The Cancer Thinks It’s the Body

james wood tweet

It’s worse than James Woods suggests.

Each echo chamber is a government. Each government boasts its own citizens. We overlap. We intermesh. We share supermarkets and even living rooms. Yes, some of our loved ones manage to inhabit the town of Stepford, even as they sleep beside us. This is a war of cognition where bodies don’t count. 

Twitter is the garden wall where the tomatoes get tossed back and forth. The banter is tedious and predictable. Memes are like weeds. But the structural divide is truly daunting, not to mention formally drawn and institutionalized. 

Who would have thought that the most ensconced and ‘arrived’ cognoscenti by any conventional measure of social stature (our so-called ‘elite”, but can we please stop calling them that?) would affix their civic orbit to the most sovereignty-deprived of our parallel governments’?

Dummies! You have no Constitution! We, the People. You, the Pimple. 

For a time, we tolerated their telegenic nonsense. Until a galvanizing antithesis in the figure of President Donald Trump arrived to guide us back to a Constitutional normalcy long-since given up in the post-WW2 era. Now, with pitchforks in-hand, the Madisonian-Deplorables are on a campaign of reclamation.

We all feel the endless and dispiriting tug-of-war Wood’s tweet alludes to. However we struggle for the most encapsulating terms: Deep State, Shadow Government, Illuminati. 

For my money, this ‘dueling dualism’ is best evoked in Michael Glennon’s terms, Trumanite Network and Madisonian Institutions as explicated in his 2015 book ‘National Security and Double Government’.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

“The book details the dramatic shift in power that has occurred from the Madisonian institutions to a concealed “Trumanite network” – the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints. Reform efforts face daunting obstacles. Remedies within this new system of “double government” require the hollowed-out Madisonian institutions to exercise the very power that they lack.”

Glennon, an academic, avoids a nefarious conspiracy-tinged depiction of the Trumanite side. Perhaps if they weren’t so hidden and submerged, the conspiracy crowd could lighten up a bit too. Hey, don’t blame our dark imaginings for your endless shadow-play. Step into the light or don’t bitch.

Borrowing much of his conceptual framework from the work of 19th century English writer Walter Bagehot, Glennon foresees a parallel and continued atrophying of our Madisonian institutions into something not unlike the ornamental functions of today’s British monarchy, with a more submerged government increasingly undertaking the complex business of the State. Glennon differentiates this split further as being our ‘dignified’ versus ‘efficient’ institutions. 

Gaining its initial impetus under the National Security Act of 1947, and driven by the overriding security (fear-based) imperatives of the Cold War, the Trumanite network grew aggressively enough that, by 1960, Eisenhower was famously warning us of an eclipsing Military Industrial Complex. This warning is no less potent today. 

Sounding cautionary, if not defeatist notes, Glennon was not anticipating a retrograde figure on the scale of  Trump.

The Mueller Independent Counsel is a Trumanite doorstop wedged into the resurgent Madisonian government spearheaded by Trump. Without Mueller’s lingering presence, the Democrats (mantle-holders at the moment for the Deep State) would have no substantive speaking-role, outside of (are you ready?) Maxine Waters.

mueller mirror.png

The Object of Mueller’s investigation is to not go away. Mueller is the beachhead that invents incoming German artillery fire. The enemy is over the hill only because Mueller says he is. Culled from the same infernal cauldron as the War on Terror, Mueller emanates from nowhere and everywhere and is as durable as the capacity for human terror (i.e. inexhaustible). The perpetual motion machine from Lawfare Hell. 

As Adam Hill points out, this in perpetuum feature accomplishes two simultaneous objectives. One, it permanently sub-optimizes Trump’s Presidency and two, it permits Rosenstein to forever dish his favored response to Congressional questions: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question because of the ongoing nature of the investigation.” Here’s Hill:

“…Rosenstein and others embarrassed by DOJ’s actions may derive raison d’être, if not safety, from the never-ending nature of the investigation. And like Leonard Shelby’s investigative file, the Russia investigation has become a puzzle that is designed to never be solved. Because to do so would end the “ongoing investigation” excuse that keeps the cause of DOJ’s embarrassment under wraps.”

Trump’s filling the ‘hollowed out’ core of our Madisonian ornamental facade with larger-than-lifeness, guts, bluster and smarts. No one but him could do it! He’s restoring operative value to the Constitution –and just in time too.

They really should think about moving CNN off-air as it affords the opposition unprecedented access into the Trumanite-cheerleader set at the height of their real-time disarray, railing against the treason our POTUS (how many have denied them as their own?) displayed on foreign soil (while remaining oblivious to the treason they spew daily against our government from NYC).

cnn cooper.png

The sheer incredulity of the CNN panel (here) is an odd delight to behold. It serves to remind us they’re not in the game of overt duplicity. These people are genuinely gobsmacked. Their government is under attack. And not by the Russians. By us.

Nor will they convert easily. Their identities, their statuses are wed to a superseded vision. Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

The government that feeds them, promotes them, cocktails with them, advances them in their careers is one side of our Double Government. It is that government to which Trump flashed treasonous moments, to which he even implied poses a greater threat to him than does Putin’s Russia. I couldn’t agree more with POTUS.

We are the Forces of Reclamation. They are The Forces of Departure. They dream of vacating the Walmart stench for better things: supranationalism, globalism. We just want our Union back.

It’s as though the nation has double-vision, with the elite gazing through the Trumanite lens and We, The People holding down the Madisonian fort. Yes, Trump is exhibiting treasonous tendencies towards this Trumanite outgrowth. It’s the impertinent nature of cancer to think that it is the rightful body and we are the intruder. Expect a fight for the Body Politic. 

Madison’s Constitution is on Trump’s side –as are We the People.

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The Cancer Thinks It’s the Body

David Bowie’s Blackstar Revisited

On December 6th 2015, I posted a link to my Bowie Blackstar essay on this very Full Spectrum Domino blog here.

I had completed the original effort in November 2015, a few weeks prior to Bowie’s January 2016 death. In fact I went so far as to procure the gettheebehind.me domain for the sole purpose of hosting the essay. One, I was tickled that the URL even existed (Thank you Montenegro!). And two, an infernal, Ephesian behindness is germane to my sprawling kitchen-sink inquiry.

Never having bothered to renew the domain, I’ve just now managed to retrieve the essay from the Way Back Machine. Way cool! Most of the links have been cleaned up. 

But what really compelled me to perform this housekeeping now is a video out just today from Israeli philosopher Doreen Dotan (The Cosmic Rays: Cosmic Intelligence Arrived on Earth! Yay!)

Dotan offers her interpretation of Torah to explain the scientifically-noted increase in cosmic rays across the solar system. My attention was drawn in particular to her descriptions –naturally from a Jewish perspective– of our limited spectrum perception, the Jews’ responsibility for converting hidden light to visible form through rigorous Torah study, the Hebrew meaning of blackstar, the process of extracting the ‘pearls, rubies and diamonds’ of wisdom, in effect, mining the light, (from about 11:35 onward, although I would recommend a complete viewing; there’s much more as well as some neat surprises).

solar min

There’s no sense listing point-for-point here the myriad thematic consistencies Ms. Dotan’s video shares both with my 2015 essay and the Bowie video/song presentation. An interested viewer/reader will discover them on his own.

Finally, a caveat on Torah interpretation. I have a very close friend and daily student of Torah who takes grave exception to many of Dotan’s interpretations. Thus I provide this information not with any authoritative conviction (I am neither Jew, not reader of Hebrew), but only to share some intriguing conceptual similarities. Caveat emptor.

I’ve written quite a bit of stuff around the web on Bowie over the years. Here are just a few additional links:

Red Book, Red Sail – A Jungian-Bowie blog

“Where Are We Now?” A Still Life in Moving Frame  (Bright Lights Film Journal, January 31, 2013; includes discussion of Tony Oursler’s work.)

The Angel of History’s Outstretched, Crumpled Wings: Marketing David Bowie (Pop Matters, March 12, 2013)

_____________________________

how we hid

By Norman Ball  (November 2015)

 

Recent developments in cognitive science find common cause with David Bowie’s new short-movie Blackstar where the latter’s solipsism dating back to We Are the Dead (‘I wondered if you saw the things my way’) and Sound and Vision, among others, receives a fresh, dark airing. (Note: As the focus of this ‘ranging essay’ expanded beyond the new Bowie video-song, I went back and hot-linked some of the more obscure Bowie lyric references to assist a non-Bowie audience. It’s also fairly burdened with links for those who wish to tumble down their own pet rabbit holes.)

The eyes, it turns out, are the center of it all. The challenge comes in sorting through the valances, good and ill, that lie behind all that our vision insists we see. This skepticism extends to the Bowie presentation itself. What forces does he herald? How does he come to know what he so clearly knows?

camera theory.png

My fondness for the terms herald and heraldic device (the latter from poet Robert Duncan’s Letters XVII), which appear herein frequently, originates with Bowie himself. In fact I recall reading the Cameron Crowe interview as a kid (‘David Bowie: Ground Control to Davy Jones’, Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976) and registering a strangely durable mental note of one passage in particular long before it became a staple of Internet Bible thumpers:

“Rock has always been the devil’s music, you can’t convince me that it isn’t. I honestly believe everything I’ve said—I believe rock and roll is dangerous…I feel that we’re only heralding something even darker than ourselves” (Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976)

I prefaced my essay (circa 2010) on the Jungian-Bowie blog Red Book Red Sail with the second bit, noting at the time how,“‘Herald’ is a startling, non-accidental word. Bowie typically exhibits an eccentric though careful vocabulary…Heraldry always points beyond itself, or is it behind itself?”

It’s precisely the ‘what’s behind what’s in front?’ mystery that spurs my perennial, core interest. Inquiring eyes want to peer around dark corners, especially as so many of rock’s own inner circle are quick to pose Satan’s lair as their inspirational backstop. Occam’s razor is blunter still: what the hell’s going on if not Hell itself? Some serious ‘splaining is in order.

The heraldic question is finding indirect resonance, not to mention a strange bedfellow, in cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman who may be on the cusp of a truly Copernican breakthrough with his Interface Theory of Perception. (See ‘Objects of Consciousness’, Frontiers of Psychology, by Donald D. Hoffman & Chetan Prakash, June 17, 2014; stalwart scientist Hoffman, who frequently rails against metaphysical ‘hand-waving’ would in all likelihood be distressed over the deployment of his theory in this manner. That’s understandable.)

Noting how the process of vision utilizes billions of neurons and trillions of synapses and commands an astonishing one-third of the brain’s cortex, Hoffman suggests that objects are highly processed, representational icons of a far deeper reality which has been hidden (occulted) from us by evolutionary forces that propel our sensory processing toward more stylized renditions. Translation? Objects are inside our heads.

The truth of the matter is, truth be damned. Consistent with evolutionary processes, vision works very hard at producing fitting icons to ensure our survival. Thus the ‘true’ role of vision is to deceive (overlook?) and filter prodigiously so we might live, procreate and—with the advent of culture and leisure—believe. But in the sense of fashioning our belief systems, how disturbing it is to learn that we can scarcely believe our own eyes and that self-deception is an evolutionary ‘advance’.  (In the Monte Carlo simulations Hoffman performs, evolution kills truth in the laboratory every time.)

Seers die. Breeders lie.

It may also be that artists, wizards and philosophers subvert this reductionism with alternate visions that –in reality– stress enhanced ‘truthiness’ (or conceivably, competing brands of deception) over creaturely survival. What’s more exciting though is how our venerable, metaphysical narratives are gaining fresh scientific credence via mathematical and probabilistic overlays. Of course there are antecedents to Hoffman’s anti-materialist approach, even in science; Max Planck being an exceptionally significant one. 

Analogizing the computer desktop, Hoffman notes that when we drag the blue folder to the trashcan, there is no trashcan nor blue folder lurking behind the screen. The Windows desktop is a highly representational, though quite useful, extended metaphor. The ‘reality behind’ the interface is vastly more complex, consisting of unseen microprocessors and electrical charges that defy most users’ understanding. Indeed the subterranean and surface worlds bear little resemblance to one another. However the iconic display provides a fitting enough interface such that a successful experience on the device is possible.

As Hoffman says, though we take the interface reality seriously (deleting the folder would cost us a full week’s work) we do not take it literally. This workspace icon description combines Bowie/Duncan’s heraldic devices and, I would suggest, Freud’s and Ernest Beckers’ Vital Lie. (“It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours.”—Denial of Death, Ernest Becker). Caveat emptor in all cases. A June 11, 2015 Hoffman TED talk is embedded below: 

hoffman vid

The cube’s a figment of the eye. Connect the dots. Accept the lie.

