Saturday, 27 September 2014

MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND. UNTIL IT DOESN’T.


 

 

I know they say you can’t take it with you, but I’m going to be buried with a suitcase full of money just in case you can.
Jackie Mason

Money can drive some people out of their minds.
The O’Jays, For the Love of Money

A short while from now, a London nurse visits an ATM the day after payday to discover she is unable to draw any money from her account. Assuming the ATM, or the bank’s IT system, is at fault, she tries another. The result is the same, as it is with all the ATMs within walking distance of her flat. Nearby, a soldier has the same problem, as do teachers, social workers, traffic wardens and a young Serbian council worker whose job is to send recycling bags to local residents. There is no money in their accounts because they have not been paid, and they have not been paid because there is no money to pay them, and there is no money to pay them because no one will lend any more money to the UK, which is now bankrupt.

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.
Nick Land, Suspended Animation

Meanwhile, a pensioner is trying to get his television to work in his poorly heated flat, unaware that his pension has not been paid into his account any more than the Incapacity Benefit usually received by his noisy, aggressive neighbours. For some reason, the electricity has gone off, although he has topped up his key. It may be a trip switch, and he has tried to phone his son. His son knows about the electrics, but the phone network is telling him to try again later.

Astronomy came out of astrology. Chemistry came out of alchemy. What will come out of economics?
Bernard Lewis in conversation

Two miles to the West, the wife of a politician is tearfully packing expensive crockery into a cardboard box. She feels very, very guilty, but doesn’t understand why. After all, it was her husband and his colleagues who kept quiet about the simultaneous collapse of the Bank of England, the downgrading of the UK’s credit rating to junk-bond status, and the flight of capital to Switzerland. It wasn’t her, although she knew. In Zurich, there are no more bank vaults available and, across the border in Italian hotels, there is a lucrative trade springing up in the rental of strong-boxes.

Arguably, this collection of essays is remarkable less for what it includes as what it so markedly excludes. There is nothing here on economics (other than a projection of forthcoming financial collapse…)
Michael Walker, review of Michael O’Meara’s Toward the White Republic

Ten days after the tills stopped ringing in Oxford Street, every shop has been looted (with the exception of Waterstone’s, the book shop) and gangs run the streets. There are no police officers to be seen. They have not been paid. The first PCSOs assigned to keep order in south London were beaten to death with claw hammers taken from PoundLand.

When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.
Chuck Prince, former CEO of Citigroup (retirement payout: $40 million), from an interview with the FT

On a seasteading development off the Cayman Islands, in non-territorial waters, hedge-fund traders are joining Hollywood starlets and arms dealers for cocktails and canapés. From the Bodden Town district of Grand Cayman, thick black plumes of smoke stand out against the Caribbean blue of the sky. Bodden Town is not the financial centre of the Cayman Islands.

It is a fact; decadence is far more expensive than prosperity.
Guillaume Faye, Why We Fight

In the garden of a European Commission building in Brussels, next to a commemorative chunk of the Berlin wall, a cat picks at the rotting tendons of a financial expert who died while working on a series of bail-outs, fiscal stimuli and contingency plans for the euro. He was shot in the head by his own bodyguard, a Sunni Muslim who had never felt easy about working for a financier who sanctioned interest payments on capital.

If capital cannot earn a normal rate of return in an activity, capital is not supplied to that activity.
Paul Craig Roberts, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism

London’s streets are littered with broken glass sprinkled with jewellery. No one even bothers to steal. There is no one to whom to sell the goods and nowhere to spend any money it might be sold for. Like the dogs, foxes and cats, whose populations are now beginning what will be an exponential rise in urban areas, each day, for each person remaining, represents a set of difficult and often fruitless tasks designed to obtain food. People try to catch the feral animals, but they are too fast for the steadily weakening, dwindling urban population. Soon, the animals will realise that they have the upper hand and, as they too must eat, they will turn on the slow, diseased street people, which all but the seasteaders have become. The dog no longer cowers before the man, no longer runs. The fox has a different set of skills now, no longer afraid of men.

