Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Little Danny Barenboim

A consolidated version of this will eventually be a JT column...

I'm probably the only member of my generation who still believes that high art is high and low art is low and the separation between art and entertainment exists for a good reason. The reason just became President. You might think concert halls and art galleries are pretentious, but everybody has to aspire to greater understanding of the universe, and if you think your understanding is just fine as it is, you'll find that there are many things in life you don't understand, and you'll gravitate to figures who claim they have all the answers.

In ways not even religion can, great art keeps us honest in a universe about which we know nothing. Once art shows you how much bigger the universe is than your little corner of it, your curiosity in the face of it becomes a virus from which you hope you can never be cured. Their works are the only miracles which the average human being is ever allowed to see, and any number of pilgrimages become worthwhile at any expense, because with every miracle, you're brought closer to their creator. 

Few composers understood the miraculous like Anton Bruckner, for whom every moment of music was an affirmation of a gigantic Christian faith. When Mozart was happy and sad, it was beautiful, but Mozart was happy and sad in the same way a claims adjuster is. But Bruckner's happiness sounds like God's creation of the world, and his anger sounds like hellfire. 

Jews, at least until my generation, love classical music. American goyim go to historical societies, but Jews have no long heritage of power to celebrate, so they celebrate the best of other people's heritages - theaters, museums, operas, concerts...  but Jews hate Bruckner. Mozart, with his practical everyday joys and sorrows, is a music any Jew can love. Bruckner, with his soul-states and nature obsessions, is as un-Jewish as it gets. Mention Bruckner in my family and you'll get an eyeroll as long as his Eighth Symphony. Everything about Bruckner - the spirituality, the extremes of violence, the lack of concern for everyday emotion, the organ-like sound, is the opposite of qualities we associate with Jewishness.

So of course, the only Jew who loves Bruckner as much as me is Daniel Barenboim - the brilliant and quixotic Israeli musician loathed by Israelis for his pontifications favoring the Peace Process and against Modern Israel. To many Israelis, the Berlin-dwelling Barenboim is the personification of the self-hating Jew. 

Musicians don't get more gifted than Barenboim, a pianist and conductor of gigantic intellect and energy, who at 74 just conducted Bruckner's 9 symphonies at Carnegie Hall in nearly as few days. All nine are 70-minute musical cathedrals whose every second is larger than life.

Barenboim is usually at his best in such larger-than-life pieces: Bruckner, Wagner, Liszt, these are composers whose gigantism plays to both his intellectualism and his showmanship, and were today's opera singers better than they are, Barenboim might be remembered as a greater Wagner conductor than any German. Next to Wagner, Barenboim is best known for his endless profusion of Beethoven performances. Full cycles of all 9 symphonies and 32 sonatas, once a decade, in every major world capital. And yet, Barenboim strives for so much philosophical depth in Beethoven that the dynamism and passion which overthrew world governments often goes missing. It's almost as though Barenboim mimes emotions he doesn't feel, thoughts he doesn't think. He bends the tempo to point up details that Wilhelm Kempff and Otto Klemperer make you hear by doing nothing at all, he dampens passions at places where Artur Schnabel and George Szell throw all of themselves into the music. 

But on Friday Night (yes, shabbos), Barenboim gave a Bruckner 7 for the ages. I had not thought it possible to love music like that anymore, I was a sixteen year old kid again - I couldn't breathe, my heart moved up into my esophagus, my eyes watered - had a friend been there with me, I'd have given them a bruised forearm from gripping it so hard. 

There are so many moments in live performance that cannot be duplicated on record, and how much moreso is that true with Bruckner's titanism? Those long dramatic pauses after thunderous climaxes mean so much less if you don't get the full few seconds of orchestral reverb in a concert hall. Those gigantically loud chorales sounding so brassy on record become almost psychedelic in concert.  You can't necessarily hear the woodwinds supplmenting the brass's vibratory overtones two octaves up, but you can feel them, and they peak out at you like beams of iridescent light. In the not-as-strong final movement, Barenboim effortlessly glided over the construction flaws with tempo adjustments that seemed just perfect, and after one false climax, Barenboim held the orchestra in silence for an unmarked, nearly ten second, grand pause while none in the audience dared to breathe. 

