man to the Civilizing of Cultures."
"Anthropocene" designates a new epoch in the life of our planet in which we, humans, cannot any longer rely on the Earth as a reservoir ready to absorb the consequences of our productive activity: we cannot any longer afford to ignore the side effects (the collateral damage) of our productivity, which cannot any longer be reduced to the background of the figure of humanity. We have to accept that we live on a "Spaceship Earth," and are thus accountable for its conditions. Earth is no longer the impenetrable background/horizon of our productive activity, it emerges as an(other) finite object which we can inadvertently destroy or transform it to make it unliveable.
This means that, at the very moment when we become powerful enough to affect the most basic conditions of our life, we have to accept that we are just another animal species on a small planet. A new way to relate to our environs is necessary once we realize this: no longer a heroic worker expressing his/her creative potentials and drawing from the inexhaustible resources from his/her environs, but a much more modest agent collaborating with his/her environs, permanently negotiating a tolerable level of safety and stability.
So in order to establish this new mode of relating to our environs, a radical politico-economic change is necessary, what Sloterdijk calls "the domestication of the wild animal Culture."
Until now, each culture disciplined or educated its own members and guaranteed civic peace among them in the guise of state power, but the relationship between different cultures and states was permanently under the shadow of potential war, with each state of peace nothing more than a temporary armistice. As Hegel conceptualized it, the entire ethic of a state culminates in the highest act of heroism - namely, the readiness to sacrifice one's life for one's nation-state, which means that the wild barbarian relations between states serve as the foundation of the ethical life within a state. Today, is North Korea with it ruthless pursuit of nuclear weapons and rockets advanced enough to reach distant targets not the ultimate example of this logic of unconditional nation-state sovereignty?
However, the moment we fully accept the fact that we live on a Spaceship Earth, the task that urgently imposes itself is that of civilizing civilizations themselves, of imposing universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities, a task rendered all the more difficult by the ongoing rise of sectarian religious and ethnic "heroic" violence and readiness to sacrifice oneself (and the world) for one's specific Cause.
The measures Sloterdijk proposes as necessary for the survival of humanity - the overcoming of capitalist expansionism, achieving broad international solidarity capable to forming an executive power ready to violate state sovereignty, and so on - are they not all measures destined to protect our natural and cultural commons? If they do not point towards some kind of reinvented Communism, if they do not imply a Communist horizon, then the term "Communism" has no meaning at all.
This is why the idea of the European Union is worth fighting for, despite of the misery of its actual existence: in today's global capitalist world, it offers the only model of a trans-national organization with the authority to limit national sovereignty and the capacity to guarantee a minimum of ecological and social welfare standards. Something that directly descends from the best traditions of European Enlightenment survives in it. Our - Europeans - duty is not to humiliate ourselves as the ultimate culprits of colonialist exploitation but to fight for this part of our legacy as vital for the survival of humanity.
Europe is more and more alone in the New World Order, dismissed as an old, exhausted, irrelevant, contingent, reduced to playing a secondary role in today's bit geo-political conflicts. As Bruno Latour recently put it: "L'Europe est seule, oui, mais seule l'Europe peut nous sauver." Europe is alone, yes, but Europe alone can save us.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
- Samuel Beckett, "Worstward Ho" (1983)
All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
-A. E. Stallings, "Failure"
You humble in. It's just as you remember:
The sallow walls, formica counter top,
The circular argument of time beneath
Fluorescent flickering—doubt, faith, and doubt.
She knows you've been to see the gilded girl
Who's always promising and walking out
With someone else. She knew that you'd return,
With nothing in your pockets but your fists.
Why do you resist? When will you learn
That this is what your weary dreams are of—
Succumbing to Her unconditional love?
Monday, May 8, 2017
First Fundamental Theorum of Interstellar Trade: When trade takes place between two planets in a common inertial frame, the interest costs on goods in transit should be calculated using time measured by clocks in the common frame, and not clocks in the frames of trading spacecraft.