Our cultural empire has the addicted… clamouring for more. And they pay for the privilege of their disillusionment.
Major Ralph Peters, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence

From a basement apartment, its rice-cake-thin door flapping on buckled hinges, the fading sound of a song can just be heard as the batteries in a CD player eke out their last power to propel the Scotch-and-gravel voice of Tom Waits into the Autumn evening.

Baby I’m gonna stay wit’ you
Till the money runs out.

The sky becomes darker, the gradual arrival of night hard to notice in its incremental advance, but total and stifling when it finally descends.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

THE OUTSIDER REVISITED, OR, THE ADVANTAGES OF HOME-SCHOOLING



In 1956, a bookish young man wrote his debut in the British Museum. His day’s work done, the poor 24-year-old would sleep on London’s Hampstead Heath. Colin Wilson died almost two years ago, but his book, The Outsider, is still very much alive.

Wilson became driven by literature while at school, an archaic notion now. Leaving education at 16, he eschewed university and immersed himself fully in the written word. This is what gives The Outsider its authentic tone. It has none of the antiseptic tang of the university about it, but instead is redolent of the rich aromas which will always be a friend to the true autodidact.

The Outsider began life as a novel before Wilson saw he had the framework of a book on the figure of the alienated étranger in Western literature. As an artefact from the decade prior to that in which Western cultural decadence properly began, The Outsider can be read both with an awareness that it was a reaction against a society long gone, never to return, and with a complementary awareness that the reaction itself – a paean to literature, alienation, intellectual elitism and Sartrean bad faith – is no longer possible in our contemporary world, in which commodity has triumphed over the self.

Wilson keeps his efficient forays into philosophy to a working minimum; there are none of today’s whistle-stop tours of Wikipedia leavening the elegant prose. The book is largely exposition and comment, and no worse for this simple approach, reading like an introductory primer to the writers discussed. This is not a criticism but an endorsement. A teenager today, if he reads at all outside of the internet and magazine-based ephemera, is faced with an ocean of garishly-covered ‘novels’ when he actually needs, if only he knew it, to be acquainted with all the writers and artists discussed and dissected in The Outsider.

Coming at it again after thirty years, I read The Outsider as a notebook from a lost continent. Who, nowadays, reads Sartre and Dostoevsky, Eliot and William James, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Nijinsky or van Gogh? Literature, like other cultural areas, has been arranged for us now, and there is no need to delve into the intellectually challenging unknown. Far easier to stick with popular science from the pen of Brian Cox, Leftist history as automatic writing from the pianola roll of lifestyle journalists, ChickLit, TV spin-offs, Fifty Shades of Harry Potter. Personally, I am happy with this arrangement. Like the estate owner shaking his fist at passing ramblers and cursing the quad-bikes and pop festivals on his land, I would be unhappy if the amoebic pseudopods of what passes for modern culture invaded the Elysian fields of what I consider to be my territory. Fortunately, I need not worry. The saving grace of great literature is that much of it is difficult to understand, the combination of the lock is beyond a reader armed only with a Gender Studies degree, a copy of The Guardian, and Owen Jones’s new book. Wilson quotes Jakob Boehme to this effect;

“If you are not a spiritual self-surmounter, let my book alone. Don’t meddle with it, but stick to your usual nonsense.”

The Outsider is sub-titled An inquiry into the sickness of mankind in the mid-twentieth century… Mankind is past the sickness stage now, exhibiting all the symptoms of a Nietzschean malaise which believes itself to be in a state of rude health, and this most dangerous of conditions does not affect Outsiders, in literature or anywhere else, but is carried virally by insiders, by the new establishment, the new inquisitors of the socio-cultural wars. As the Arabic proverb puts it; Better a thousand enemies outside the house than one enemy inside…

Wilson is fresh and relevant again because there is so little modern culture offers. It is there, between the box sets and the bling, the lifestyle magazines and the edgy BBC dramas, but time needs to be put aside to find it, and time is being targeted by a cultural offensive sponsored by the elites and designed to relieve you of the burden of creative or inquiring thought. It is not difficult to imagine a time in which readers of serious literature will begin to be viewed as mentally suspect. As T S Eliot (a constant Virgil to Wilson’s Dante in The Outsider) wrote; Mankind cannot bear very much reality.