 

Expanding on Hoffman’s ‘blue folder’ example…

Bill drops dead right in front of us. Nice guy, that Bill. Such a pity. We dispose of his body in short order, effectively scrubbing his icon from the workspace. While he was alive, it behooved us to sustain a qualified belief that he and his body were one and the same whenever we needed to interface with him. Indeed seeing his head occasionally bob up above the garden hedge, we’d often call out ‘Hey Bill!’ On every occasion he would respond back. Perfectly workable. But with the retirement of his ‘icon’, we can find ourselves plagued anew with thoughts about the depth and extent of his existence. Many of us realize his body was little more than a heraldic interface for a consciousness (or soul) that lurked behind or within his body. (Assuming you and he are like me, and not simply one of David Chalmer’s zombies; but that’s a whole ‘nother level of solipsistic dread!)

Speaking as a Christian, I took Bill’s body seriously but not literally. He was an embodied soul. When his body reached its expiration date, his soul—which precedes, inhabits and survives the former—departed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; so goes the body-icon. (The same cannot be said for atheists, materialists and physicalists who believe Bill has departed in all but our memory of him; for them, Bill is his body.) We cremate Bill’s blue folder and offer some words of remembrance. Suddenly Hoffman’s work, rooted in science, puts skeptics of transcendant existence on the defensive. They are forced to re-addressthe central question: where did the operative reality behind Bill go?

 

I think therefore I am the Great I Am

Bring me the Viscous Things. I’m ravenous for competing visions.

 

Adding to our sense of unease, all things Outside are an inside job. The falling tree produces neither sound nor vision in an empty forest because there’s no such thing as an empty forest, that is, a forest unsummoned by consciousness. Conventional notions of perception favor the existential weight of objects. However the human eye (really the eye-mind tandem) is so much more than a passive photographic device. Instead, it creates our reality interface from virtual whole-cloth, that is, from a remarkably narrow band of visible electromagnetic and light waves. (One can only wonder from what horror of rooms and malign Principalities it spares us.) Our aural perception is similarly truncated. Reality is an imaginative construct. Or as cognitive scientist Gregory Hickok puts it: “Our perception is nothing more than a useful fiction.”

Hoffman, a radical monist, debunks the object permanence myth—internalized by most human babies by nine months—that objective reality has an existence independent of our perception. On the contrary, says Hoffman, objects are introduced into existence only when various photons are cast, upside-down, on the backs of our retinas. This assertion is very close to 18th century Christian philosopher Bishop Berkeley’s esse est percipi (aut percipere) [to be is to be preceived (or to perceive)]. In essence, the room is there only to the extent there are photons striking the eye and allowing its creation in the brain. No less a seer than Einstein struggled with this bedeviling optical delusion wrapped in quantum paradox, oddly enough reporting his misgivings to colleague Abraham Pais by way of the moon: 

“We often discussed his notions on objective reality. I recall that on one walk Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it” (Pais, 1979). Einstein was troubled by interpretations of quantum theory that entail that the moon does not exist when unperceived.” –from Pais A. (1979), Einstein and the Quantum Theory

 

As for that fabled lump of meat between our ears, the brain is as much an object-myth as are the trees and vases that purportedly stand before us. Carried to its radical (though logical) extreme, Hoffman’s theory makes short work of the mind-brain dichotomy. The brain doesn’t exist. Nor do our eyes, though both are somehow implicated in ways as yet unimagined to that ultimate inward-out mystery, consciousness.

The implications are clear should Hoffman’s theory prevail. Physicalism should be seeking a sublet with the Flat Earth Society. ‘Hard-eyed’ realists have it all wrong. Flesh, blood and front-men are the true figments. How could I not help but look at you and wonder if you saw things my way? Proust expresses a similar longing and wonderment: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

anisocoria.png

 

Nor can much solace be found gazing into the reality-factories of others. Shepherds of the spirit realm, eyes are the visibly haunted portals of the commandeered souls we pass every day on the street. (I’m reminded of the Jesuit exorcist, novelist and ‘trained eye’ Fr. Malachy Martin who once commented on the number of haunted, demon-occluded eyes he encountered just strolling the streets of New York City.) If reality is an iconography produced mostly by imaginative energies and if some manage better than others to impose their imaginative visions on the collective conscious, then it pays to understand the affiliations of the inspirational source, back, front and center. 

In his book Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought, Martin Jay suggests that the dilating pupil, “can unintentionally betray an inner state, subtly conveying interest or aversion to the beholder”. Kevin J. Hunt (from the essay cited in the picture above) adds a Bowie spin to this ambivalence:

“Part of the uncanniness transmitted by Bowie’s eyes is due to the simultaneously mixed messages they appear to impart: dilation of one pupil potentially signifies attraction, whilst contraction of the other more likely shows recoil of interest.” 

Listen to me, don’t listen to me? Ocular ambiguity could be the ultimate silent gun. So, keep a hand on your heart and keep your eyes peeled, boys and girls. This is no less important for those who’ve relied for decades on a left-handed anisocoric rock god from Brixton as their go-to reality arbiter. For all we know, his mind could be in thrall to Descarte’s evil demon. He is on record as seeing things turned around and upside-down. The amount of light an eye shuttles to the brain quite possibly has a bearing on the fabric of reality itself.

mirror blind

 

Might our eyes be betwixt hoverers, neither fully out there nor firmly affixed organs in our heads? Adding to the mid-distance fog, Freud avails the strange ‘disembodied eye parable’ of E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 story The Sandman to propel his 1919 essay ‘The Uncanny’ (or Das Unheimliche which Freud’s etymological study discovered, interestingly enough, equates to the demonic in Hebrew and Arabic). The uncanny occurs when the familiar is stopped in its tracks, acquiring a disconcerting unfamiliarity as when the eyes he sees us with do not match the eyes we see him with.

Bowie’s mismatched eyes solidify and prolong the hovering effect that forms the very basis of uncanniness. A stubborn blind spot forever haunts our locked gaze. While this alienating effect creates a rather plausible alien, Lis Møller in her book The Freudian Reading: Analytical and Fictional Constructions notes even Freud’s failure to collapse the distance:

“The Sandman is an enigma Freud sets out to solve, but that which is enigmatic appears to be inextricably bound up with those aspects of the story that are set off by this reading—those aspects for which his archaeological reconstruction cannot account. The enigma lies ‘in between’ as it were…The focus is the figure of the ‘eye’ in Hoffman’s story—the eye that constitutes the point of departure of the psychoanalytic interpretation, but which at the same time confronts us with that which this interpretation ignores or excludes.”

Clearly, the eyes have it in spades. Yet, an unresolvable infinity can hover between two pairs of eyes intent on regarding one another, (not unlike the mise en abyme of two mirrors). This is no less true for an odd-sock(et) set.

Idolatry is the elevating of one object over another when the truth is no objects possess any transcendent power since no objects exist. Careful then what might be gained or lost when exchanging a gazely stare across the idolatrous abyss. (Nietzsche: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”If you can see him, he can see you. But does this shared field of vision offer a fair fight? This is after all the man who sold the world. Sold it on what, one has to wonder. 

 

Having fairly kicked the eye in the head, this inquiry now moves out beyond our muddled noggins to the myriad unperceivable entities that lurk Outside our consciousness: interdimensional trespassers, extraterrestrial interlopers, fallen angels, spirit-world tricksters, ex-girlfriends and their complicit heralds that seem to share an awareness of the contours and limitations of our sensory faculties, and vie in the middle-realm for the deflection and theft of our love (John 10:10: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.)

Put another way, there are active and formal occultists, in league with nonhuman entities, who together exploit the naturally occluded faculties of humankind. 

One elemental background figure, far darker than ourselves, who has competed since the beginning of time to manipulate and control our realities is the Great Deceiver, or the Devil of yore. The yore part is apt, great artists assure us, because—via pen, paint and song—they have succeeded in ‘de-literalizing’ him into nonexistence such that, today, he barely hangs on in the backwatered province of pastiche and heavy metal send-up. Others are not so sure.

Recent tragic events in The City of (En)Light(enment)’s le Bataclan nightclub prompt a re-familiarization with Charles Baudelaire in a hurry, in particular his 1864 prose-poetry collection, Paris Spleen, where we find Lucifer in a loquacious mood. I had already been pondering that devil of late, thinking in fact he had never lost control. In fact so much couldn’t have happened had his intimate proximity not been so effectively veiled behind heraldic devices. This is the Prestige Act of the modern era. How did the Devil manage to vanish ‘right before our eyes’ while converging ever more closely on our souls, “transforming from a symbol of evil in a Manichean universe to an articulate arbiter” of wealth and taste (from Satanic Indifference and Ultimate Reality’, by Brian J. Reis, LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research, Claremont Graduate University, 2013)?

The culture crowd applauds genius with indiscriminate abandon, never asking which Principality of the Air underwrites the uncanny effort. As we’ve seen, even science has cast a fresh eye on immaterial realities and spooky actions at a near-distance. This unconcern is a fascinating phenomenon in and of itself, especially as our real struggles arise from all we cannot see. Yet, in true Eyes Wide Shut fashion (the latter itself being a potpourri of hidden meanings), culture aficionados seem content to busy themselves in the intellectual and aesthetic folds of Satan’s robes, ignoring the implications of the occupant within. How did this invisibility cloak come to be?

Demon He flung to earth

 

For the purpose of this discussion, Satan’s coy evolution into the midst of our indifference warrants a brief recounting. Seizing the baton from a stubbornly Catholic Dante, Milton proceeded to make Satan more interesting than God. The Romantics, via Shelley and Byron, elevated him in order to balance the Manichean scales of good and evil and obtain for God a proper adversary. Twain takes it further, imbuing him with a compartment of truth. Lovecraft shifts the onus to the universe at-large which he describes as being so supremely indifferent and oblivious to Man’s presence that all anthropocentric notions of good and evil are destined to burn out, unnoticed. Human affiliations, godly or demonic, thus extinguish themselves in the fullness of time. 

By the late nineteenth century, Satan is eager to escape superstition and move onto the Enlightenment and some really cool science experiments. Through his lieutenant Abraxas (the demon of ‘magic’ in the Arthur C. Clarke sense of any advanced technology being, “indistinguishable from magic.”), Satan has science covered—and my how he has us marching to its drum at an inhuman clip! Few grasp that the driving imperative behind transhumanity is nothing less than the Babelian bid for immortality. The prospect of cosmic immunity is a tantalizing one for those whose sin-driven lives make death all the more dreaded. At the deepest unexpressed murmurings of their souls, the damned fear Judgment Day like no others. What though if death could be forestalled forever? Lazarus interrupted.

By the time we reach the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, Satan is fully acculturated (and I’ll swear on a stack of Blackstar Bibles Jagger and Baudelaire entertain the same Luciferean permutation). However to imply that a succession of artists are the autonomous ‘re-imaginers’ of Satan gets things turned the wrong way round. Satan doesn’t require our imaginations for his existence. What he seeks is a cultural and artistic sensibility consistent with his eschatological designs for a given human era. Propitious artists are guided accordingly. In short, he’s cool with ceding authorship, anointing front-men and ‘inspiring pens’ (automatism much, Mr. Burroughs?)

Drive like a demon. Satan has human history to conduct and needs to reach a prearranged place at a designated time. The Man won’t wait. The End Times must crescendo aptly into the Antichrist or else the whole show gets dinged for bad choreography. Yes, everything has already happened and the battle is already won. We’re in the paradoxical realm of free will and determinism. For reasons known only to God, we tread a preordained path fully endowed with the choice to venture good or evil.

Thus Baudelaire’s Satan is already signaling his boredom with cultural pedagogues (he can sniff rock ‘n roll just around the corner). With Christianity largely subdued on the continent and the artist fully permissioned as spiritual arbiter, the Devil’s preoccupations will lie elsewhere in the century ahead (my bold-face):

“He complained in no way of the evil reputation under which he lived, indeed, all over the world, and he assured me that he himself was of all living beings the most interested in the destruction of superstition…my strange host declared to me that he didn’t disdain, in many cases, to inspire the pens, the words, and the consciences of pedagogues, and that he almost always assisted in person, in spite of being invisible, at all the scientific meetings.”—Charles Baudelaire, The Generous Gambler

Today, our worst superstitions have been vanquished, seemingly tamed and commodified onto black polyester T-shirts emblazoned with Morbid AngelBlack Sabbath, etc. to which no one raises an eyebrow (never mind a batted eye) anymore.