Barenboim's Bruckner 7th was so full of those unduplicable moments that I can't possibly describe them all except to say that the next night's performance of Bruckner's even greater 8th symphony was as devoid of them as the night before proliferated with them. There were a few great moments in the opening and finale, but this was a different Barenboim, trying to awe us with his infinite depth rather than move us with his infinite gift. The tempos in the 7th were slow, fast, everything in between, and varied from phrase to phrase. The tempos in the 8th were leadened down with rocks. The famous 25 minute slow movement became a weird case of schizophrenia where the first half was stretched to fifteen minutes and the second half compressed into ten, with hardly a scintilla of the musical tension which made Barenboim's previous performance so awe-inspiring. The high-wire risk act of the night before became a dull ritual, a religious rite in which we all had to worship at the temple of this musical monolith.

There is something in Barenboim's makeup that compels him to act like a more serious musician than he is. In person, Barenboim is a voluble personality - a charismatic extravert with a fantastic sense of humor, a prodigious worker whose intensity is matched by a furious temper - in other words, typically Jewish... And yet, the humor all too present in his life all too rarely shows up in his musicmaking. Many masters for whom humor is a stock and trade like Haydn, Berlioz, Janacek, Mahler, Stravinsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Messiaen, Ligeti, Schnittke, are composers he either plays selectively, rarely, or not at all. When he plays unavoidable composers who have humor coming out their pours: Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Richard Strauss, Ravel, even Liszt, he does his best to make their music as serious as he possibly can. In those few moments when he lightens up and plays Johann Strauss or the Spanish music of his Argentinian early childhood, he becomes a completely different performer, a showman to the manner born. Not only does he bounce around like a Vaudevillian, but the music-making takes on a lightness, an elegance, an enjoyment, that his high-priest manner rarely allows himself otherwise.

High art is necessarily more serious than low art, but in no way does either great art or seriousness preclude humor. And yet, seriousness to Barenboim seems to imply the opposite of humor. Barenboim has made an entire religion out of musical seriousness. He apparently gave an impassioned defense of high culture at Carnegie on the night of Trump's inauguration, and everyone who heard it found it incredibly inspiring (except Jay Nordlinger, a conservative classical music critic who tries to put an ideological bent on his reviews... yawn...), yet when he resigned from the Chicago Symphony, perhaps his principal complaint was that he felt forced to talk about music, which he does with such eloquence that the whole world loves him for it.

I don't know what it is that makes Barenboim feel the need to be so much more stodgy and traditional than he really is. What we do know is that this Bruckner cycle, an unprecedented feat in American musical life, was a celebration of Barenboim's 60th anniversary as a performer at Carnegie Hall - when he was just 14 years old.

Imagine a 14 year old Barenboim, not only subordinating his natural effervescence to the piano's impossible demands, but seemingly taken under the wing of every serious European musician of his time: Furtwangler, Klemperer, Barbirolli, Kubelik, Celibidache, Edwin Fischer, Rubinstein, Arrau, Markevitch, Boulanger, even the young Herbert Blomstedt. How much seriousness he did not feel did Barenboim have to counterfeit from so young an age? Leonard Bernstein, no child prodigy he, let his endless musical energies proliferate in every direction he could find, engorging himself upon music like a gourmand. Simon Rattle, no genius he, is guided as a conductor by natural enthusiasm for whatever music captures his fancy.

The young Barenboim, who surely was genius enough to compose were he determined to, became only a performer. He became one of the great classical music performers of this or any time, but he also became a caricature of a great classical performer, who overwhelms those who enter his musical temple with his profundity of aim. Were he to enjoy himself, were they to enjoy themselves, perhaps they might catch a glimpse of young Danny in the few years before his Carnegie debut, playing piano in the sweltering Jerusalem summer for his family's livelihood, his father wrapping his knuckles with a ruler for not paying sufficient attention during their piano lessons, overwhelmed with a desire to go outside and play football with the other Jewish refugee kids. But as he got older, Danny probably learned that a certain kind of girl loved the kid who could play anything on the piano and could speak eight languages as a party trick. And as he got older still, he realized that postwar Europe would bend over backwards for famous Jews in manners that neither Israel nor even America ever would. And then, older still, he realized that Europe was not only better than America at providing for the rich, but providing for the poor as well, without realizing that this comfortable European pastorale was made possible in no small part by American defense bases and systems on their soil. Older still, he sees his homeland, hobbling and weary from fifty years of self-defense, Rabin shot dead for pursuing peace, and the entire country going mad from peace being so close at hand yet so far, and he becomes not only an advocate for Israeli peace, but an advocate against Israeli society. A man as famous and venerated as Barenboim has no way to empathize with any struggle that isn't larger than life. The larger-than-life revolutionary struggles of Palestinians appeal to him in a manner that the everyday struggles of people who simply want to feel safe never can. He speaks out against Israel, and he becomes more than simply a musician, he becomes a world hero.