Second Fundamental Theorum of Interstellar Trade: If sentient beings may hold assets on two planets in the same inertial frame, competition will equalise the interest rates on the two planets.-Paul Krugman, "The Theory of Interstellar Trade" (July 1978)
Saturday, May 6, 2017
-Jules Verne, "Le génie"
Comme un pur stalactite, oeuvre de la nature,
Le génie incompris apparaît à nos yeux.
Il est là, dans l'endroit où l'ont placé les Cieux,
Et d'eux seuls, il reçoit sa vie et sa structure.
Jamais la main de l'homme assez audacieuse
Ne le pourra créer, car son essence est pure,
Et le Dieu tout-puissant le fit à sa figure ;
Le mortel pauvre et laid, pourrait-il faire mieux ?
Il ne se taille pas, ce diamant byzarre,
Et de quelques couleurs dont l'azur le chamarre,
Qu'il reste tel qu'il est, que le fit l'éternel !
Si l'on veut corriger le brillant stalactite,
Ce n'est plus aussitôt qu'un caillou sans mérite,
Qui ne réfléchit plus les étoiles du ciel.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
This protest had nothing to do with the "sacred". It had nothing to do with "water". It was ALL about "carbon". Why would Native America protest carbon?
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The title of a comment piece which appeared in The Guardian, the UK voice of the anti-Assange-pro-Hillary liberal left, says it all: “Le Pen is a far-right Holocaust revisionist. Macron isn’t. Hard choice?”
Predictably, the text proper begins with: “Is being an investment banker analogous with being a Holocaust revisionist? Is neoliberalism on a par with neofascism?” and mockingly dismisses even the conditional leftist support for the second-round Macron vote, the stance of: “I’d now vote Macron – VERY reluctantly.”
This is liberal blackmail at its worst: one should support Macron unconditionally; it doesn’t matter that he is a neoliberal centrist, just that he is against Le Pen. It’s the old story of Hillary versus Trump: in the face of the fascist threat, we should all gather around her banner (and conveniently forget how her side brutally outmanoeuvred Sanders and thus contributed to losing the election).
Are we not allowed at least to raise the question: yes, Macron is pro-European – but what kind of Europe does he personify? The very Europe whose failure feeds Le Pen populism, the anonymous Europe in the service of neoliberalism. This is the crux of the affair: yes, Le Pen is a threat, but if we throw all our support behind Macron, do we not get caught into a kind of circle and fight the effect by way of supporting its cause? This brings to mind a chocolate laxative available in the US. It is publicised with the paradoxical injunction: “Do you have constipation? Eat more of this chocolate!” – in other words, eat the very thing that causes constipation in order to be cured of it. In this sense, Macron is the chocolate-laxative candidate, offering us as a cure the very thing that caused the illness.
Our media present the two second-round contestants as standing for two radically opposed visions of France: the independent centrist versus the far-right racist – yes, but do they offer a real choice? Le Pen offers a feminised/softened version of brutal anti-immigrant populism (of her father), and Macron offers neoliberalism with a human face, while his image is also softly feminised (see the maternal role his wife plays in the media). So the father is out and femininity is in – but, again, what kind of femininity? As Alain Badiou pointed out, in today’s ideological universe, men are ludic adolescent outlaws, while women appear as hard, mature, serious, legal and punitive. Women today are not called by the ruling ideology to be subordinated, they are called – solicited, expected – to be judges, administrators, ministers, CEOs, teachers, policewomen and soldiers. A paradigmatic scene occurring daily in our security institutions is that of a feminine teacher/judge/psychologist taking care of an immature asocial young male delinquent. A new figure of femininity is thus arising: a cold competitive agent of power, seductive and manipulative, attesting to the paradox that “in the conditions of capitalism women can do better than men” (Badiou). This, of course, in no way makes women suspicious as agents of capitalism; it merely signals that contemporary capitalism invented its own ideal image of woman who stands for cold administrative power with a human face.