Consider for example a front-man in 2015 called The Devil exorting a demonic invocation (Song? The Eagles of Death Metal’s Kiss the Devil has no discernible hook, chorus or verses) only to have his ‘prayers’ answered in the form of unmitigated evil bearing not-so-silent guns—yet none save the usual shrill chorus of evangelicals thinks to offer comment. One need only sample the vehement scorn visited upon those on Youtube and discussion boards who dare suggest what Eagles front-man Jesse Hughes stated unequivocally on prior occasions. Eyes wide shut.

In a way (and as regrettable as it may be to Hughes now) this unabashed literalness is the most comprehensible part of what otherwise is an epic, foretold clash of Principalities on par with 911 (an event pregnant with its own foreshadowings). Were we to re-literalize the Devil (in effect reconstruct superstition) the ‘rationale’ (albeit couched in supernaturalness) would become immediately self-evident. The Devil was summoned. The Devil arrived. Yet there are powerful societal forces that resist this rendition. Why?

Fellow Jungian intronaut and visual artist Tanja Stark’s insights pervade this essay, particularly her indispensable synchronistic linking of the Eagles of Death Metal band with Blackstar. Her recent blog essay Eagles in my Daydreams, Diamonds in my Eyes is very much a companion piece to this that I can’t recommend enough. The title of course is taken from a line from Blackstar and directly implicates the song in some pre-cognitional business, entangling the Eagles of Death Metal and the Deftones in a tightly-wound script. Beware deaf fools, the tones you cannot hear. I urge you to read Stark’s compelling breadcrumb trail to fully absorb her thesis.

Stark and I have chatted around this territory since the 2012 inaugural of my Jungian-Bowie blog, Red Book Red Sail (which consists mostly of 2009 writings; even earlier, formative ramblings, circa 1999-2000, are cited in Peter R-Koenig’s The Laughing Gnostic— David Bowie and the Occult and elsewhere; herehere and here are some recent ones). 

aim for the Apple, Bill

 

A brief comment is warranted here on Jungian synchronicity or, better, acausality. Precognition is not as counterintuitive as one might at first think. Remarked Einstein: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Space-time possesses physical properties. There are vantage-points in the universe where the totality of human history is observable. God exists outside time (what Spinoza called sub species aeternitatis), and often shares through prophecy what linear time prevents us from seeing. The 1976 ‘Station to Station’ locomotive with the warning horn is the last thing Brother Terry hears as he lays his head on the tracks in 1985. How could it be otherwise? Traumatic events reverberate—overflow in all directions—beyond the chaste tracks of time’s stations. Everything’s already happened. This makes our lives seem no less eventful.

Others express skeptical amazement at how fine-tuned these entanglements can often be. There are precedents supporting this tight-woundness. For anyone who has spoken with bona fide Torah scholars (spare us the the Youtube jockeys please), every moment of history—your life, my life—is embedded in the Torah. The whole of human existence is a unitary exhalation of God. For the cleverest angel, the backwardation of human language in such a manner as to create twofold meaning could very well amount to a walk in the park. This is a speculation, not an affirmation of the backmasking claims.

How fascinating though that the human herald always feels obliged to divest authorship. When automatism vanguard William Burroughs describes Naked Lunch as the “horribly wrong” product of a “hostile entity”, we can well imagine a competing, antithetical force (some cosmic Blackstar scribe) insisting that its own counter-text receive equal airing. Similarly, when John Razimus claims to find unsavory messages (including the one heading this section) within Blackstar when it’s played backwards (that they are alleged to be in French would please Baudelaire immensely!), we want to laugh outright except, in all seriousness, we can’t.

Back to beating the devil…

As attested to by the post-Enlightenment blindness (Brian Reis calls it ‘satanic indifference‘) that today’s culture swims around in, Baudelaire’s Devil has indeed succeeded in destroying superstition precisely as he had hoped in his 1844 recounting to the star-struck man of the cloth. He is everywhere. No one can see him. His symbols have been expropriated as a carnival act. And yet, despite being the object of derisive parody and dead superstition, the Devil becomes, oddly enough, more potent, certainly more proximate, to the unobserved moments in our lives. (“I—of whom one says so much evil—am often enough bon diable, to make use of one of your vulgar locutions.”—The Generous Gambler) The kids stab the air with horned fists. It’s a great night out. Yet the soul never sleeps. Our best attempts at mindless leisure are always attended by a restless menagerie of competing Principalities:

“The soul is so invisible a thing, often useless and sometimes so troublesome, that I did not experience, as to this loss, more than that kind of emotion I might have, had I lost my visiting card in the street.”—The Generous Gambler

Culture warriors can wield allegorical and metaphorical alibis all they like. The Eagles of Death Metal’s Hughes, a professed (though can we say deeply conflicted) Christian begs to differ. Here he is clarifying any confusion, pre-Bataclan of course:

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to take full fucking credit right now for fucking the destruction of everything good, OK? Because it’s true,” he says. “Everything that the Bible thumpers said about Elvis is fucking true. It destroyed everything: Intimacy, the ability for people to be married — society at large is gone.”—from ‘The Devil and Jesse Hughes’, Grantland, October 2015

Hughes never fails to give everything up. I suggested much the same here in 2009:

“There is a tendency to write it all off to the lurid imaginations of bored teenagers i.e. KISS is no more than a 3D Marvel comic book. So leave the kids alone as, mostly, they’ll be alright…Atala, situated in the hips, is the lower chakra of fear and lust, source of Elvis’ pelvic gyrations…However Satan’s masterstroke, in the heavy metal genre, is his reliance upon disarming honesty…There is no subtlety or subterfuge in Megadeth announcing, “I am the devil’s advocate, a salesman if you will…Come join me in my infernal depths…”—fromHeadlong Plunges Down Mineless Shafts, Red Book Red Sail blog

Video

My guess? Hughes is a lapsed bi-polar Southern Pentecostal waist-high in porn stars and good drugs with the hope of circling back to Calvary someday (a surprisingly common aspiration). He’s a woefully transparent heraldic device, a practicing Satanic Christian if such a denomination exists who insists in more than one interview that a hotter place in Hell is his certain lot. Whereas Bowie, with his decades in the craft, is in all likelihood a full-on conscious agent, a Faust of the first-order. He knows exactly what he’s doing and who he works for. Faust was a brilliant man who inspired envy and awe. Yet look how things turned out for him. The mortal coil is a deception-riddled realm where the intellect and the soul need never break bread together. Our culture has jettisoned moral consideration. Talent and ability are the sole heralds under which it now sails. Was morality just one more superstition?

"the hallways became a lbyrinth" --Jesse Hughes describing the Bataclan event

Red Book Red Sail blog collage (Aug 2012) gun – concert – minotaur – labyrinth

 

Guns. Guns. Guns. They came to me in spades during my Red Book Red Sail project and for reasons, at the time, unknown as attested to by the blog banner assembled in late 2012 (below). Then this blog entry in May 2103 after TND’s release, On the Horns of a Hypostatic Dilemma: Guitar, Axe, Gun. What is recourse to a gun but the impetuous dispatching of an icon? Consciousness cannot be grazed by bullets. It simply reemerges elsewhere behind another form. There are not enough guns in the universe to halt the perpetual reemergence of all that must come forth. 

 

The supernatural is the sandbox of the Supermen in our midst. Yet if we’ve learned anything watching the Straussian nation-destroyers of late—pointing Takfirist against Shia against Wahhabist—all that lies beyond good and evil is insufferable hubris followed by further boatloads of evil (The Bible knew this: ‘evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.’ 2 Timothy, 3:13). What we’re living through are the effects of sustained deception. Our Noble Liars have lost the place. The Internet makes quick work of their duplicity. False narratives crumble, under cyber-scrutiny, within hours if not minutes. The more evil normalizes within our culture, the more culture becomes parched for normalcy. Lacking a proper foothold, natural processes find themselves increasingly eclipsed. The Lord of Deception is living up to his name and well he should. These are his crowning hours.

Most revealingly, Bowie shows no signs of dismantling his Tower to the Sky. After a ten-year hiatus, his construction process renewed in earnest with 2013’s The Next Day. He’s not retiring. He’s deifying. Doubling down. As Peter-R Koenig posited years ago, “What next, godhead?” Indeed. What’s left?

Where The Next Day wanted to go, had it not settled back into the comfortable shoes of collaborators-past, was ‘If You Can Hear Me’ and the oblique confession of ‘Heat’. Blackstar follows through, erasing all ambiguity. We’re past agnostic torn-between-ness. All seers must choose. Bowie’s on the Dark Team. His Father runs the Black Iron Prison on the hill behind the village.

As we’ve noted, the best seers (the cleverest ones out there) may be consciously manipulated liars or oblivious heraldic devices. Popular culture—cleverly portrayed in the most banal terms as blow-off time sandwiched between work and sleep—is where today’s happnin’ preachers hang out. Larkin’s churches are crumbling relics. Leisure (or as Lucifer describes it to Baudelaire the ‘bizarre affection of ennui’) is the devil’s plaything, certainly the silly space where he does his most furtive and productive work. Most people are on look-out for swiveling Linda Blair heads and cinematic spews of guacamole-vomit. Now that’s evil (‘cause Wes Craven told them so). However, Hannah Arendt assured us the most effective forms of evil are officious, silent and banal. C.S. Lewis: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual onethe gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” What would these chaste folks have made of a Slayer concert?

“it’s the uncanny feeling that the band are creating something that’s not entirely down to their own consciousness…” —Alex Needham on Station to Station

 

Laying aside for a moment all that cannot be laid aside, Blackstar is Bowie’s most imposing piece of work, certainly in terms of spiritual portent, since he flashed no color at an earlier station circa 1976. Here I am again says the Great I am, as tall in my room as ever. The title misdirects somewhat as what we see depicted is not so much a star as a sun occluded by an ‘affronting’ moon (though perhaps not our own). The solar eclipse heralds an imposed narrative, a false prophet, crept in from the side and usurping the Source of All Light. Those who expropriate the tools of reality production succeed in imposing their imaginative constructs on others. This is a usurpation that informs the false idolatries of fascism and fa-fashion.

As though fashioned for the express purpose of hiding the sun, our moon is sized and distanced for optimal occlusion—or occultation (when one object passes between an observer and another object, completely hiding the latter.) For all our burgeoning knowledge about the backend of the universe, no one really knows what the moon is or from whence it came. Jewish mystics insist it (and the sun) exist solely to convey signs from God—a notion not unsympathetic to Hoffman’s consciousness-driven universe. Alternate theories abound.

In Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, Carl Jung notes the alchemical tradition’s view of Saturn as the ‘star of the sun’ or ‘black star’. In a Great Conjunction event (occurring every twenty years), Saturn crosses Jupiter. Maleficence occults beneficence. In Under the Sign of Saturn, Susan Sontag describes the saturnine personality as displaying (my bold-face), “dissimulation, secretiveness…masked by…the most scrupulous manipulation.” Saturn (Satan) was considered by medieval astrologers to be the abode of the Devil. But that’s a whole other rabbit-hole and rabbit-hole-jumping (the tireless quest for cultural referents) encourages the ‘ennui’ of delay, keeping us from that most crucial rendezvouses—with God.

Speaking to the ‘iconicity of the text’ and noting how, “idolatry is connected symbolically to the demonic other side”, Judaic Studies scholar Elliot Wolfson in his book Poetic Thinking translates a passage from the Tiqqunei Zohar thusly (my bold-face):

“The place of the Shekhinah is in the west, which is the back (ahor), but this is also the region of the other gods (Elohim aherin), the demonic potencies led by Samael. The latter is identified as Saturn, a planet that is frequently depicted in malevolent terms, the astrological maleficus. The letters of the Hebrew name for this planet, shabbetai, can be translated into the expression ayyeh Shabbat, “where is Sabbath?” This play on words denotes that the demonic force of Saturn is the antithesis of the holy force of Sabbath.”

Life is not a random daisy-chain of this bumping into that. Keeping in mind the Torah example, human history is an eschatology planned down to the hairs on our heads. We don’t careen into the present moment. We reach it because we had to and because we elected to. Time’s arrow (a stubborn illusion) is far less important than the force animating each iconic gesture. Language is a heraldic device for two competing first-order Principalities, Good and Evil. Between these poles, the curious mystery of human free will contends.