But beneath the hero, there is little Danny Birenbaum, who probably grew up to be an advertising man in Tel Aviv and now has an apartment across from the Tayellet on the Tel Aviv shore. He rebelled against his father and gave up his dreams of pianistic glory, but he's always had an IPO subscription and occasionally plays chamber music with old friends. Rather than marry the great cellist of his generation, he married an abrasive girl from a Kibbutz in the North who wanted a guy who could give her a life in a city. They had three kids, one of whom is a part-time filmmaker who works as a camera salesman in Brooklyn, another works as an engineer near Haifa, a third died during an operation in South Lebanon. All things considered, Danny Birenbaum hasn't had the worst life, but the fact that Daniel Barenboim almost became him fills him with revulsion. If Daniel Barenboim ever acknowledged that an ordinary life might be a satisfying one, the entire reason he's lived his life as he has would unravel. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

How We Got Here: A Cultural History of the 21st Century - Episode 2 (2/3rds rough draft...)

Let's begin this with not just a quote, but a self-quote. At the beginning of our second episode, rather than quote a great intellectual, I'm going to quote me from the very end of the first episode. 

"What Russia hates is American liberalism: pure, boring, unreformed, mid-20th century, rock-ribbed, Rooseveltian, American liberalism. An ideology viewed as totalitarian because it's no ideology at all, and therefore invalidates other ideologies. The same liberalism accused of being a perversion of classic liberalism to which Republican antiliberals want to revert, the same liberalism which Socialists and Marxists call neoliberal and think outmoded, the same liberalism which anti-imperialists accuse of being conservatism with the added hypocrisy of a human face, the same liberalism which imperialists accuse of advocating policies no different anti-imperial terrorists. The liberal whose best motto is to live and let live, and in the course of human events, this liberalism corrects itself to better let us live and let live. It corrected itself after World War I to mean internationalism, corrected itself after the Great Depression to mean economic progressivism, it corrected itself during World War II to mean anti-pacifism, it corrected itself during the Kennedy era to make human rights for all, then corrected itself during the Johnson era to mean that human rights should be a particular priority at home where unintended consequences can be minimized - and had to correct itself on this matter yet again during the Bush era. A liberalism that went from Wilson to Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy and Johnson to King, before its progress was halted, and then made manifest again by Obama. A liberalism that adjusted itself by untold numbers of thinkers, statistics, and debates, and constantly evolving itself to give humanity a greater and greater chance at something better for all and not merely the elite. But the greater liberalism's triumphs become, the greater its defeats are when defeated."

Let's also go back to a quote from Aleksandr Dugin, Putin's favorite intellectual, about Hillary Clinton: Clinton is the old world order, the one which was formed in the early 1990’s. This order is coming to an end, but it does not want to be ended. And this means agony. The agony of a small state or nation is one thing. It is scary and dangerous, even toxic. But the agony of a global hyper-power is a monstrous challenge for the whole world, for all of mankind. It is like a titan falling into the abyss... Clinton means War 