Both candidates present themselves as anti-system, Le Pen in an obvious populist way and Macron in a more much interesting way: he is an outsider from existing political parties but, precisely as such, he stands for the system as such, in its indifference to established political choices. In contrast to Le Pen who stands for proper political passion, for the antagonism of Us against Them (from the immigrants to the non-patriotic financial elites), Macron stands for apolitical all-encompassing tolerance. We often hear the claim that Le Pen’s politics draws its strength from fear (the fear of immigrants, of the anonymous international financial institutions), but does the same not hold for Macron? He finished first because voters were afraid of Le Pen, and the circle is thus closed; there is no positive vision with either of the candidates, they are both candidates of fear.
The true stakes of this vote become clear if we locate it into its larger historical context. In Western and Eastern Europe, there are signs of a long-term rearrangement of the political space. Until recently, the political space was dominated by two main parties which addressed the entire electoral body, a Right-of-centre party (Christian-Democrat, liberal-conservative, people’s) and a left-of-centre party (socialist, social-democratic), with smaller parties addressing a narrow electorate (ecologists, neofascists, etc). Now, there is progressively emerging one party which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with relative tolerance towards abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities, etc; opposing this party is a stronger and stronger anti-immigrant populist party which, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neofascist groups. The exemplary case is here Poland: after the disappearance of the ex-Communists, the main parties are the “anti-ideological” centrist liberal party of the ex-prime-minister Donald Tusk and the conservative Christian party of the Kaczynski brothers. The stakes of the radical centre today are: which of the two main parties, conservatives or liberals, will succeed in presenting itself as embodying the post-ideological non-politics against the other party dismissed as “still caught in old ideological spectres”? In the early Nineties, conservatives were better at it; later, it was liberal leftists who seemed to be gaining the upper hand, and Macron is the latest figure of a pure radical centre.
We have thus reached the lowest point in our political lives: a pseudo-choice if there ever was one. Yes, the victory of Le Pen would bring dangerous possibilities. But what I fear no less is the assuagement that will follow Macron’s triumphant victory: sighs of relief from everywhere, thank God the danger was kept at bay, Europe and our democracy are saved, so we can go back to our liberal-capitalist sleep again. The sad prospect that awaits us is that of a future in which, every four years, we will be thrown into a panic, scared by some form of “neofascist danger”, and in this way blackmailed into casting our vote for the “civilised” candidate in meaningless elections lacking any positive vision. This is why panicking liberals who are telling us that we should now abstain from all criticism of Macron are deeply wrong: now is the time to bring out his complicity with a system in crisis. After his victory it will be too late, the task will lose its urgency in the wave of self-satisfaction.
In the hopeless situation we are in, facing a false choice, we should gather the courage and simply abstain from voting. Abstain, and begin to think. The commonplace “enough talking, let’s act” is deeply deceiving – now, we should say precisely the opposite: enough of the pressure to do something, let’s begin to talk seriously, ie, to think! And by this I mean we should also leave behind the radical leftist self-complacency of endlessly repeating how the choices we are offered in the political space are false, and how only a renewed radical left can save us – yes, in a way, but why, then, does this left not emerge? What vision has the left to offer that would be strong enough to mobilise people? We should never forget that the ultimate cause of the act that we are caught into – the vicious cycle of Le Pen and Macron – is the disappearance of the viable leftist alternative.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Before Lexington and Concord, before there was any need for an army, and before men found themselves beholden to the dictates of military service there were the many trade, social, and sporting organizations offering them opportunities to associate together. In Philadelphia, where before the war there were no less than seventeen private fire companies engaged in heavy socializing when not attending to fire prevention concerns, there are perhaps no better examples than the Schuylkill Fishing Company and Gloucester Foxhunting Club.
The rosters of each of these organizations share many of the same names, with members coming from both the city and immediately across the Delaware River in New Jersey’s Gloucester County. These mens’ close bonds and leadership abilities were so evident that in November 1774 they formed the nucleus of one of the colonies’ first all-volunteer organizations enforcing the First Continental Congress’s non-importation dictates, the Light-Horse of the City of Philadelphia. They used an important flag displaying, reportedly for the first time on any banner, the distinctive thirteen stripes symbolizing the number of colonies.