First they steal your moon in order to occult your sun. After that, trust is easily ushered through the strangest doors. Bowie could probably teach us a lot about the alt-God deification process. Though he may not know why (and I suspect he does), he seems to knows how. All that can be said is that, one day a leper messiah emerged from the beer-light to guide us. No one asked to see a passport, an astonishing lapse when you consider all that was at stake. And yet, the most important things are wagered away daily on the palest excuses. It only looks like a game. The gambler wagers sin in the guise of harmless pastime. The highest stakes shadow every played hand.

My conviction has only grown that, with Bowie, we’re being bathed in some dead serious moonlight. Our favorite heralder, by now completely shorn of pop music industry obligations, seems to be asserting his significance with unabashed vigor. Nowadays, pictures of The Man are released with such parsimonious self-veneration, the Vatican gift shop could take a lesson in mythos-building. If video killed the radio star, Twitter celebritized the bathroom break. Bucking the trend, Bowie holds himself in reserve like precious urine. Hyper-veneration ensues. Video director Johan Renck gets teary-eyed upon receiving The Call to Collaborate. Momus has a tribute cover out before the ink dries on the master’s voice. In the theophany business, less is always more. Bowie quite possibly learned this from the same source that instructed him never to smile on album covers.

There’s no point rehashing my The Man Who Sold the World thesis here (as it’s tirelessly hashed out on the blog), but it describes a variant of the preternatural stare shared between the Gambler and the minister. Such are the encounters that define a fate and activate a herald. 

Hermaphroditic estrangement: “I harbor Jesus in one half of my heart and Muhammad in the other.” —Khalil Gibran

 

Bowie has toyed with the clash of civilizations since ‘Loving the Alien’. And indeed, the Islamic shadow-form has been building for some time, (ever since Zbigniew Brzezinski activated the jihad archetype in 1979 as a means to overextending the Soviet Empire with ‘their own Vietnam’). ISIS is everybody’s shadow, a Rorschach with a universalized imprimatur. Who didn’t play a hand in its emergence, either directly or indirectly? Like Goethe’ssorceror’s apprentice, our weaponized nihilism has proven itself an autonomous and unwieldy broomstick. ISIS has gone viral and now looms as a global epidemic.

Writing for The Western Muslim in 2008, I attempted to translate for a western mindset the rigid core lurking at the heart of neo-liberalism that lay begging for its own shadowy recoil. Less cryptic observers often express this as the ‘liberal paradox’:

“Many liberals (in the classical sense) are contemptuous of all orthodoxies, even as they fail to see their own. In this absolute adherence to relativity, they share a feature common to all fundamentalists—intolerance– cloaked albeit, and with devilish paradox, in the mantra of tolerance. Certainly they are intolerant of anyone seeking to impede their own forays into another’s sacred terrain. The liberal permissions himself and brooks no sanctions on his inquiries. This has been called (most notably by Wendy Steiner in her book ‘The Scandal of Pleasure’) the liberal paradox.”

Oddly enough, In Viral Synchronicity: Avatar and Seal (Oct 2014), I cite Bowie’s ‘Loving the Alien’, something I practically never do in non-Bowie writing. But the mirrors were everywhere as were the mirror-blind. Clearly, we were being asked to look at ourselves, at our explicit culpability in the emergence of the twin nihilistic viruses, Ebola (escapee from a CIA lab?) and ISIS. Now it’s clear ISIS is as much a creature of western intelligence agencies as it is a spontaneous and organic off-shoot of Saudi Wahhabism. Syrian jihadism is also a flashpoint for the simultaneous reigniting of Neo-Ottoman, Pan-Arab, Greater Israel and Persian aspirations. Poe’s ‘Red Death’ helped to differentiate the two strains of deadly virus, the biologic and the ideological: “Ebola is the Avatar. Isis is the Seal.” Both are as contagious, and unstoppable, as evil itself. German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfe speaks of meeting ostensibly ‘assimilated’ first-generation European kids of Islamic heritage from top-flite western schools who walked away from bright ‘modern’ futures to take up medieval barbarism in Syria and Iraq. Rule Britannia is being roundly rejected. The shadow is asserting.

But we drift a bit from Bowie whose own excursions tend to wander. Having a Muslim spouse (by birth at least) and a biracial daughter, he is bound to reflect these global tremors in his art. And he does. Those who listen aloud pick it up. In August 2014, Stark posted Christians and the Unbelievers Hanging by the Cross and Nail with the ‘Loving the Alien’ video in sad recognition of ISIS’ practice of crucifixion of the Zoroastrian Yazidi sect. Here’s Stark again from “Confronting Bowie’s Mysterious Corpses” in the Bloomsbury book Strange Fascinations:

“Bowie’s linking of violence, spiritual belief and death, and the lack of contemporary, culturally resonant frameworks to meaningfully process these powerful energies explored on Outside is intriguing, particularly when considering why people are attracted to violent expressions of belief, such as “Islamic State”.

This recalls for me my 2011 cover recording of The Width of a Circle’, a song Tanja Stark identifies as being in righteous brotherhood with the Eagles’ ‘Who Will Kiss the Devil’. Curiously, the cover begins with an Islamicized version of Warszawa‘s phoneticized chants, almost like a Muslim Call to Prayer. The blackbird evinces the Nietzsche of Ecce Homo. Even more, the bird harbingers the doomed equanimity between Christianity and Islam, a sensibility that Kahlil Gibran internalized all of his life. The video itself is immersed in black stars and pentagrams. I make no claims and seek to convince no one, but merely offer these strange occurrences for the reader’s review.

Who will kiss the devil’s swollen tongue (video)?

 

Though not directly referenced in Blackstar, ISIS is the ill wind blowing ominously off-stage across the Catcher’s rye field. There are three distinct Principalities at work here—faltering Christianity, Lucifer’s Modernity (the heathen lie) and Radicalized Islam—two explicit, one implied (‘the Christians, the unbelievers’ and the merciless believers from the tribe of Ishmael). Rock ‘n roll is one wheel of the devil’s Trojan Horse. Troy has been overwhelmed, as evidenced by the video’s Elvis pelvic gyrations on Mt. Calvary. 

This is an internal or internecine Western struggle. Rock launches a feminized death cult (The feminine is not being deployed here in a positive manner, in my opinion, but more the fem-glam boys with make-up and long hair. This would make it more misogynistic, certainly parodistic, than matriarchal.) Thus the West has lost its moorings (to Luciferean subversion), becoming easy prey to outside foes (such as radically monotheistic Islam, or ISIS).

False idols form egregores, symbiotic arrangements of shared psychic energy, with their followers. Each must see the other as their power is interdependent: Worship me and I will be your slave. Whereas God’s power is apriori of His creation. The Bowie death cult raises an egregore in their midst. That’s the shaggy-bodied Id-like creature. But there’s a larger, exogenous enemy on the horizon.

The barbarians at the gates can only prevail against a weakened foe. The West’s greatest enemy is not ISIS (which is not explicitly referenced in the video and has been denied by the artist as being ‘the message’ of the video, to the extent an official message means anything at all), but the leper messiahs (rock gods) who rot the tradition from within. Are the boys in the band up to the task of defending the city? Bowie pondered this very confrontation decades earlier:

“How many are going to pick up a gun and how many of you are gonna cling to your guitars?”—1976, Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe

ISIS at Bataclan becomes an emissary or instrumentality of the Devil. Not the ‘house devil’ the Templars know from their Christian Bibles, but an alien form, Islam’s Iblīs. Satan roams the whole of the earth and, as we’ve seen, employs a contextual and opportunistic plasticity to match the human moment or context he seeks to corrupt. The devil we know is an odd, familiar comfort, encircling us with culture. This Satan is of altogether exogenous features. 

Damien Hirst Interplanetary Cargo Death Cult

At the moment of execution, Eagles of Death Metal guitarist Dave Catching raises his guitar in a seemingly futile gesture to stop the hail of bullets; though no less futile, some might say, than holding up the cross to banish Satan. This is the same gesture employed by Bowie to ward off the wanton killing spree of TND’s Valentine. Live by the guitar. Die by the Cross.  Christianity is reborn on the blood-drenched floor as people use their bodies, Christ-like, to protect and ‘save’ loved ones. I’ve had my share of bullets. Now I’ll help you with the pain. (This is not an attempt to impose a Christian template on the dead; only that it resonates with me in this context.)

Nobody breaks a song down in the middle like Bowie. The interrupting segue is the Leper Messiah’s attempt at an explanation as to how he saw the Blackstar book lying there on a bench outside the Tavistock Institute on Piccadilly circa ’70 and, well, bravely picked it up and ran with it. Even more confoundingly, we ran after him. There are no true victims here. Bowie’s apologizing for kicking the legs out from under our teetering bullshit faith. On The Next Day, he’d leveled heaps of blame on the Catholic Church (and in an unacceptably sacrilegious manner, in my opinion) for making it all too easy and for sealing rock’s effortless death cult ascent. It all seems rather quaint, a veritable in-house squabble, in light of today’s scary monsters set loose in Paris. Now there’s the devil on an existential search-and-destroy mission. (Though I always hasten to add my profound sympathies to the fallen.)

lazarus.png
Interesting how most think of the risen Lazarus before they do the thirsty one, especially when both may be the same.
caterpillar

 

So, how does the Bowie corpus fit into all of this? Long since graduated from heraldic device to conscious agent, Bowie strikes me as the elder statesman of a culture whose first-order inspirational source has become increasingly demonic. This unremitting yet aimless advance of ennui (fashion in, fashion out) amounts to a stylized death march from one dry well to the next. Therein lies the unquenchable thirst.

Ultimately, souls must stake a claim and drill down beneath the iconography. There is a reservoir for those who seek it. Thirst is not a natural condition. The fate of Tantalus is meant to allegorize punishment, not normalized human existence. (Much as my analysis runs counter to that of my friend Steele Savage I’m not deaf to the Gnostic rendition: Sophia smiling with a sense of release on the day the body is shed to earthly execution. However my inner Calvinist bristles at those who refuse God’s quenching. The Edenic God is not a demiurge, but the Almighty Himself. The serpent is Satan, not a well-meaning Sophia. Caveat emptor, reader.)

Decades of idolatry have solidified an unhealthy master-pupil dynamic. One feels Harold Bloom’s anxiety of influence pulsing beneath the surface as people either try to please or sink their favorite art-daddy. It can get pretty servile pretty fast as world-class allusion-hunters sift clues and surface arcane cultural referents. What did he mean by this, by that? The quest is the thing as it detains the earnest sleuth in the endless folds of deception, delaying his departure for all that really matters. Satan’s genius is as surpassing as his rabbit holes are deep. Many a decoder ring will be burned out mapping the labyrinthine sub-terrain of God’s cleverest angel. And then what? Nothing ever yields anything. Seductive winks yield blind alleys.

On a more personal note, Bowie strikes me as a man of almost palpable loneliness. (Nietzsche would call it solitude.) With his Zarathustran project so consummately realized and in such an individuated manner, one shudders at the endurance that might be required to live it. What axe on earth could shatter the remove of such an unrelatable existence? This is the sort of life project easily regretted in late life. Mountaineers don’t succumb from natural causes. They topple from ever more arduous ascents. I may be conflating David Bowie with David Jones. For the latter’s sake I hope so. 

When the hour is late, diversion (culture) become deadly. Increasingly we will find events weighted with essential meaning, pregnant with portent and yet tantalizingly indecipherable, always just beyond our ken. This keeps us at our decoder rings while our souls pace the floor tapping at our watches. We should be on by now. Satan’s surpassing genius is now more directly engaged against the ever-more surpassing genius of God. The former is after all fighting for his kingdom on earth. At this late juncture, man finds himself increasingly back-watered as an intellectual agent. We are in over our heads, our puny aptitudes vastly exceeded in this titanic struggle. Prayer, the creaturely recourse to mystery and awe, becomes our most articulate response. 

 

baudelaire rock concert

What Baudelaire mistakes for the faces of the past are the tragic fatal faces of modernity, RIP.