In our clearly insane age, it is useful than insanity stalks the book; we observe an Outsiders’ asylum containing Strindberg, Van Gogh, Nijinsky, Rimbaud, Nietzsche. This is the danger of courting the intellect. Love never really drove anyone clinically insane; it is left to the extremities of thought to achieve that. As Wilson writes,

“As far as the Outsider is concerned, it is more important to have a powerful intellect than a highly developed capacity to ‘feel’.”

If Wilson were writing now, although he would find plenty of putative Outsiders in the psychotic moral universe of televisual drama, there are scarcely any among writers or artists. I could only come up with a shortlist of Michel Houellebecq, Takuan Seiyo and Mark E Smith.

Wilson’s reading is a glorious patchwork, incomplete (he doesn’t mention Robert Musil’s Moosbrugger in The Man Without Qualities) and partisan, and this is why it has life, still. The Outsider is essential reading for any enquiring mind unacquainted with the literature of existentialism. If your children don’t read literary classics they risk forfeiting a full imaginative, engaged mental life. This is scarcely scientific, and the canon of ethnocentrism would now be wheeled out by the progressives and trained on Wilson as too white, too male, too elitist, too bookish. But a bookish turn can furnish and fashion a person. To breathe the air of the literature of estrangement, perhaps it might be wise, with regard to Wilson’s book, to act on the suggestion made by a child in a garden in the fifth century, overheard by St Augustine, and applied to his Bible; Take up the book and read…

Saturday, 13 September 2014

ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS*: FINESSING THE UNION



“I had rather be with you,” he said, “in your solitary rambles, than with these Scotch people, whom I do not know…”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
 
One of the greatest of Englishmen, Dr Johnson, used to tease his Scotch friend and biographer, Thomas Boswell, by informing him that the greatest thing to come out of Scotland was the road that led to England. This week, for our triumvirate of leaders – who look like some ghastly boy band reforming for a comeback tour – the greatest thing to come out of England appears to be the road to Scotland.

Of course, the ‘No’ campaign may be justifiably horrified that three of the kingdom’s most unpopular men are en route to the land of heather and deep-fried Mars Bars to add their wholly unconstitutional weight to the debate. On a personal note, I don’t believe that my tax money is supposed to pay for a coalition of parties to send their woeful leaders to campaign on the same side for an outcome which ought to be left to the Scottish people. But if there is one thing the European political class believes should be outlawed, it is the referendum. If it were an EU process, a ‘yes’ vote would simply lead to the nation being invited to re-sit the examination, as with Ireland.

On the issue of Scottish independence, I don’t have a dog in the fight, not so much as a Highland terrier. It would be pleasant to see the rictus faces of the Maoists running the EU if the Scots decide to go it alone, but it’s nice not to care about an issue, marooned as we are in these days of hashtag activism, morality by T-shirt slogan, and the penny arcade of compulsory opinion that the internet has become. Concerning the referendum, as Bertie Wooster would say, one simply shakes one head and passes on.

The interest, as ever, lies in the narrative. Why are the ruling class and their attendant media so appalled by the idea of Scottish independence? The media class despise England, and one might think that plucky little Scotland snubbing the imperial host might appeal. But this has not been the theme of endless column inches warning off the Scots from voting yes which have super-saturated news coverage this past week.

Islamic State’s press officer must be at his wit’s end. No one’s returning his calls and, despite cutting off heads at a Stakhanovite rate, they just can’t make the UK front pages. Personally, I miss my quota of bloody murder in the name of political ideology, but made up for it by reading Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s masterful biography of Stalin, In the Court of the Red Tsar. Did you know Vladimir Putin’s grandfather was a chef who cooked for Lenin, Stalin and Rasputin? Well, there we are. You do now.

But to return to the media offensive against the potential audacity of a Scottish ‘yes’ vote. The headlines rang with the kind of Biblical imperatives usually reserved for climate change. ‘Ten days to save the Union’, ‘Fly the flag to save Scotland’, ‘One last desperate plea.’ You don’t have to search for a sub-text here; the text itself is riding around in a brightly coloured clown car for all to see.