Sport and the comradery it allowed was the common factor drawing these men together in the decades preceding the Revolution. Until then, the area around Philadelphia was populated with an abundance of fish and wildlife, drawing many to tramp its thick forests and wade in its streams. Early settlers marked important moments in their childhood development as young boys, spending their formative years fishing until reaching the age of fifteen when allowed to enter into the woods in pursuit of game. As the area became more populated and people sought out opportunities to socialize, those of lesser means participated in shooting, fishing, and sailing parties while the well-to-do turned to “glutton clubs, fishing-house and country parties,” reportedly allowing “great sociability” among them all.
Fishing was a great diversion for many as evidenced by period newspaper advertisements by merchants hawking an abundance of fishing-related gear in the form of rods, hooks and nets while real estate notices touted the location of favored pieces of land located on or near popular fishing locales. So many white perch populated the area’s waters that it was not unusual for a single fisherman to pull out between “five and twenty dozen fish” by himself using a rod measuring some twenty-five feet in length and casting a line bearing three to six small hooks. Clustered together along the river banks, working and coordinating their efforts as they did in their militia musters, the men could haul in as much as “one hundred dozen” fish in a single day. However, the sport had gained such popularity that by 1767 authorities began introducing laws prohibiting some of those practices that caused a noticeable drop in the fish population.
It is not surprising to see the creation of organizations including the Schuylkill Fishing Company, reportedly the longest operating social club in the English-speaking world. Originally founded on May 1, 1732, and called “The Colony in Schuylkill,” its first members included some of the original settlers accompanying William Penn to the New World. A close association then developed between them and the resident Lenni Lanape people who tradition provides first allowed them “the right and privilege to hunt in the woods and to fish in the waters of the Schuylkill.”
To attend its operations, members of the Colony facetiously adopted the trappings of an independent government, creating yearly elected posts bearing the honorifics of governor, assembly (with five members), sheriff, coroner, and secretary-treasurer. While purportedly only a social club, it wielded such authority that it commanded the attention of local authorities leading some to call it “Imperim in Imperio, a republic of Andorra in the heart of Penn’s Kingdom.”
While many of the Club’s members came from the peaceful Quaker party, there was also a decidedly pragmatic, militaristic side to their operations. In 1747 they donated a thirty-two pounder cannon to the local Association Battery guarding the city, itself counting several individuals from the fishing Colony serving in commanding positions. Manufactured in either England or New Jersey, the ten foot long weapon weighed between two and three tons and bore an inscription in the Indian language “Kawania che keeteru,” meaning “This is my right and I will defend it,” demonstrating an unwavering intention to preserve their way of life. Continuing in that vein, the translation was later adopted by the Philadelphia Committee of Safety in 1775 for its own motto when it created the seal it used during the war. In 1762 the Colony expanded its “military” capabilities by assessing its members fifteen shillings in order to replace their deteriorating “navy,” composed of the two “frigates” Shirk and Fly “condemned as totally unfit for service,” with the building of two new vessels of modest dimension, being twelve and fifteen feet in length.
Members also erected a building on the banks of the Schuylkill called The Castle to which they walked and rode for their gatherings. As they did so, they traveled through the thick forest separating it from the city carrying their fowling pieces and accompanied by faithful canines as they unhesitatingly fired upon the abundant animal population. As “Governor” Thomas Stretch described the amount of game at hand in writing to this fellow “Schuylkillians” in 1744:WHEREAS great quantities of rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, partridges, and others of the game kind have presumed to infest the coasts and territories of Schuylkill, in a wild, bold and ungovernable manner;By 1762 the ranks of the popular Colony in Schuylkill had reached seventy-five, many of them “renowned as active and successful sportsmen,” and while “some preferred to range with a gun … the major part sought their luck on the water.” Extant records of their many proceedings, including those of other fishing clubs, reveal much revelry as they consumed large amounts of food and drink demonstrating a convivial, jocular, back-slapping crowd. However, as tensions mounted with Britain, 1769 marked their last documented meeting until later in the war. It was revived in October 1782, changing its name to the “State in Schuylkill” to reflect the new political realities, followed by the “Schuylkill Fishing Company” in 1844 and continuing into the twenty-first century.