In the end we have this lonely rich man Lazarus, ensconced somewhere in Manhattan’s sterile landscape, swimming in rivers of wealth and genuflection, ripping and rewrapping his eternal thirst in the bone-dry immersions of imagery. Every cultural plaudit is due this rapt, still-toiling black-star disciple who has the gestures of dispensation down pat. The danger lies in confusing oasis for desert, in one parched, doomsday mirage after another. We can no longer see who or what stands before us because he has imposed his room on our existence from the start. Our eyes are sewn too wide shut.

Who would have imagined that, in the final days, dust would flow like water, and so many in their confusion would mistake the dryness in their cups for spiritual refreshment? Raise, raise, raise your glass. Raise your glass. Why?

Who will pick up a gun?

_________________________________________
This site is authored by the Red Book Red Sail blogger who can be reached at gspressnow@gmail.com (or click CG’s hat.)

 

Comments

 

  • Paul A. Toth(Wednesday, December 09 15 12:18 am EST)

    Excellent and frightening!

  • Anne Merino(Wednesday, December 16 15 08:37 pm EST)

    A monumental piece that will resonant with me for ages as I ponder all the images and their connections.

    Brilliant!

  • Jorin(Thursday, December 17 15 05:35 pm EST)

    Wow! So revealing. I could not believe my eyes while reading this 😉 Indeed Excellent!! If only you get more people to read this! It was quite a challenge for me (dutch) i had to look up a lot of
    words but learned so much from your writings. Thank you! i have a lot more reading to do now 🙂 you opened my closed eyes some more. Thanks for the effort you put into this!!

  • cindie m(Friday, December 18 15 10:10 pm EST)

    This is not run-of-the-mill hellfire & damnation…I won’t sleep aftr this. thx mister :0 is that u next to CG?

  • Fred Barnard(Saturday, December 19 15 08:03 pm EST)

    The tangential ramblings of a reflective and brilliant mind. However, if you wish to better understand Blackstar you might want to refer to the JOHAN RENCK interview: where he says “Most things like
    this are for the eyes of the beholder, you know? You make of it whatever you want. What I can say, on one side of things there is no deliberate, underlying, firm quest to have any references to past
    times.” As for me, I think it’s merely the equally brilliant Bowie having a good time.

  • Jacob(Saturday, January 02 16 05:37 am EST)

    A few answers, many more questions. Onward, I search. Though I know not what for.

  • Norman Ball(Tuesday, January 12 16 09:38 pm EST)

    Rest in Peace, David Jones. May you discover the best of whatever lies behind the door.

    My speculations mean nothing in the end.

  • Tanja Stark(Wednesday, January 13 16 04:46 am EST)

    [A-mazing] Grace to the whole damned lot of us.

    Seriously.

    Pax, Tanja

  • Fill(Thursday, January 14 16 05:35 am EST)

    Is it too much to ask for a more simplified summary? I read the whole thing but I’m not sure I understand how or why he’s a herald of this greater evil.

    I agree with the points on culture, Elvis etc. having corrupted us. But it’s a huge leap to then take lyrics at face value like Megadeth’s. If Mustaine or the Sabbath guys are actually Christian are
    they being used against their will?

    Exactly how Bowie is some kind of musical Nazi working for the supermen or worse, I’m not clear on.

  • mark fisher(Friday, January 15 16 08:07 pm EST)

    I read the entire ‘essay’ with an open mind. This is not an essay per say. There were nice connections and many obscure ones. Not an easy read. Pepe Escobar suggested it so took it in. in the big
    picture there is neither good nor evil, rather love or fear. eyes or no eyes, we create our reality based on these principles. brevity is the soul of wit.

  • Agustín(Sunday, January 17 16 05:55 am EST)

    Thanks, this was a very interesting read.
    Beats me how a man of your culture and reflexive nature still resorts to the “Good VS Bad” meme.
    Then why you talk only about the “Evil with guitars” but never mention that of the Churches, the one with the guns (and the most horrible incoherencies)?

  • Barbi Bandor(Thursday, January 21 16 03:25 pm EST)

    I read this , reading all the little references, bookmarking stories. Very interesting. I have now become obsessed with studying David Bowie. LOL … this should be interesting…

  • Dillon(Saturday, January 23 16 01:03 am EST)

    Thank you for this; I’m officially a huge fan of your weblog.

  • פרסום אתרים באינטרנט(Saturday, January 23 16 11:04 pm EST)

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this
    website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for
    you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to construct my own blog and
    would like to know where u got this from. cheers

  • Leon(Tuesday, January 26 16 10:59 pm EST)

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as
    though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  • Javier(Tuesday, February 02 16 10:25 am EST)

    Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time
    deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and
    I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  • popcorntime(Wednesday, February 03 16 03:39 am EST)

    May I simply say what a comfort to uncover a person that
    really understands what they’re discussing on the
    web. You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    A lot more people must look at this and understand this side of your
    story. I can’t believe you aren’t more popular given that you
    definitely have the gift.

  • hydra maximilien(Monday, February 08 16 08:33 pm EST)

    Hey there. Somebody in my Facebook group distributed this Bowie website with us so I came to take a look.

    This is Bowie + a whole lot more. You really nail his spookiness and ice in his eyez. I’m bookmarking and will tweet to my followers. -kh

  • Cinda(Tuesday, February 09 16 01:14 am EST)

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for posting.

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  • popcorn time(Friday, February 12 16 04:03 pm EST)

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  • Brent Flast(Friday, March 04 16 12:28 am EST)

    I just finished watching Black Star.
    Very enigmatic piece, yes.

  • cie.calpoly.edu(Monday, April 04 16 02:07 am EDT)

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  • http://www.ahzkt.com/comment/html/index.php?page=1&id=324875(Monday, April 11 16 07:42 am EDT)

    Keep this going please, grreat job!

David Bowie’s Blackstar Revisited

Forty-Five Things

shalamov

Yes to this.

All forty-five things appear in The Paris Review, here. Poor Shalamov. Some will suggest his observation is little more than a permission slip for willful obfuscation. Others (like myself) share a strange aversion to how the crow flies. We understand.

Mediated hyper-accessibility flattens the road. At the insistence of ‘market forces’, art hitches itself to audience share. Even interiority is called forth to seize lapels. As the hand extends, the interior is given up. 

Today’s movies attend the obligatory car chase. In the first five minutes. Or else. Absent burning rubber and twisted chrome, the eyeballs seek another youtube bonfire. 

Media has no business case for the soul’s unlit gestures. Financing the project becomes impossible.

Here are two older essays of mine that cover similar terrain:

Being Difficult

A Polemicist’s Guide to the Written Word

 

 

 

Forty-Five Things

The Coming Chinese Economic Collapse (Except, Please Don’t Call It Chinese)

china us trade

Perennial China doomster Gordon Chang (author of The Coming Collapse of China) is a lousy tea-leaf reader. He’s been date-setting the ‘imminence’ of China’s economic collapse for the better part of fifteen years.

Prognostic note to Mr. Chang: First, bubbles are almost supernatural in their sustainability. They conform to a proprietary physics. Never try to pick the knockout round.

Two, there’s little point affixing national characteristics to what is, by all rights, an impending global collapse. People take umbrage at national scapegoating. So what if China happens to be the camper that lights the time-zero match in a densely traveled, bone-dry forest? The forest is bone-dry.

Three, a semantic word on the word, collapse. Systems collapse. As for the geographic, architectural and deeply civilizational features that define a national character, not so much. The Great Wall of China, no less the Grand Canyon, will survive the worst systemic ravages that unfold around them, as will the endemic features that cause people to self-report as being Chinese or American

Some would argue both nations are self-conscious and provisional constructs. Indeed China may be so disparate a nation that homogeneity is no less a fiction than is the mythic supposition the Great American Melting Pot yields a lumpless stew. We shouldn’t unduly empower impending upheavals beyond their existential reach. Rest assured, things will be bad enough.

If you can get past the stopped watch, Chang’s right. The global system collapse will happen and Communism –in the most ironic way i.e. dragged to the scene by its largest ostensible client, China– will precipitate much of the mayhem. It’s Marxism’s long strange backseat drive through the traditional excesses of capitalist credit bubbles and ghost cities –as opposed to Marxism itself– that’s going to rattle the globe.

I’m reminded here of George Friedman’s admonition (paraphrasing): geopolitics never unfolds the way its wisest prognosticators are obliged to predict it must. Geopolitics eats hubris for lunch. Webster Tarpley is even more blunt: hubris and geopolitics are synonyms.

Frankly though, how many regular folk really know much about Communism beyond displaying a reflexive Pavlovian contempt for it? I recently got into a discussion with a colleague who was bemoaning the ‘elite’s’ desire to deliver the masses to a $.50 an hour wage. If this happens, we have departed capitalism’s wage structure for neo-feudalism. 

In the spirit of knowing thy enemy, Marx and Engels insisted capitalism could not operate at a below-subsistence wage without precipitating its ‘central crisis’, what the former called overproduction. At anything below a subsistence wage, the worker not only lacks the disposable income necessary to purchase the fruits of his own labor, he succumbs to exposure or starvation. 

Unable to furnish the discretionary income that converts demand into consumption, capitalism collapses in on itself i.e. via overproduction (or if you prefer, under-consumption). Like a runaway threshing machine, it ‘competes itself to death’ in a relentless drive to bargain away even the subsistence of those who toil, to exhaustion or worse, at its factories. 

Now, you don’t have to be a Marxist ideologue to understand that, one, overproduction is a legitimate problem and two, it has not been solved but merely kicked down the road. The further the Fed balance sheet, for example, is asked to be the sin-eater for all of capitalism’s woes, the more we must face the fact that we exist in an artificialized form of capitalism with exorbitant unfunded liabilities. The Fed balance sheet is analogous to China’s ghost cities: sprawling and inhospitable to reasonable human metrics 

Technology has a suprahuman agenda. Might capitalism, pitiless machine that it is, have undisclosed designs that are driving it to a terminus beyond humanity itself, perhaps with a kindred machine-constituency more ‘copacetic’ to its 24/7 shifts? With the working class unable to survive capitalism’s ‘efficiencies’, the latter could soon share the world with transhuman entities evolved beyond the primate need for food and shelter. Then too, capitalism would make a lousy neutron bomb.

Or, think gilded neo-medieval enclaves with post-industrial scavengers milling beyond the gates left to dream of yesterday’s steady gruel. In a world moved beyond mass labor needs, what the hell do you do with all the ‘surplus’ people? Benign neglect and slo-mo attrition? Terrans fodder for Hugo di Garis’ Artilect Wars? It’s a problem.

Communism and Cultural Marxism embody the spirit of Antichrist. (Nonbelievers are perfectly fine to say nihilism.) So does corporatism. As Christian eschatologists understand, all great worldly systems are converging on a rendezvous with the capstone of concentrated evil on earth. The diminution of the human soul, collectivism, is a feature common to all prevailing systems of human arrangement.

Communism endeavors to deliver the working person from the dehumanizing maw of capitalism by repealing God and installing man in His place. Alas the ‘cure’ arrives, killing the patient’s soul while only reshuffling the symptomology of the disease.

Particularly chilling is how, just earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping explicitly couched Marxism as a lifelong ‘spiritual pursuit’. At a time when Falun Gong’s members are routinely subjected to organ harvesting in China, the titular head of today’s godless communism-on-earth, in bold imitatio Dei fashion, underscores the spiritual mission inherent in Dialectical Materialism. Let’s revisit the key tenets of this particular religion: Man resides at the summit of the cosmos and matter not soul (and certainly not God) is the fundamental determinant within that cosmos.

[For more on the Devil’s advance and the imitatio Dei phenomenon in its current full-blitz form, go here.]

This puts us one hop, skip and jump away from rationalizing the most grotesque practices man could ever think to inflict on his fellow –and remember, we’re pretty damned imaginative when it comes to grotesque practices. Should one man require another man’s liver (mere material) and the former possesses a higher social credit score, then he should have it. After all, what contravening moral force is there in the cosmos above Xi and the Communist Central Committee to insist otherwise? Xi must know too that, by inculcating his own brand of mass opiate, the CCP becomes ever more difficult to jettison in the event of mere ‘secular’ disaffections. 

capital flightIn our zeal to demonize the other side, we can inadvertently extol the sins of our own.

The US seems in many ways to have departed the rules of capitalism and its unyielding market forces anyway for corporatism and inverted totalitarianism. (In terms of the vanishing demand for human labor, just wait until transhumanism, robotics and 3D printing kick in. The death of labor bargaining power in the venerable labor/capital lever poses an existential threat to all notions of transacted exchange.) Some sort of neo-feudalism with no wage scale lurks in our future, be it Panopticonic lock-down, Orwellian prole-superstates or Mad Max collapsarian hellhole.