This issue of Scottish independence has divided the online community, as you might expect, along sectarian lines. Broadly, the Left are against it and what I think of as the dissident Right (with apologies to John Derbyshire), as well as Libertarians (within which I broadly include myself) are for it if it is the democratic expression of the Scots. And democratic expression is what a referendum is, which is why the ruling class finds it all so pesky. What on earth, they think, are the great unwashed doing getting involved in political decision-making? Demos may mean 'people' and kratos may mean 'power', but ‘democracy’ is a portmanteau word that the elites would like to see go the way of ‘antimacassar’ and ‘stagecoach’.

As for the sudden panic at polls indicating that the ‘yes’ campaign has recently narrowed the gap to near-parity, we simply note Peter Hitchens’ insight that opinion polls are as often as not designed to engineer voting behaviour and not to record it.

In passing, who maintains a calm dignity above the melée? Why, the same woman who will reign on once Cameron has left number 10 for the first of his lucrative and bland post-prime ministerial speaking engagements, and Nick Clegg – a man there is no excuse for – has left the country he hates to enjoy his EU pension pot; Queen Elizabeth. The Palace issued a wonderfully starched snub to those media Johnnies who were impertinent enough to suggest that the monarch was somehow fighting for the union (and the Queen has a well-documented fondness for Scotland). The Queen, leading by example as always. And that, gentle reader, is why I’m a monarchist.

And so the political class continues its deranged odyssey, in thrall to the Guardianistas of Islington, believing that it believes, sewing together patches and scraps of ideology into a raggedy man of conviction. What it is that it thinks it wants from the union is beyond me but, like a child grasping at a toy which lies out of reach, want it they do.

To return to where we started (although not necessarily to know the place for the first time) with the man who should be England’s patron saint, Dr Johnson. The big man was fond of quoting Piozzi on the subject of Scotland;

“Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful.”

Whichever way the Scottish electorate decide to use their knowledge (and I imagine that the nation’s sub-editors have been banned from allowing the word ‘canny’ to appear in print), it is their choice, and they should treat the English media, as well as the three stooges of Westminster, like the bampots they are.
 
* Title of a poem by Lord Byron, as I’m sure you know, you literary eggheads, you.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

FARAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: UKIP VS GOVERNMENT BY PR

I shall suppose… some evil genius… has employed all his energies in deceiving me.

René Descartes, Meditations


The defection of Clacton MP Douglas Carswell from the Conservative Party to UKIP actually took place, no matter how much Tory high command tried to smother the news with the antics of IS, the latest Frankenstein’s monster of the Western governing class. Carswell is intelligent (see his The Plan with Daniel Hannan) and appears principled, although he was caught out in the expenses scandal. Nigel Farage will have much to learn from the arriviste.

The closing of mainstream media (MSM) ranks in their treatment of UKIP has only, as you might expect, been noted outside the MSM. Whatever the destiny of the party branded (a word we will return to) by Cameron as one of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, they and their talismanic leader Nigel Farage have already had a curious and powerful effect on Westminster; they have introduced the concept of the real.

This is not to say that Farage or his people are real in the sense that you or I might use the word. It may be that Farage’s image-makers have a more intuitive grasp of what ordinary people see as ordinary, and produce that quasi-visual effect on the blank canvas of their man. Politicians resemble those city pubs which do not look like pubs to the seasoned drinker, but have been designed by branding gurus to appeal to the tourist and their preconceived, televisual image of what a British pub ought to look like. They are Potemkin pubs just as much of our political class are Potemkin people.

On a related subject, pubs, beer and cigarettes have played a curious supporting role in the current political mummer’s play, paraded as they are as props denoting the real. The elites are bound to have a paradoxical relationship with fags and booze. On the one hand they denounce them as health hazards and A&E fillers, while the other hand trousers the vast tax sums they generate. But as the synecdoche of the ‘ordinary bloke’, cigarettes and beer – along with ubiquitous football - hold an authoritative position. Synecdoche is the representation of the whole by the part. Outside of language, in the realm of visual symbolism, it occurs when for example the monarchy is represented by an image of a crown, or the sign for a restaurant on a map is shown as a set of cutlery. For the Westminster PR, smoke-and-mirrors image couturiers, nothing says ‘average chap, just like you are’, as well as a snout and a bevy. A shame, then, that the elites elected to take on Farage on what is apparently home turf.

