Some First Things stuff

29 07 2010

First, a political post I can finally get fully behind:

I too have a fervor—a fever, in fact—for political inactivity. I want to be part of a movement that makes electoral politics so boring that rather than having term limits, we’ll need laws requiring politicians to serve their full term. I want to join a party that make politics and government work so dull that political journalists and elected officials dream of leaving their fields for the exciting worlds of actuarial science and telemarketing.

I want to thrown in my lot with others who want to throw a wet blanket over politics and whose desire is to dampen the enthusiasm for all forms of political activity. I want to consort with citizens who are willing to arrest the ardor, dash the devotion, sap the spirit, and zap the zeal from anything that remotely resembles political enthusiasm. I want to create a new party, dedicated to the mastery of the art of anti-propaganda and committed to the conscientious devotion of alert inactivity.

I consider myself to be profoundly a-political, yet with sensibility of a European-style social democrat. As an ex-Trotskyist, I am well aware of the tendency of my fellow ex-Trotskyists (Burnham, Irving Kristol, etc.), to become right-wing hacks after leaving the movement. I have sought to avoid being an apologist for the capitalist leviathan without being under any illusions that the international working class shall be the human race. I still sing the Internationale to myself sometimes. I think it’s pretty catchy, especially if you can sing it in three languages.

I suppose now I am a Platonic republican.

Also, I found this post that I put in my “gangsters need God too” file regarding the Calabrian mafia:

According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of the Calabrian Diocese of Locri-Gerace has written an open letter to the bosses of the ’Ndrangheta—the Calabrian Mafia—“imploring them to stop using holy shrines for their initiation ceremonies.” The bishop, says the Telegraph, decided to speak out “after more than 300 alleged mobsters—including the 80-year-old ‘Godfather’ Domenico Oppedisano—were arrested in a police blitz earlier this month.” The Telegraph article is accompanied by a screen capture from an Italian police surveillance film showing Oppedisano “being ‘sworn in’ under a statue of the Virgin Mary at Polsi near Reggio Calabria.”

I think one difference between Italy and Latin America is that Italy was more “clericalized” in its Catholicism than Latin America. On the one hand, the clergy had more supervision over what the people did, so the symbols that people employ even in expressing their “folk Catholicism” are the same as those of “clerical Catholicism”. On the other hand, people will employ those symbols in the exact same way that the Latin American, “un-clerical” Catholic does. In this case, while mobsters in Mexico will pray to Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte for success in their criminal endeavors, the Italian mobster will use an image of the Virgin Mary for the same purpose. Also, even such figures as St. Jude or St. Dismas will also be used for these less than Christian purposes. So the whole idea of a “folk saint” may itself be a construction, for even “approved” saints will be used for unapproved intentions.


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15 responses

31 07 2010
Henry Karlson

Arturo

Indeed, it is. I can understand to some degree, on some issues, wanting a voice. I think part of the reason we see it online is that people who are so vocal here feel deprived of such a voice elsewhere.

Nonetheless, when I write (and I do write on politics) this kind of view of politics must always be seen behind what I write.

31 07 2010
Arturo Vasquez

I think this is an accurate portrayal of our current situation. When I see Catholics on-line and in the media speak about politics, they are many times much more passionate about it than their religion. Or rather, there is a certain synergy between their political and religious rhetoric, to the point that it is hard to tell what they are really talking about sometimes.

31 07 2010
Jason C.

“Propaganda” seems to me the recurring theme in how society functions. Take, for example, something like military pomp. You can call it “patriotism” or “honor.” But is it not, at root, propaganda? And yet, can society function without propaganda? Is all pageantry propaganda? The line of questioning in my mind can go on and on.

Tip of the hat to Henry Karlson for mentioning Jacques Ellul. I have not yet read his book on propaganda, but I’m sure he deals with the topic thoroughly, being the great thinker that he was.

31 07 2010
Arturo Vasquez

I study Latin American culture pretty closely. I am most definitely not over-generalizing.

31 07 2010
Al Kaholic

LARGELY a “hyperreal spectacle” and a “simulation”, yes, but not entirely.

31 07 2010
Luisa

Please do not generalise: not all Spanish America (or Portuguese) is the same.

31 07 2010
Anonymous

the modern American “politics” is in fact a simulation… there are no real political issues or polis, because everything is structured by global capitalism, top down. Actual politics would be actual people engaged in the ordering of their own material and cultural spaces, which is not the case today. People are ordered and structured by forces outside their own knowledge or control. Republican/Democrat, pro-life/pro-choice, it’s all a hyperreal spectacle.

31 07 2010
Henry Karlson

Modernity has made it seem as everyone must be into politics, and if you are not, you are “ducking the relevant issues.” However, for most of history, most people were not connected to politics in any major way — they were free to be their own person, to pursue their own proper place in the world and let the politicians deal with politics. Democratic states create the illusion that one’s political activity means something and so everyone must be active in politics or one is not doing one’s duty – in this way, politics has become a religious obligation, and a state religion. But as de Maistre among others show, this spectacle is ridiculous because it is based upon ideologies which are self-contradictory — when mobs rule, the individual is sucked up anyway.

I do know the rise of political activism has come hand in hand with the decrease in the general public’s connection with Catholicism. The state has its calendar – it becomes more important than the ecclesial ones with its festivals. The state has its laws – which become more important than canon law. The state has its leaders – who are seen as more important than ecclesial leaders. The state has its ideals – which are read into the church’s. The dream of the positivists have state religion is true, and I would say the bread and circuses (sports) are a part of the state religion too — it’s the folk aspect of it.

31 07 2010
Annie Mouse

Or, perhaps, merely a desire, motivated by whatever factors, to duck the relevant issues.

31 07 2010
Anonymous

No, I was pretty serious about it.

30 07 2010
KarlH

Is this comment meant as irony?

30 07 2010
Anonymous

anti-politicality is just a cover for the neoliberal post-political biopolitics of late stage finance capitalism.

29 07 2010
Henry Karlson

My problem: anti-propaganda is just another word for propaganda.

One of the best books on propaganda, and how it is used, good and bad even, is Ellul’s book by the same name– Propaganda. Well worth the read.

On the other hand, despite the way VN deals with “issues” I am not one who is big into politics. I try to use my sensibility to discuss issues, though if you look through my posts, my interests should be clear with those posts I take the most effort to write.

And as a side note, have you ever read Steucho? He’s one I’ve wanted to read.. I know one of his arguments against the reformation was… one would be better a pagan than a reformer..

29 07 2010
FrGregACCA

Non-practicing Italians? I thought being Italian was sort of inherent.

29 07 2010
The young fogey

I have nothing to prove that or not as the Italians I know are non-practising but it sounds right.

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