My contention is that both capitalism and communism today exist in only the most nominal and contrived forms, each having jettisoned large swathes of their doctrinal heritage. When capitalism craps out, we refill the coffers of the banks with public funds and pretend we’re still in the same game. Meanwhile Communist China enjoys a Wild West stock market and plays host to speculative real estate practices that would make any Manhattan developer blush (relax, we’re getting to him) –all under the furtive helmsmanship of a Deng-derived variant of Uncle Karl.

Some grand dialectic surely looms ahead. There are too many lingering articialties on both sides. 

Trump is driving his half, recovering criminally forfeited trade after decades of treasonous forfeiture by our bought-and-paid for political class. The trade relationships Trump inherited were a study in self-immolation and elite betrayal of the populace.

I’ve stated elsewhere Trump’s overriding mission is to shatter the Triffin Paradox, the latter being one of the first post-war migrations away from the domestic primacy of American policy towards an alienating globalist agenda.

Consider the surreal trading environment the two great systems have evolved between themselves. Chinese economist Henry C. K. Liu captured it aptly in 2008. Little –besides increased trade frictions– has changed.

liu.png

Individual wealth accumulation is surreality played out at the microeconomic level. Little more than a tallystick to access final social stratification, wealth (and that silliest of aphrodisiacs, net worth) will wither away.

In the very long run, a mode of collectivization is coming where wealth won’t matter. And no, it won’t be a Workers’ Paradise either, unless you enjoy bad coffee and journeymanm porn more than Winston Smith could ever bring himself to, or did Orwell miss the immersive nirvanas of virtual reality?

I found a 2009 essay of mine that talks about overproduction and the China issue, also Ford’s $5 a day program which created the middle class. Bill Gates can only wear one pair of pants. If a society-sustaining 300 million pairs of pants are to be sold, the peeps need some run-around cash and a pocket to put it in.

https://fullspectrumdominoes.wordpress.com/…/the-mill…/

There are other systems, all leading unfortunately to the same collectivist cul de sac. 

President-for-Life Xi Jinping recommitted himself to Marxism (with the requisite ‘Chinese characteristics’) as recently as Marx’ 200th birth anniversary this past May, with the fervor of his declaration surprising many. Xi’s agenda (and goodness knows he has the time) is for the CCP to steward China into late-stage capitalism where it most certainly is not today, given an agrarian peasant class of 380 million –the population of the entire US. 

This massive peasant class lags developmentally behind its crucial proletarian stage, until which time it cannot be authentically rescued. Marxism is greatly beholden to capitalism in the sense that capitalism must happen first. The dialectic will not be short-shrifted. Authentic synthesis cannot precede the historical crisis of antithetical engagement. History cannot be glossed. It must organically transpire.

Any 3D chessplayers out there? Xi is tasked with nothing less than straddling three discrete time-series of historical development –agrarian, capitalism and late-stage capitalism– and forging from them a singular national path. Could the final mile of the Long March be any more challenging than this? 

xi speech

For one thing, Xi is attempting another way around the ‘agrarian question’ that bedeviled the Soviet Union and forced the massively traumatic and dislocative collectivization drives of the Stalin era –an effort by the way which is being positively revisited in present-day Russia. Stalin is enjoying a resurgence of popularity. 

In effect Xi is using Marxism to bring about the climactic moment that will necessitate Marxism. He is presiding over a prior stage of capitalism that he hopes to conduct to its late-stage denouement at which point Marxism, at its appropriate historical moment, will stage an ideological intervention, simultaneously reaping the fruits late-capitalism has brought forth.  

MMT

For the full article above, go here.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping visited Japan to see the latter’s export model first-hand. This was an historic event with huge implications for the world. He opted to set China on a similar development path to the Japanese model –as opposed to growing domestic consumption which would have created in-country prosperity and threatened the one-party rule of the CCP. Rather than repatriating their export profits, China parked them in US T-bills and credit markets (exacerbating our credit bubble). In short, Chinese leadership did everything it could to preclude the Chinese people from enjoying the fruits of their labors. This strategy was employed for one reason only: to secure the uncontested political power of the CCP.

[At this point, I have to acknowledge The Conservative Treehouse blog which is practically alone on the Internet in championing the Trump trade approach. Many of my themes borrow from –or have been augmented by– their line of thinking.]

Where does a 500-pound canary sit? In but a few select places as so few places are equipped to accommodate its massive size.

The panda cannot roost forever on the pheasant’s perch. China today must navigate away from the legacy of Deng’s Japan emulation, but with great care. Far and away, its vulnerability is its size. Again, China’s size is its chief weakness, not its chief strength. Size obliges a scale of activity that few partners can furnish.

8-oroborus.png

Burdened by the limits of massive scale, China needs the markets of fellow canary America more than we need it. Why? Because having a comparatively answerable political system that has historically been obliged to respond to the citizenry’s demands for prosperity (justifiable complaints of a Quigleyan uniparty notwithstanding), the US has evolved an advanced economy, permitting it to consume 80% of its own production. China by contrast staved off domestic economic development in the interests of political ‘stability’. Power-sharing is anathema to the CCP. Xi wants to keep it that way. 

Trump and his people understand China’s developmental predicament. So does China. This is why the rhetoric on the other side is abating dramatically. The following Bloomberg article captures the current nervousness of the Chinese leadership. 

Yu Zhi, an economic professor from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics is particularly blunt in his rhetorical questioning of Xi’s more frontal approach (quite bravely I might add, my bold type below):

“Has China completed the task of ‘getting rich’? Has China completed the primary stage of socialism as Deng Xiaoping described? Can you begin to compete directly with the United States and other Western countries?” Yu wrote. “China should rethink its general strategic direction.”

Marxism with Chinese characteristics might well be thought of as a deeply self-conscious and recursive form of Marxism, really Marxism-in-waiting. Cynics will say Xi’s formulation reeks of defensiveness. Credit bubbles and ghost cities have a way of stalking a man such that Heavenly Mandates can evaporate overnight. But what a strange paradox. Xi must preside over capitalism until the time is right for Marxism (i.e. as Zhi says above when China has harvested sufficient ‘riches’ from capitalism). Even more perilously, he must survive the capitalist era like an inscrutable, withheld interloper until the apogee of his moment truly dawns.

The much-trumpeted ‘Chinese characteristics’ bit is a finagled interregnum that Xi is obligated to accentuate in order to rationalize the pregnant pause before the full-blown onset of Marxism in its Chinese form. Cultural modulations notwithstanding, make no mistake: China’s Marxism, when it finally graces us with its presence, promises to be more Marxist than Chinese.

Jim Rickards who observed some years ago that China is a political system before it is an economic one. It ‘does’ economics only to forestall social unrest. As Rickards said recently:

“Up to half of China’s investment is a complete waste. It does produce jobs and utilize inputs like cement, steel, copper and glass. But the finished product, whether a city, train station or sports arena, is often a white elephant that will remain unused.”

Rickards goes on to say that since unemployment and inflation (as prescriptive remedies to defusing huge mal-investment) are political nonstarters for China, a 25% yuan devaluation is in the cards as the least socially disruptive policy remedy. Despite wishful prognostications, the Eurasian century will not arrive soon enough to supplant the American and European markets. No, Chinese political frictions and internal contradictions will come to a head before new export markets can rescue the CCP.

mao contradiction

As for Trump, he’s presiding over a economic renaissance in America few people can see at the moment. NAFTA is dead as a dodo. Why? China and Europe were using Mexico and Canada as a staging ground for finished good assembly, thereby exploiting a huge NAFTA loophole. Under Trump, this is coming to an end. Trump is positioning the US for a renewed Age of Nationalism. Though it might take a CCP-instigated WW3 to get there. 

Pro-China forces are well-esconced in the American political system. They are also anti-Trump. There’s a lot of talk about the NRA or AIPAC being the most powerful lobbying group in America. Not hardly. It’s the US Chamber of Commerce. Why do we never hear this? Perhaps you didn’t read what I just wrote: The US C of C is the most powerful lobby in America.

CofC

For forty years, in league with our political class (blue and red, please) America was sold out for the greater good of China and Wall Street. In a more honest era we called it treason. Today, it often gets glossed as ‘globalism’.  Therein lies the impetus behind the unrelenting ferocity of the anti-Trump daily drumbeat.

As The Conservative Treehouse likes to emphasize, trillions of dollars are at stake in this mammoth redirecting of world trade. Let us see. 

The Coming Chinese Economic Collapse (Except, Please Don’t Call It Chinese)

The Mill Race: Overproduction, Interrupted

[I wrote this essay in 2009. Since China and trade is very much in the news at the moment, I went looking and found it here. As I attempted to make clear in the original version, I am no Marxist.

Not everyone today can say that.

To the surprise of many China-watchers, President-for-Life Xi used the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Marx’ birth in May of this year to forcefully reaffirm his Marxist credentials, of course with the requisite ‘Chinese characteristics’.

What I am is a believer in what Engels, more than Marx, fleshed out as being the central crisis of capitalism, overproduction. Yes, this crisis can be mitigated through public policy ministrations. However it has been exacerbated further in the ensuing years by the declining efficacy of the very labor/capital lever that makes Marxism and Capitalism ‘tick’. How so? Labor runs the risk of losing its bargaining power altogether with the onset of trans-humanism and robotics. I discussed these developments in the context of Yanis Varoufakis (remember him?) and the Greek crisis in 2015’s ‘Transhumanism Through a Greek Lens’.]

 

__________________

 

In close-ups now, you can see it in every face,
despite the roped rain light pouring down the bus-windows— 
it’s the strain of gravity itself, of life hours cut off and offered 
to the voice that says “Give me this day your 
life, that is LABOR, and I’ll give you back 
one day, then another. For mine are the terms.”

—from ‘The Mill-Race’ by Anne Winters

We have been trained into an almost-Pavlovian aversion to Marx and Engels here in the U.S. Nonetheless they bear a re-reading, especially at this critical juncture in economic history.

I should preface my interest in this key area of Marxist thought however with the opinion that practicable Marxism, generally, has shared with the Malthusian orientation an overall deficiency in imagination. Undoubtedly, whole new realms of exploitable human endeavor lie ahead (e.g. alternative energy, stem cell research, nano-technology, etc.)

As there is much for capitalism to sink its teeth into, present-day excesses should not be over-interpreted (unless of course economic crisis dissembles into ruinous wars or comparable catastrophes, posing threats to the very fabric of civilization. In this case, all bets would be off.)

Full-blown socialism or Marxism is anything but a foregone conclusion. Furthermore Marx, the thinker, has been ill-served by the various programmatic dalliances —Marxist-Leninism, Maoism and the like— that invoke his name more than his sprawling vision. We would be foolish to discard Marx and Engels out-of-hand as they offer crucial insights deserving of our close attention.

That said, in recent months I have become convinced we are in the grips of classic Marxist overproduction on an unprecedented global scale. Overproduction is the phenomenon caused by capitalism’s need to engage in perpetual labor-cost reductions in order to remain competitive. The effects of this downward spiral are ultimately self-destructive as they eliminate the worker’s ability to purchase the fruits of his own labor. A society where the vast majority of citizens lack the wherewithal to consume much beyond a subsistence level becomes a plutocracy in a hurry. Who but the working class can furnish the mass consumption essential for capitalism?

Overproduction is the central crisis inherent in capitalism. That is, capitalism effectively destroys its own markets in an orgy of cost reductions, all in an effort to remain ‘competitive’. However at some point one must ask, competitive for whom? Production stacks up for lack of able buyers (or, stated another way, demand plunges as the ranks of subsistence-level workers grow.) Witness for instance the acres of brand-new automobiles languishing at U.S. ports right now. Even after accounting for the dislocative —and temporary— effects of the current business cycle, these are the fruits of overproduction.

In America wages have been stagnant for thirty years. However due to the timely arrival of an exogenous labor pool, primarily the Chinese, two crucial functions were fulfilled. One, production could be off-shored and then imported back at reduced costs, providing cheap consumer goods to American workers. And two, the profits from selling that production in the U.S. could be re-invested in the U.S., particularly in the latter’s credit markets. (To repatriate the profits would have caused appreciation in the producer-nation’s currency, thus making Chinese production less competitive than, say, Indian production.)