THESE are therefore to authorize and require you, or any of you, to make diligent search for the said rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, partridges and others of the game kind, in all suspected places where they may be found, and bring the respective bodies of so many as you shall find … to be proceeded against.
By 1766, pressure on fish notwithstanding, the overall effects of hunting in the immediate Philadelphia area was becoming more noticeable with the decline in population of various land bound species. This, in turn, forced the sporting community to look to other areas for sport, settling on nearby Gloucester County on the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey. In addition to horse-racing, chasing vermin was the most adventurous and robust activity engaged in by the local elite in their “occasional, unregulated private hunts.”  Accordingly, on October 29 many of them, including their fishermen brethren, decided to organize themselves and assembled at the Philadelphia Coffee House, creating the important Gloucester Foxhunting Club; remaining in existence until 1818 when it was disbanded.
While hunting with hounds dates to the ancients, the first organized fox hunt took place in Charlton, England in 1675 with the Charlton Hunt. It became immediately popular with royalty and the elite who then took steps to create highly bred packs capable of sustained effort in the field, finally achieving that result in the 1760s and 1770s. Those efforts required large amounts of money to build kennels and employ personnel to watch over them; this later resulted in the North American experience of subscription hunts requiring members to pay a certain sum yearly for that purpose. There, the heavily wooded landscape was markedly different from England’s cleared spaces, which had an effect on the conduct of the hunt itself, with more attention paid towards watching hounds at work in the thick underbrush before picking up a scent and beginning the chase. Over the course of the eighteenth century, forests were cleared and wetlands drained opening up hunting grounds. American hounds then underwent a breeding process allowing the development of needed strength and stamina to run for long periods of time.
Just maintaining the necessary horse to participate in the sport required significant money. As Colony in Schuylkill fishing member (number 46 enrolled in 1748) and later Loyalist James Galloway noted in 1759, it cost no less than seven shillings a day in order to “live meanly and keep a horse” in Philadelphia. With general laborers and ships’ carpenters in the city and New York making around that amount between 1758 and 1774 it is clear that many possessed too little to allow them to participate in hunting to the hounds even if they had the time to do so. For those able to afford it, hunting provided important opportunities to meet others and further their relationships. As one foxhunter noted in 1792:When the pleasures of the chase can be made the means of calling the gentlemen of the country together, they become really useful and beneficial to society. They give opportunities of shynesses, dispelling temporary differences, forming new friendships and cementing old, and drawing the gentlemen of the country together in one closer bond of society.Budding comradery notwithstanding, in the years before the war colonists persisted in pleading to London their widespread poverty making it impossible for them to contribute to the empire’s upkeep. As one London observer wrote in 1767, “Cock-fighting, fox-hunting, horse-racing, and every other expensive diversion, are in great vogue in the Colonies, yet the Colonists pretend they are not able to pay towards the support of their Governments.” However, one New Yorker took strong exception to such a characterization, contending that “Cock-fighting is held in such disgrace among us, as that the few who practice it are almost ashamed to be known.” While also dismissing their attraction for horse-racing, he further noted that “Fox-hunting we know nothing of as a diversion, but only to keep them from our poultry and the benefit of the skin.” Then, in telling disdain for those in the neighboring colony, he pointed out that “How far the Philadelphians are chargeable with these or the like extravagancies, they know best, and are able to answer for themselves.”
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia in 1766 thirty-two year old local merchant Samuel Morris, Jr. did indeed ride to the hounds and knew a lot about it; he was described as “an excellent horseman, and a keen sportsman, delighting in the chase, and all health-giving out-door sports.” Being a man of “independent circumstances” Morris could engage in his sport at will, rising early and eating breakfast with his brethren before the sun rose and then dashing out to the countryside where in 1765 they reportedly killed three foxes within just a few hours’ time. At age fourteen in 1748 his name first appears on the rolls of the Colony in Schuylkill (member number 52) as a budding fisherman and in 1765 he was elected its governor, serving in that capacity for the next forty-six years until his death in 1812. Further, upon the formation of the Gloucester Foxhunting Club in 1766 he was then chosen as its first president, similarly continuing in that role until his passing.