Assuming Dugin is even close to being an accurate window into the perceptions of Vladimir Putin, why did an election of President Hillary Clinton mean war to Russia? The answer to that is both deceptively simple and too complex for the purposes of this series. According to Dugin, the destruction of America was inevitable. But if proof of America's inevitable destruction is required, then Russia has to provide the proof. If America has an incompetent, venal President, who wants to destroy American institutions to strengthen his own position, the question as to why American destruction is inevitable is self-answering. But if the world's most powerful country has good leadership that strengthens its position and makes it a more virtuous example to the world of sound governance that helps advance the interests of its citizens, then similar things will be demanded increasingly often in every other country of the world. Add to this Hillary Clinton's slightly greater hawkishness in foreign policy, and the differences were not nearly so great between Obama and Hillary as supposed but just great enough that Russia's position in the world would clearly be weakened still further, and Russia's twilight upon the world stage would become very nearly inevitable. There is no such thing as historical inevitability - history has yet to be written and has no definite direction. However, those who believe that the direction of history is inevitable have a vested interest in proving themselves correct. When you believe that history's ultimate end is Liberal Democracy, then you have a vested interest in advancing its spread through military might in Iraq and Afghanistan. When you believe that history's ultimate end is the Worker's Paradise without borders, then you have a vested interest in stretching your sphere of influence all across the Eastern half of Europe and every other part of the world to force every country to adapt your way of life, whatever the cost, in the hope that by the end, the Workers can achieve their paradise. One of my favorite thinkers is the Russian/English political philosopher and intellectual historian, Sir Isaiah Berlin, who for all his occasional ideological wooliness, was absolutely adament about this core point which he stated more eloquently than any thinker I've ever heard:

“If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise. Only the stupid and malevolent will resist once certain simple truths are put to them. Those who resist must be persuaded; if they cannot be persuaded, laws must be passed to restrain them; if that does not work, then coercion, if need be violence, will inevitably have to be used—if necessary, terror, slaughter.” 

Just think of that 1957 statement from Mao Tse-Tun when he said that it would absolutely be worthwhile to kill half of the world's population so that the other half could achieve a Worker's Paradise in perpetuity, and now think of that when it comes to the potential for an ideological orientation from Vladimir Putin.

If your belief is akin to many Slavophiles over the years, which is that Russia has a special destiny to bring the proper Word of God to the world, then you have to advance your cause with action, lest this special destiny never materialize. In this sense, and because Hillary's policies may have been effective to a point that dwarfed even Obama's, the greatness that might have been a Hillary Clinton Presidency was perhaps the greatest possible invitation to a worldwide disaster. Perhaps America would have survived such disasters, or perhaps we wouldn't. We have no idea. Abraham Lincoln's election facilitated the Civil War, and it was because the South knew in its bones that America had elected the most effective fighter against slavery the world had ever known that the war which ended slavery became inevitable. One can't argue with the final outcome of the Civil War, but roughly 620,000 people died, another 475,000 were wounded, another 400,000 were either captured as prisoners of war or went missing altogether. Other potentially great leaders in American History, from Alexander Hamilton to Martin Luther King, were slaughtered precisely because of the effectiveness with which they were agents for change. 
Their deaths were a kind of pre-emptive prevention from achieving their greatest accomplishments. I have no idea if Hillary Clinton would have been so great an American leader as Lincoln or King, but it seems relatively clear to me at least that Vladimir Putin thought so, and was willing to incur casualties well beyond those of the Civil War to make sure that her advocacy of freedom and sound government and the rights of all peoples would never come to fruition. And when war breaks out at this later date of History, you can be sure that the casualties will be well beyond a million and a half of the Civil War, because excepting maybe Mao, no leader in modern world history has ever seemed so blithe about undermining the established order of things as Vladimir Putin. But Putin does not undermine the established order as Mao did, to wholesale create a new one. Putin undermines the established order so that he can fortify it, make it stronger, make it invincible. 

Putin joined the KGB in 1975, seven years after the Soviet crackdown of the Prague Spring and during that heroic period when Soviet dissidents like Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Sharansky, and so many others, risked their lives and the lives of those they loved to speak truths about the USSR during a period when socialists in the West still did their best to cover their eyes. It's well known to Russians that Putin views Stalin as an unequivocally great man and the 1990's as the greatest calamity to ever befall modern Russia. Think about that for a moment: between World War I, the Russian Civil War, Stalin, and World War II, somewhere upward of 50 million Russians were murdered senselessly, and yet the 90's, the post Cold War era when Russia's prestige was at its lowest ebb, was the period Putin found to be a disaster above all others. What Vladimir Putin wants more than anything else is order, unbreakable, invincible order, and he is a Michelangelo of destroying order in order to create a stronger one. 