The producer nations were, in true Marxist fashion, chasing the rather dubious honor of lowest-cost producer. This race to the bottom in mad pursuit of foreign market-share represents a beggar-thy-neighbor variant whose end result is poverty-for-the-many. In effect third-world production became, from the standpoint of its domestic consumer markets, prima facie overproduction, as the fruits of production exited the producer-nation on the fastest boat to the West. Frankly, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this phenomenon mercantilism redux; neo-colonialism effectively ‘out-sourcing’ the costly colonialist infrastructure to an in-country ruling elite. For the vast preponderance of the world, what really has changed?

As the developing nations took their place as ‘factory-states’ with little in the way of domestic consumer markets (and vague promises of prosperity looming in their futures), the capitalist food-chain became segmented across nations in dangerously unstable —and on a long-term basis, politically untenable— ways. This is also why the producer nations are suffering more than the consumer nations at the moment. In an economic slowdown, a nation of factories essentially falls off a cliff; whereas a nation of consumers can reduce or curtail its consumption and, in the short-term at least, muddle through.

The Chinese and others thus served as ‘greater fools’ for America’s various prosperity bubbles, plowing their stateside profits into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agency paper and U.S. government debt with duteous abandon. This surfeit of cheap credit (the un-repatriated proceeds resulting from America’s consumption of foreign goods) afforded regular Americans access to homes and other durable goods that exceeded their wage-based ability to pay. Whoever said economics was fair? The more America consumed, the more ‘captured’ funds lay at its disposal to be borrowed. In this way, America managed to make a business of consumption. Then we whiled away the non-productive hours flipping houses back and forth amongst ourselves.

In his recent essay “Breaking Free from Dollar Hegemony“, Chinese economist Henry C. K. Liu implicitly captures the weird artificiality of the overproduction phenomenon in its current internationalist form:

“World trade is now a game in which the US produces fiat dollars of uncertain exchange value and zero intrinsic value, and the rest of the world produces goods and services that fiat dollars can buy at “market prices” quoted in dollars.  Such market prices are no longer based on mark-ups over production costs set by socio-economic conditions in the producing countries. They are kept artificially low to compensate for the effect of overcapacity in the global economy created by a combination of overinvestment and weak demand due to low wages in every economy.”

The overproduction dynamic in the US was masked, and heroically postponed, by cheap credit from foreign credit-providers. Easy credit cushioned stagnant wages. Americans felt they were richer than they were. This allowed American senior management and Wall Street to extract more money from U.S. corporations than was the historical norm, and to keep wages flat without precipitating riots in the streets. Wall Street made huge profits on both sides of the conveyor, originating the debt stateside and then aggregating it for sale to unwitting foreigners.

Alas America’s reduced demand for foreign goods as a result of the current recession puts a stake through the heart of this rather one-sided conveyor. Export nations have fewer proceeds to invest in U.S. credit markets. Reduced access to cheap foreign credit prevents the American worker from augmenting his stagnant wages (and turbo-charging his standard of living) on the backs of foreign creditors. An abundance of foreign credit forestalled our rendezvous with near-subsistence. Suddenly a generation of false prosperity is being taken away, and we stand poised to sample the bitter fruits of our stagnancy. Reconciling with our ‘unadorned’ place in the world will not be easy, nor will it come, one suspects, without social unrest.

For one thing, re-investing in the American industrial base (after a long period of under-investment) includes the grim reality of competing with the world’s established low-cost producers. America’s standard of living must fall, probably precipitously, as it ‘gets to the back of the production line’ in many markets where it once held superiority. Perhaps the good news for the world is that ultimately there will be a meeting in the middle; though in a process of this type, there’s more fun to be had on the rising end of the equilibrating see-saw.

The accusations of profligacy lodged against the American worker (which seem to emanate suspiciously from Wall Street) ignore one key fact. The American worker merely furnished the crucial demand-side of a Wall Street debt factory. Moreover they were allotted the role of consumer by necessity and design as there was an abundance of lower-cost workers in Asia and the capitalists required a low-paid, debt-subsidized consumer class to complete their less-than-virtuous circle. By far the instigator, and chief beneficiary, of the game was Wall Street with its ‘segmentation’ and ‘securitization’ (cynics might call it the divide-and-conquer) of the debt markets.

The current vogue of blaming workers for their ‘financial irresponsibility’ ignores the orchestrated roguery conducted above their heads. Just as greed at the top of America’s corporations crowded out wages at the bottom, Wall Street’s pursuit of ever-higher debt levels in the U.S. served to perpetuate their greed overseas. Together, these forces precipitated a historic theft on workers of all nations. Exploitation of even less fortunate Chinese workers served to conceal the predations on American workers. The aftermath is an American worker who is both underpaid and over-leveraged. Third-world workers by contrast are ‘merely’ underpaid. Here again Marx intuited correctly the essentially internationalist complexion of the working class. Exploitation is impervious to national boundary. Capitalism is an international project.

One thing is certain. The Chinese and others will not reprise the role of fool. These nations are now earnestly developing their own domestic markets. With the looming departure of cheap foreign money, a generational, paradigm-sifting re-industrialization is required to restart meaningful economic activity in the US. This is hardly music to the ears of a nation that got away for decades with bursts of stimulative credit expansion during business cycle contractions. Politicians are similarly accustomed to delivering largess between two-year election cycles.

However after years of accrued mal-investment, nothing meaningful will happen overnight. Expectation-setting in America will need to develop its long game. More than a few politicians will be sacrificed to America’s ingrained culture of impatience. When President Obama talks (as he does repeatedly) about ‘resuming the flow of credit to get the economy rolling again’, he is talking the traditional short game. This is not encouraging.

We return to the seemingly insoluble paradox of blunt-force capitalism: Elevate the exploited masses and your competitiveness gets shot to hell. Exploit them further and your competitive zeal destroys the very demand it seeks to address. In the final analysis excess or over-production is a euphemism for too-low wages. Only increased wages over a large swathe of the population can sop up the excess production and create the necessary supply-demand equilibrium.

As Henry Ford intuited with his revolutionary $5-a-day program, the only workable capitalism is one that builds markets and automobiles. The third-world needs a champion of Ford’s stature and market power to establish a universal wage-floor. Otherwise with the subsistence wage acting as both scourge and grail, perpetual crisis seems assured. Categorical repudiations are often tempting, but rarely fruitful. Capitalism is flawed. So, to my knowledge, is everything else. The practical question becomes, are its flaws ‘more fatal’ than those of other systems?

No easy answer there, comrades.

 

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Norman Ball is a Virginia-based writer and musician. His work has appeared in Rattle, Prairie Home Companion, Epicenter, Main Street Rag and others.

 

Comments

Alex Nodopaka
2009-05-06 08:36:42

Clear synopsis! The easy idealistic answer is: extensive humanist education eduction education & a guarantee for a full belly every day.


Luis Rivas
2009-05-09 10:17:41

Great article. Words echoing my own sentiment on the global economic (and political) situation, but yours are more articulate.

“Exploitation is impervious to national boundary. Capitalism is an international project.”

Absolutely.

I just finished watching a 2006 Power of Community documentary on how Cuba survived their Peak Oil Crisis. It lays out a clear and optimistic game plan for the rest of the world.


norman ball
2009-05-14 09:07:37

Thank Alex and Luis,

I try to take pains at separating Karl Marx’ cogent thought from the baggage and miscues of programmatic Marxism. Engels too.

Even confirmed capitalists ignore them at their peril. I have been reading a lot about Peak Oil lately, and will check that Cuban video out.

I would urge you to take a look at Matthew Simmons’ peak oil PDF presentations for an authoritative up-to-the-minute account:

http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/research.aspx?Type=msspeeches

take care
norm


Sabitha
2009-07-16 13:35:10

Good analysis, Norm. The trick is to find that balance between undercutting wages and creating conditions for demand. This really is a classic case of over-production we are seeing. You have not mentioned the environmental nonsustainability of this mode of production. That we have been eating ourselves out of home and earth! A concerted effort towards sustainable and environmentally responsible welfare economies is possibly the only thing that can get us out of the morass. Pragmatic socialism may not be the place to look at (State take-overs did not/do not work), but certainly social welfare and reduction in disparities in wealth that leaves everyone something to spend on things other than essentials such as healthcare and education. Irresponsible capitalism’s days are (hopefully) over.

The Mill Race: Overproduction, Interrupted

Triffin, Interrupted: Financialized Chauvinism and Its Arch-Nemesis, Productive American Labor

usura

The tendency to quantitatively expropriate fellow Glaswegian Adam Smith as an economist when he was, by formal assignation, a moral philosopher is a miscarriage of history. Why? Because we all find site for dwellings in our labors. We are what we do. Smith was no exception. Smith was no quant. 

With today’s politics little more than glorified economics in disguise, everything rounds to numbers. Has it always been that way? Not entirely. In this age of financier-inspired hubris, honor has to fight harder for air and ink. 

For over a decade, myself and a couple of colleagues had been on the lookout for evidence of a coherent, countervailing force within the government, some subterranean clique of white hats. The dissident energy was certainly there. Consider the whistle-blowers populating Washington’s BlogInfowars also seemed to nurture and embolden disgruntled enlisted personnel and junior officers. For all his caveman bluster and occasional gratuitous misfires, Alex Jones has been prescient on many things.

The Petraeus dust-up was one such episode where the CIA-Pentagon turf battle burst to the surface. Another was the Obama administration’s systematic purging of ‘too-patriotic’ Generals.

Yet another festering schism, highlighted recently by longtime Westerner-abroad-in-Russia John Helmer reminds us of the historic rivalry between the CIA and NSA (the former an arch-nemesis and the latter a protector of the current President; Trump is the personified battleground for so much that ails us). Here’s Helmer citing Wikileaks:

“Since 2001,” Wikileaks announced, “the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.”

(Helmer, at this very moment, is doing indispensable journalism chasing down the Warner-Deripaska-Waldman-Assange nexus of intrigue. ‘Russian collusion’, in its current publicized form is little more than the Democrat’s pumped-up projection of their own seedy influence-peddling. His work poses an intriguing possibility: Did Assange bargain away CIA whistle-blower Joshua Schulte in a bid to get Uncle Sam off his back? Clandestine minds want to know.)

For us earnest watchers, moments of climactic exposure were few and far between. Nonetheless we took heart from the occasional internecine squabble. The Deep State monolith was at least exhibiting stress fractures.

Then the Trump insurgency happened and stress fractures became the default topology.

Almost overnight, the term Deep State firmly established itself in the public imagination. Much credit goes to Peter Dale Scott’s work for giving the term a renewed, early currency. Also see Walter Bagehot as well as Michael Glennon’s Double Government.

My own early expectations for Trump have been borne out for the most part, and in many ways handily surpassed.

Almost certainly aligned with QAnon, and a key Trump ally, is the NSA (or perhaps General Flynn’s DEA; suffice to say, somewhere within the military intelligence frame), the former until recently under the direction of Admiral Mike Rogers. The NSA’s signals intelligence and global reach is without parallel.

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For those who haven’t yet, I urge them to watch my video, Admiral Mike Rogers: Hero of the Republic, below, where the absolute criticality of the NSA in averting the coup (and subverting the unholy trinity of Comey-Brennan-Clapper) against President Trump is documented. When QAnon says, we have everything, as he so often does, he is speaking almost certainly from a military intelligence perspective.

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Yet, how odd that we find ourselves applauding the Orwellian coordinates of the advancing surveillance state. The frying pan may have saved us, for the moment, from the fire. The military is Trump’s friend. That makes them We The People’s friend too.

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I liked Trump from the start for his disruptive potential. (I see I’ve been joined –both in sentiment and word choice– only yesterday by Twin Peaks creator, David Lynch, who bravely suggested, “He [Trump] could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history because he has disrupted the thing so much. No one is able to counter this guy in an intelligent way.”)

My rationale was that, one, Trump was financially non-beholden and two, he was exogenous to the seamy, political pecking order. Flaunting his independence vis a vis the usual bought-and-paid-for pols, Trump announced to the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2015 “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. If I wanted your money, I think I’d have a damned good chance.”

Afterwards, he was roundly criticized for tapping into enduring antisemitic canards. Correcting this early oversight, Trump ‘beholdened’ himself in the final days of the campaign with a $25 million contribution from staunchly pro-Israel businessman Sheldon Adelson. Whether or not this late-grafted agenda finds itself at odds with his nationalist boosters’ aims, Trump has tacked to a strong Zionist agenda ever since. A Christian, I happen to believe Trump is enacting a biblical mission in addition to his terrestrial duties. Time will tell.