Joining Morris in foxhunting twice a week on Thursdays and Fridays for the season lasting between April and October, along with twenty-six other men of note, and members of the fishing Colony, were his brother, Anthony Morris, Jr. (number 97), later killed during the Battle of Princeton in 1777, and Samuel Nicholas (number 102) who went on to become the First Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1775. Whether their unique hunting attire inspired that of the Marine Corps is not definitively known, but in 1774 the Club mandated its members wear “a dark brown coatee, with lapelled dragoon pockets, white buttons and frock sleeves, buff waistcoat and breeches, and a black velvet cap” during their outings.
The common interest that these fishermen and hunters shared in the field is further demonstrated by the May Day celebrations that continued to take place during the Revolution. In 1776 the play The Fall of British Tyranney; or, American Liberty Triumphant was staged with actors singing a song to the tune of “The Hounds are all out.” It could not have been by mistake that they did so, relying on their audience’s familiarity with its verses:The Hounds are all out, and the Morning does peep,Their comradery continued to sustain them and with war’s storm clouds on the horizon they sought out yet further instances to demonstrate their close bonds.
Why how now you sluggardly Sot?
How can you, how can you lie snoring asleep,
While we all on Horseback have got?
Brave Boys, while we all on Horseback, &c.
I cannot get up, for the over-night’s Cup
So terribly lies in my Head;
Besides, my Wife cries, my Dear do not rise,
But cuddle me longer a-bed,
Dear Boy, but cuddle, &c.
Come, on with your Boots, and saddle your Mare,
Nor tire us with longer Delay;
The Cry of the Hounds, and the Sight of the Hare,
Will chase all our Vapours away,
Brave Boys, will chase, &c.
That opportunity arose on November 17, 1774 when the Philadelphia Committee of Correspondence met in the statehouse to decide how to implement the Continental Congress’s recent directives aimed at prohibiting the importation of British goods. As a result, twenty-eight men, “well representing the respectability and wealth of the city,” decided to form themselves into a cavalry company called the “Light-horse of the City of Philadelphia.” Of that number, no less than twenty-two of them came from the Gloucester Foxhunting Club, electing Morris, later becoming known as “Fighting Sam,” as their second lieutenant. As the history of the Light Horse relates, of the several social organizations making up its membership, those coming from the foxhunting Club “appear to have had the most influence” in forming the Troop. Further, by war’s end some fifty-two names of those from the fishing Colony in Schuylkill, some also Club members, are listed in the Light-Horse rolls.
This was a well-heeled, self-financed company made up of “men of substantial means, who had something at stake in the fate of their country, and who needed not pay to keep them in the field. Some of them were representatives of the elite, and others afterwards attained such prominence in public affairs as shed lustre on the organization.” It is not known which preceded the other in 1774, but the fashionable uniform they chose to wear closely resembled the Club’s, described as “a dark brown short coat, faced and lined with white, white vest and breeches, high-top boots, round black hat, a buck’s tail; housings brown, edged with white, and the letters L. H. marked upon them.”  For arms, they bore “a carbine, a pair of pistols, and holsters, with flounce of brown cloth trimmed with white, a horseman’s sword, and white belts for the sword and carbine.” In their ostentatious display, historian David Hackett Fischer opines that “this silk-stocking outfit must have been jeered by ragged infantrymen.”
There are no descriptions of its actual presentation, but at some point shortly after its formation the Light-Horse received its important standard, courtesy of their captain Abraham Markoe, thankful at being elected their commander. Markoe was a citizen of Denmark and and was forced shortly after his gift to resign his commission because his king, Christian VIII, forbid his subjects to participate in the war against Britain. Morris was unanimously elected in his place.