Cameron and Clegg pictured together in a boozer looked as comfortable as two dowagers at a rave. As for Ed Miliband, a photo of him supping a pint looked like a man being forced to drink paint. Farage is clearly at home in a pub. What’s interesting is the response of the elites and their make-up artists. And Cameron himself had this to say;

I don’t really accept this thing. He is a consummate politician. We have seen that with his expenses and wife on the payroll and everything else. So I don’t really accept that he’s a normal bloke down the pub thing.”

Forget the near-illiteracy of this statement from a serving Prime Minister, or the tacit admission that a ‘consummate politician’ is a corrupt one, or the attempt at matey language (the repeated use of ‘thing’). What is interesting is not that Cameron rejects Farage’s image because it is false and produced. He does not. He rejects it because it might be real, and reality is not within the rules of the neo-Socialist Westminster game.

Even if Farage is one day unmasked as the creation of a ruthless spin ‘n’ SpAd machine, even if the beer and the fags and the ordinary bloke routine is as scripted as are the facades of the other party leaders, the rise of UKIP will still have told us much about the political elite and their courtiers in the media. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether Farage’s image is real or not. The simple fact that people believe it is has shocked and frightened the ruling class. Being real, being unspun, is just not playing the game.

Nick Clegg – possibly the most egregiously manufactured politico of our three ‘main’ leaders – could barely disguise his contempt for Farage as he lost both his debates against him. Of course, Clegg did not admit defeat because his client media told him he won. It was only real people (another despised category for Clegg) who noticed Farage’s dominance.

Cameron, of course, famously branded UKIP a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists. We note in passing that it was a standard gesture under Stalin to question the sanity of your opponent. Contemporary Britain is increasingly resembling Stalinist Russia without the gulags.

Farage, unfortunately, has joined a world (he was a City broker) of illusion and cannot be completely free of the image-building mechanism of the mainstream media (MSM). Thus, we find documentary film maker Martin Durkin, who shadowed Farage to shoot a film about him, apparently feigning astonishment that Farage is so normal, the perception of normality being the grail of the Westminster PR machine. Durkin had the following to say;

“There isn't a hidden side behind the bloke with the pint. He is as he was as a boy, bolshie and perverse.”

The Daily Express liked that quote so much they made it a pull-quote, that short, pithy sentence or two you see in a larger font and designed to get you to read the whole piece. ‘Bolshy’ and ‘perverse’ certainly fit Farage. So much so, in fact, that in his autobiography, Flying Free, we read;

“I was an alarmingly normal, cricket-loving Kentish boy – albeit a bolshy, argumentative and perverse one.” Objective journalism by Durkin, or book marketing?

Let him who is without spin cast the first stone.

Monday, 1 September 2014

AMOCKALYPSE NOW? GUILLAUME FAYE, THE CONVERGENCE OF CATASTROPHES, AND CASSANDRA’S LAMENT

Chorus
Wert thou already possessed by the art inspired
by the god?
 
Cassandra
Already I prophesied to my countrymen all their
disasters.
 
Chorus
How came it then that thou wert unscathed by
Loxias’ wrath?
 
Cassandra
Ever since that fault I could persuade no one

of aught.

Aeschylus, Agamemnon

 

Many years ago, media enfant terrible Julie Burchill minted the term ‘amockalyptic’. Her target was the journalists and writers eager to inform us of the inevitability of our doom, apparently merely to get our attention and persuade us to buy their employers’ wares in the form of a newspaper. This was pre-internet, and so all journalists were ‘conventional’ or ‘real’ (see the posting previous to this).

To an extent, of course, this made for Burchill an enemy of almost the whole of the print media. Disease, terrorism, global warming, crime, war, nuclear disaster, flooding, paedophilia, migration, economic depression; the arsenal of the amockalyptic scribbler is well stocked. But when does amockalypse become apocalypse? And who are our Cassandras, ‘[prophesying] to my countrymen all their disasters’?