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Coin of the Realms?

 

But back to money (Do we ever really leave it?) or more specifically, currency. How the world both alters and perceives its interactions with the US Dollar going forward is today’s million dollar question. Who better than wealth-fixated Trump to reroute that yellow-brick road?

For one thing, money is the omerta of our politically hermetic system. It takes a billion dollars to run for the Presidency, a mere pittance to those who seek to control the occupant. Yet a significant barrier to entry for all but the latter’s Anointed Ones and once-in-a-generation eccentric billionaires. Trump is the Perot of his generation. 

The Trump insurgency, no impulsive dalliance, was long in the making. Think the Rockefeller/Mercer school of old American money, perhaps nursing residual and stubbornly sentimental affinities for America, while chafing against the Rothschild’s longstanding (and far more transnationally committed) grooming of China (Opium Wars, anyone?) complete with the latter’s intention to discard the US whole-cloth like a hollowed-out, post-empire husk. Absent Trump, America looked destined to become a bereft, post-capitalist (and culturally Marxist) Argentina of the north.

Russian thinker Andrei Fursov (Андрей Фурсов) describes below the competing Rockefeller-Rothschild clusters, with the late Zbigniew Brzezinski an actor for the former (and most certainly no believer in PNAC/Neocon unipolarity, as Paul Craig Roberts stressed in a remembrance of his old Cold Warrior colleague).

As Fursov stresses these two groups are not openly antagonistic and share many interlocking interests. However on the ‘America question’ in a USD post-reserve currency world, both groups differ markedly in emphasis and approach. 

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petrodollar recycling

For better chart resolution, go here.

If I had to crystallize Trump’s central mission it is to unwind the Triffin Dilemma. What is the Triffin Dilemma (or Paradox), some may ask? Robert Triffin was an economist who recognized in 1962 the inherent schizophrenia of the USD serving two masters, as national currency and international reserve currency, the latter role being established at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference.

The core paradox has to do with the competing outlooks that spring from star-crossed and inhrently conflicted (national vs global) agendas (from the Wiki disc): “a balance of payments current account deficit had to be sustained in order to provide liquidity for the conversion of gold into U.S. dollars. With more U.S. dollars in the system than were backed with gold under the Bretton Woods agreement, the U.S. dollar was overvalued. This meant that the United States had less gold as foreign governments started converting U.S. dollars to gold and taking it offshore.”

The Nixon Shock of 1971 served to prolong the paradoxical role of the dollar by severing its convertibility to gold. (In a sense, compounding paradox with alienation as fiat sought to impersonate first-order value.) Running a current account trade deficit continued to be at the least a strangely agnostic development for America as the world’s insatiable demand for dollars buffered the American economy from dollar overproduction (via inflation exportation). With the USD ’emancipated’ from gold, the sky became the limit. 

In the parlance of macroeconomics, USD reserve currency status allows America to enjoy an unassailable comparative advantage in currency production. Because dollars comes into existence via ex nihilo keystrokes, the production and labor costs are nil. And yet, the entire world seeks them for their unique (though increasingly challenged) ability to purchase another non-substitutable requirement, oil. What a beautiful system.

Over the ensuing decades this eerie detachment from intrinsic value served to rationalize ever more provisional value derivations with the result that, today, the Western financial edifice teeters on the precipice of irreconcilable leverage. In its most extreme forms, leverage is Molochian in spirit. The children and their labors have been sacrificed on the altar of their parents’ insatiable appetites. Goya’s Saturn devours his children, in the modern instance before they arrive. Present value spends its future cash-flows. 

This jealous moment regales itself with a delusional sense of singularity.

Who would have guessed that, a full two decades after the breezy hubris of Brzezinski’s The Grand Chessboard laid the game bare, the inestimable resource wealth of Eurasia would continue to elude the bankers’ balance sheets?

Securing this commodity basket was almost certainly baked into the leverage equation as a neat follow-on to petro-dollar partnering. Indeed today’s near-manic anti-Putin rhetoric derives precisely from this fundamental anxiety. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the NY Fed, a tipping point is closely being monitored. Has it been passed? That the Russian Collusion fairy tale still dominates the headlines is a barometer of the distress.

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The Triffin Dilemma would resolve if the USD relinquished its global monetary role. Indications are that may be in the cards.

 

We appear to be in phase one of a two-phase project. The subsidiary steps within Trump’s overarching directive include reindustrializing America, normalizing us back from reserve currency empire to a nation-among-nations, ideally (to better assuage the American self-image) a most-favored nation in the spirit of MAGA. Phase two accedes to the USD shedding reserve currency status.

Again, while I believe in MAGA –a rallying cry meant to galvanize and enthuse the American patriot and nationalist elements critical to Trump’s support during this rebalancing process– I am skeptical that its efficacy extends beyond the mid-course correction phase. Globalism remains on the cards and will be well-nigh impossible to avert. Monism is biblically embedded. 

The Trump-conducted denouement of American Empire makes sense in the context of a globalist equilibrating process wherein the former prepares to take its place as an administrative canton within a larger Bank of International Settlements (BIS) mosaic. Orwell’s Oceania may not be too far off the mark. 

One of my favorite blogs at the moment, The Conservative Treehouse has done a great job of amplifying the win-win populist side of Trump’s trade offensive as well as revealing the nefarious hand of the US Chamber of Commerce hard at work keeping multinational corporations’ productive capacities off-shore consistent with the desires of our traitorous bought-and-paid-for (by China) political shills, Red and Blue. Echoing Carroll Quigley, the CTH refers to our seditious overlords as the Uniparty. As with so many other issues, Trump on trade is a David facing a battalion of Goliaths.

The CTH takes an economically deterministic approach and is fond of reminding us that, even in the thick of heated political debate, trillions of dollars are at stake. In fact the very large sums serve to heat the debate. It would be fascinating to see the CTH delve more comprehensively the ambiguities of the trade issue, the Triffin Paradox being a key impediment to a uni-dimensional, trade-populism stance.

There is a great story about Goldman Sachs alumnus (and former Trump Chief Economic Advisor) Gary Cohn grumbling about how he couldn’t bring his boss to understand balance of payments and current accounts deficits. Like Bannon before him, Cohn imagined himself the smarter guy of the two. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. Almost certainly, Cohn’s frustration hinged on the Triffin Paradox and the counter-intuitive benefits (at least to Wall Street) of chronic trade deficits.

Let’s not kid ourselves though. The long term goal remains global governance for which Trump serves as an effective transitioning agent. As I expanded upon in ‘Revisiting ‘The Janusian Class’ in Light of the Trump Phenomenon’:

“America… [is] the final empire to be constructed from strictly national auspices. The next and final one will be transnational. Thus, Trump, who may or may not be fully cognizant of his agency (I don’t think he is, entirely), is dismantling the final empire, ironically enough, under an America-First banner so that an interregnum/plateau can be established for the final dash to full-blown trans-nationalism.”

The Rothschild vision of the future would have been ugly indeed for America. However some skepticism is warranted in MAGA beyond a patriot rallying cry and yes it will deliver an intermediate term boom. The long-term globalist plan however is to mount a final assault on one world government when America is restored to one among many. The IMF’S SDR or a currency basket equivalent is the future.

When pushing for the supranational currency the bancor (coterminous with Bretton Woods), Keynes intuited the distortive effects of what would come to be known as the Triffin Dilemma. No one could have possibly guessed –certainly not Triffin himself– just how out-of-whack things could become, not to mention how long the imbalances could persist.

Kissinger’s petrodollar recycling (1973-present) provided a massive second wind to the dollar, again, especially after Nixon’s orphaning of the USD from the gold standard. In effect a universally essential and non-fungible resource (oil) supplanted static, finite gold reserves as the underwriter of the USD. Barring Peak Oil, the petrodollar stood a better chance at immortality than did a dollar lashed to the finitudes of existent gold. 

Verily, to grasp the immense implications of petrodollar recycling is to be conducted on a tour of the Devil’s Lair. Human existence is held in check by momentous keystrokes. Our lives hinge on ledgers of nil. Man’s labor (and all that he sells of it abroad, trade) is, by contrast, sacred and inalienable. Shoot the bankers. Hire the bakers. Banking masquerades as gainful occupation, when really it is a spiritual praxis of the darkest coordinates. 

Using the parlance of trade, America possesses an unassailable comparative advantage in the currency trade. That’s what reserve currency status is. Even better, dollar manufacture enjoys no production costs nor physical exertion (labor) required to render the final product. 

As for the straw that ultimately breaks the Triffin Dilemma’s back, Charles Wallace had it right recently, below:

“It was one thing for the U.S. to tolerate manageable deficits with strategic partners like Germany and Japan after the war. The plain fact is that China has become such a huge export behemoth, the U.S. simply can no longer afford to be the international reserve currency providing the Chinese with a constant outflow of dollars, not to mention the thousands of lost jobs that implies.”–from Trump’s Tough Talk Means a New Role for the Dollar, by Charles Wallace, Forbes

Ultimately Triffin is no match for China if we want to retain some semblance of production in America. 

I first addressed the Triffin Paradox in a 2009 essay behind the paywall of the iTulip site, which appears now to be defunct. At the time, the only other google reference I could find was an essay by Dr. Zhou Xiaochuan, Governor of the People’s Bank of China, 23 March 2009. Since that time, the concept has rightly earned a much wider constituency.

China’s manufacturing base is simply too massive to allow the Triffin Dilemma to persist without the complete ghettoization of America’s own productive capacity. This is what Trump understood on an instinctual level far better than Wall Streeter Cohn ever could.

In Donald Trump And The Dollar: The Triffin Dilemma And America’s Exorbitant Privilege, David Deuchar takes what I would call an amoral, ‘financier approach’ (ala Cohn) when he stresses the ‘benefits’ of prolonging the Triffin Paradox:

“The U.S. can behave as a country as no other can; we export inflation without mercy, run fiscal deficits proportionately far higher than other countries without risk of insolvency, pursue monetary easing measures ad infinitum, and ultimately influence geopolitics on a scale greater than any civilization in the history of mankind. Is it worth giving all that up just so that we can manufacture Oreos in Chicago or steel in Pittsburgh?”

Pray tell, what’s wrong with the gainful pursuit of domestic Oreo and steel production? Simultaneously holding the world hostage to our imprudent financial excesses ‘without mercy’ while denying our own people the dignity to pursue honest trades is not a prescription for the future, and ultimately discombobulates our own moral compass as a nation.

But there is an even more practical reason for untangling the Triffin conundrum.

While reserve currency status furnishes an enviable ‘unearned prosperity’ to Americans financed by foreigners as a result of their insatiable dollar demand, a point is reached where, as Peter Navarro says, echoing Forbes’ Charles Wallace (see the former’s discussion of the recent steel and aluminum tariffs at 1:08 in the video, below), balance-of-payments considerations become superseded by national security considerations.

America cannot serve only as a USD trade settlement window. Triffin’s sweatless bounty becomes too much of a good thing. No different from other nations, we have butchers, bakers and boiler makers too. Commensurate with this fresh turn towards a reinvigorated export economy, the inequity of tariff structures suddenly matters again. 

How strategically viable is a nation that relinquishes its ability to manufacture world-class products in key industries and serves only as a teller window for dollar transactions? What Wall Street endlessly extols becomes a social and (work) ethical catastrophe for a productively idled nation whose very fabric extols hard work.

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Trump is presently plucking low-hanging trade victories from the maws of offending nations for which he will be heralded as a genius, an assignation he deserves in many ways. 

But not so fast. There are never free lunches nor zero-sums in macroeconomics and certainly not in trade equations. Righting the current account imbalance doesn’t come without forfeiting what Giscard d’Estaing famously called America’s exorbitant privilege, what one might callvirtuous’ trade deficits.

That’s why we are almost certainly in the early stages of a follow-on world reserve currency, a monetary regime that is sure to augur a renewed assault on emergent nationalism. We should remember too that the perceived unfairness of tariffs on American goods mitigates in some measure the exorbitance of our privileged currency. The equilibrating process is already underway.

Globalism, by any other name or means of introduction, remains globalism. Though it pains me to rain on the Trump parade, One World Government still looms ahead in the long-term, bruised perhaps but far from beaten.

 

Triffin, Interrupted: Financialized Chauvinism and Its Arch-Nemesis, Productive American Labor