The flag is reportedly “the earliest known instance of the thirteen stripes being used upon an American banner,” making it an article of particular interest. According to September 1775 invoices recording the flag’s creation months earlier, Philadelphia artist James Claypool painted, gilded and silvered the flag which had been drawn and designed by an obscure individual named John Folwell. It still survives, measuring forty inches long and thirty-four inches broad, and bears in its center an emblem, topped by a horsehead, with the words beneath “For these we strive,” an apparent reference to fame and liberty. In its canton, or rectangular portion, in the upper left are the noticeable stripes described as “Barry [stripes] of thirteen azure and argent. The azure being deep ultramarine, the argent silver leaf.” It was under this flag, attached to a three-part staff of “dark wood,” that Washington, accompanied by Generals Lee and Schuyler, was escorted out of Philadelphia to the New York border by members of the Light Horse on June 21, 1775 on his way to Cambridge to assume command of the army.
Washington certainly felt particular comfort in the care of these men, himself an avid foxhunter. Years before the Revolution at age sixteen in 1748 he was employed by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, on his massive Virginia estate as a surveyor and frequently joined him in the many foxhunting opportunities he offered. Taking up the sport even more aggressively when means allowed it following his marriage to Martha Custis in 1759 and up to 1774, apparently uninterested in either shooting or fishing, Washington pursued foxes with a vengeance. Until the war disrupted the peace, he entertained guests at Mount Vernon for weeks at a time, guiding the assembly as they ranged over the countryside chasing foxes and hounds.Washington always superbly mounted, in true sporting costume, of blue coat, scarlet waistcoat, buckskin breeches, top boots, velvet cap, and whip with long thong, took the field at daybreak with his huntsman Will Lee, his friends and neighbors; and none rode more gallantly in the chase, nor with voice more cheerily awakened echo in the woodland than he ….To the north of Washington, the year 1775 marked “the hey-day” of the Gloucester Foxhunting Club as they rode to the baying cries of an impressive sixteen couple (pairs) of hounds. However, with the war and ensuing presence of a large British army taking up occupancy in Philadelphia operations were suspended as their members assumed important military and civil positions. But no sooner had the British departed than the Club was up and running, assembling once again on the banks of the Delaware River. Though with a lesser number, they continued as they had in the past, running behind a pack of “twenty-two excellent dogs” bearing the wonderful names of Mingo, Piper, Drummer, Rover, Countess, Dido, Slouch, Ringwood, Tippler, Driver, Tuneall, Bumper, Sweetlips, Juno, Duchess, Venus, Singwell, Doxy, Droner, Toper, Bowler and Bellman.
Those fishing and hunting members of the Colony in Schuylkill and Gloucester Foxhunting Club working together in the Philadelphia Light Horse made contributions that proved of great value to the patriot cause. While their efforts never exceeded two months of service at any one time, or barely six months in the war’s totality, they participated in some of its most momentous events. Through many trials the men performed admirably at Trenton (December 26, 1776), Princeton (January 3, 1777), Brandywine (September 11, 1777), Germantown (October 4, 1777), and at Valley Forge allowing them the honored position of being the first troops to reenter Philadelphia when the British left in 1778. Expressing his approval of their efforts following Trenton and Princeton, on January 23, 1777 Washington temporarily discharged the company, making certain to acknowledge their worthy achievements:I take this opportunity of returning my most sincere thanks to the Captain [Morris] and to the Gentlemen who compose the Troop, for the many essential services which they have rendered to their Country, and to me personally, during the course of this severe campaign. Tho’ composed of Gentlemen of Fortune, they have shown a noble Example of discipline and subordination, and in several actions have shown a Spirit of Bravery which will ever do Honor to them and will ever be gratefully remembered by me.In the following years, the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry as it became known was called upon many times to perform tasks on the behalf of both the colony and Washington. Its members also went on to advanced ranks and held important positions in service to the new nation.
Sport, as exemplified by the fishermen and foxhunters of the time, bound these men together when there was no war forcing them to associate. Their records demonstrate the raw fun and emotion that their pursuits allowed them and, together with the abundant natural resources at their disposal, one can only look on with envy at all they experienced in their time together. In comparison, it was a deceptively innocent time, but none the less one that any avid outdoorsman would have loved to participate in as their companion.