It’s a good time to be a futurologist; we are certainly living in interesting times, geopolitically and economically speaking. But are we heading for apocalypse, of whatever or all, variety? Or is it a case of Amockalypse Now? Welcome to Traumaville. Here, the citizens are used to being cajoled about the latest threat to Western civilisation. IS are this month’s bad guys, and it is their image we see on our screens for the daily two-minute hate. But we should know by now not to trust the conventional media, marionettes as they are of the ruling elites. We must look elsewhere for our Cassandras.

Guillaume Faye was a founder member of the predominantly French 1960s New Right (Nouvelle Droite). Disillusioned by the much-vaunted events of 1968, this collective took a long-term view of the West in response to, among others, Gramscians determined to complete the ‘long march through the institutions’ fabled by the Left. Faye warned of what he called a ‘convergence of catastrophes’. From the book of the same name;

‘A series of ‘dramatic lines’ are approaching one another and converging like a river’s tributaries with perfect accord (between 2010 and 2020) towards a breaking point and a descent into chaos.’

Social, cultural, political, climatic and economic crises which, insufficient individually to damage the West other than locally, are combining, according to Faye, to produce a perfect storm of dysfunction leading to ‘the economic collapse of Europe, the world’s foremost economic power, [which] will bring down the United States and other advanced economies.’ [Why We Fight]

Faye is actually very optimistic about what will emerge from this chaos, but he is adamant that it is the myth of the Phoenix that will be required after a period of reverse social evolution during which European nations will descend into ‘a new Middle Ages.’

If you seek Faye’s monument, look around you. If culture and politics are inextricably interwoven, as Faye believed, then a brief appraisal of either will lead you to the shocking state of the other. Politics has becomes a laboratory staffed by technocratic charlatans using the rest of us – the non-elites – as its experimental subject matter. Our culture could have as its figurehead a buffoon in big trousers with gold teeth, a brand logo tattooed on his forehead and a misspelled profanity shaved into his hair.

But the conventional media are not interested in the dark times which may lie ahead. Their amockalypse is always a short remove from entertainment. This is exemplified by the – apparently true – tale of a BBC reporter emailing a member of IS for comments on the Robin Williams film Jumanji. One suspects that, if a radioactive suitcase bomb detonated tomorrow morning in London, the Evening Standard would, later the same day, run a feature on how Simon Cowell was dealing with it. While the media juggle the amockalyptic issues of the week, they pay the minimum of attention to other trends, other historical movements and formations.

Immersed as I am in Julian Young’s masterful biography of Nietzsche, I am minded of the German’s sustaining belief that we should look to the Greeks for our civil and social models. To appeal to the Greeks for advice is also to appeal to their myths and legends. If today’s Cassandras both exist primarily in the unsanctioned regions of the internet, and also turn out to be correct, we must remind ourselves that no one paid any attention to Cassandra. Nor to Faye. Also, Cassandra was blinded. While Faye retained his sight, he was still branded a heretic by the new soft totalitarians. Michael O’Meara, Faye’s loyal translator and exegete, writes of Faye’s book (untranslated at present) La Colonisation de l’Europe that;

‘[The book’s] characterisation of Europe’s Islamisation, in anticipating 9/11 and other Muslim assaults, earned Faye and his publisher a 300,000 franc fine and a year’s suspended sentence.’ [Preface to Why We Fight]

As Orwell writes, ‘[i]n times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act’. For Faye, ‘the courage to tell the truth mutates into a cardinal sin.’ [ibid.]

Very few of Faye’s works are translated into English but, at the end of Archeofuturism, he indulges in sheer, fictional futurology, depicting his convergence of catastrophes as a drama set in what was at the time of writing several decades away, but is now imminent (fictionally speaking). If Faye is right, it is the chorus who were blind, not Cassandra;

‘In June 2015, the President of the IMF uttered words that are now part of history: “This is not an economic crisis. This is not a recession. This is the end of the modern world: this is the apocalypse.”

The Indian girl smiled. “That was the gods’ will”.’

Faye may be wrong. Time will tell us. We must, unless we are nihilists, hope that he is, for his message is as simple as it is stark.

‘All of a sudden everything will stop and the magic will end.’

[Convergence of Catastrophes]