 Other fishing clubs in the area before the Revolution included the Society of Fort St. David’s (founded 1753) and the Mount Regale Fishing Company (date uncertain), the latter composed of many members coming from the proprietary party countering those of the Quaker party belonging to the Schuylkill club. James H. Hutson, “An Investigation of the Inarticulate: Philadelphia’s White Oaks,” William and Mary Quarterly 28, no. 1 (January 1971): 5.
 History of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry. 1774. November, 17, 1874 (Princeton, 1875), 1.
 Ibid., 119.
 John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: E. L. Carey & A. Hart, 1830), 166.
 See, e.g., Pennsylvania Gazette, December 11, 1766, April 16, 1767; Pennsylvania Journal, September 9, 1772.
 By a Member, An Authentic Historic Memoir of the Schuylkill Fishing Company of the State in Schuylkill (Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1830), 113.
 Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), April 16, 1767.
 H. H. Brogden, “Restoration of the Schuylkill Gun to ‘The State in Schuylkill,’ April 23, 1884,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8, no. 2 (June 1884): 200.
 William Milnor, A History of the Schuylkill Fishing Company of the State in Schuylkill, 1732-1888 (Philadelphia: Published by the Members, 1889), 20.
 Robert C. Moon, The Morris Family of Philadelphia, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Robert C. Moon, 1898), 322.
 George Henry Preble, History of the Flag of the United States of America, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894), 254.
 Milnor, A History, 34-35.
 Ibid., 20.
 Ibid., 37.
 Watson, Annals, 237-238.
 Milnor, A History, 4.
 Eric Eliason, “Foxhunting Folkways under Fire and the Crisis of Traditional Moral Knowledge,” Western Folklore 63, no. 1/2 (Winter-Spring 2004): 129.
 James Howe, “Fox Hunting as Ritual,” American Ethnologist 8, no. 2 (May 1981): 289.
 Hutson, “An Investigation,” 7-8.
 Howe, “Fox Hunting,” 286.
 Providence Gazette (Providence, Rhode Island), August 1, 1767.
 New York Gazette, August 20, 1767.
 Moon, Morris Family, 321.
 Ibid., 322. Morris’ name, along with many of his friends, appears on several rolls of subscribers providing many thousands of pounds to the city’s coffers in order to sustain the war effort.
 Gerald R. Gems, Linda J. Borish, and Gertrud Pfister, Sports in American History from Colonization to Globalization (Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books, 2008), 59.
 Milnor, A History, 7.
 Martin W. Walsh, “May Games and Noble Savages: The Native American in Early Celebrations of Tammany Society,” Folklore 108 (1997): 87.
 The Lark containing a Collection of Four Hundred and Seventy Four celebrated English and Scotch Songs (London: 1742), 353-354.
 Milnor, Memoirs, 3; Encyclopædia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania, vol. 3 (New York: Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Company, 1898), 54.
 History of the First Troop, viii. Other organizations joining included “The Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick,” “St. Andrews Society at Philadelphia,” and “The Society of the Sons of St. George, for the advice and assistance of Englishmen in distress.” Ibid., x.
 Milnor, A History, 404.
 The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 10 (Philadelphia: 1886), 362.
 Moon, Morris Family, 323. “Housings” are pistol holsters.
 David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 279.
 History of the First Troop, 119.
 Preble, History of the Flag, 251. The presence of the stripes on this flag preceded their appearance several months later at the time of the raising of the union flag in Cambridge.
 Ibid., 257.
 Ibid., 254.
 Alexander Mackay-Smith, Foxhunting in North America (Millwood, VA: Good Printers, 1985), 217-218.
 George Washington Park Custis, Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1860), 385.
 Milnor, Memoirs, 7.
 Ibid., 10-11.
 John B. Linn and Wm. Hegle, eds., Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, vol. II (Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, 1880), 733.
 History of the First Troop, 11.