From the very beginning of his Presidency, destroying the order to build it back up has been his greatest commitment and most devoted creed. For twelve nights of 1999, there were five separate terrorist bombings in various Russian cities, a number of which took place within apartment buildings. Russians of every city had to lie in bed every night wondering if that night would be their last. 293 innocent people died, many in their beds, and more than a thousand were injured. At the time, it was blamed on Chechnya, and public support for a Russian war against Chechnya went through the roof - but forsenic evidence pointed to the bombs being detonated by the FSB, the KGB's successor as the central office for Russian Intelligence, and staffed mostly by the same people. A few members of the Duma, the Russian parliament, created a commission for an independent investigation. Two members of the commission were assassinated, and the commission's lawyer was convicted in closed military court and thrown into prison for four years. 

The result was the Chechen War. The capital of Chechnya, Grozny, has long since been reduced to waste. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, violent Chechen casualties have numbered at least 100,000 and by some estimates as many as 300,000 - surely enough to qualify as a second or third-degree genocide. To put this in proper perspective with another war of attrition, the very highest estimate of Palestinian casualties since 1948 is roughly 76,000, and this does not just number the maximum amount of Palestinians killed by Israelis, but the roughly equal number killed by neighboring countries where the majority of Palestinians live like Jordan and Lebanon, and killed by other Palestinians in intra-national political battles. In nearly 1/3rd the time, Russia has probably killed 3 times as many Chechens as anyone at all has killed Palestinians. 

In just two years in the violent Eastern Ukrainian conflict which began around the time which Putin-proxy Viktor Yanukovich was deposed, 10,000 people have died - a chilling reminder of what may come to America if we do something similar to Donald Trump. 

Let's leave aside the potential that Putin's Russia was behind a whole slew of planes shot down like Malaysia Flight 17, and even the Polish Air-Force Tu-154 Crash which carried half the Polish government to a joint commemoration of an event during World War II when the anti-Nazi half of Poland's 1940's most important people were gathered into one place and slaughtered en masse. 

Let's just focus for one second about Syria, the closest thing the 2010's have to a Spanish Civil War. Who ultimately bears responsibility for the somewhere between 312,000 and 470,000 dead? Is it Assad, who directly benefits by staying the unquestioned leader of the country? Or is it Putin, whose vested interest in it was to stop the Arab Spring from spreading to any country where dictators stomp on liberty?

2011 seems like ages ago, but anyone for whom that year meant something, who lived through that brief period when liberty for all, yet again, seemed possible, will never forget it. Like all these moments in history, it was mostly a fool's hope, but in our various ways, we all need hope to keep going. 

What was the ultimate cause of the Arab Spring? Nobody will truly know. Factually, it started with the  really difficult  difficult to imagine that the struggles of a couple hundred minors in Tunisia can inflame the imagination of an entire region of 220 million people. But from the perspective of this Ugly American, who can't help seeing the world from his American white male perspective, I would not underestimate the importance of President Obama's election. 

I know it seems like ages ago, but as great an impact as Obama's election had here, imagine the impact it had in Muslim speaking lands. The most powerful country in the world whom most Middle Easterners believe rules their region like a Czar and uses the US to explain every evil that besets them - even the ones the US isn't responsible for, had just elected a man named Barack Hussein Obama. Barack: Arabic for "Blessing." Hussein: Arabic for "Handsome." Obama: Luo for "Bend." 

The United States, the Great Satan, is not just contrite for its actions, it allowed a man whose very name paid tribute to the Arab side of his family to ascend to the powerful position in the world. It showed that the US was capable of living up to its democratic ideals, and if such a democracy can be more powerful and just than an autocracy, then no ideal is more worth fighting for. 

No idea could be more threatening to Vladimir Putin than that. He had to stop the Arab Spring in its tracks, because if he didn't, two things would have happened. The option of the two would have been that Islamic movements would take over these countries and establish dictatorships at least as bloody as their secular counterparts, who could then potentially launch holy wars with secular autocracies that cost millions of lives. The wars would have been a thorn in Putin's side, but Putin would nevertheless be lauded by many as a hero. 

For Putin, the still worse eventuality would be that democracy takes root in all the countries who demand it, and even if Putin left power peacefully (ha!), he would be remembered forever as an ineffectual butcher who'd probably be made to answer for his crimes in International Criminal Court. Syria was where he chose to make sure this would never happen, and to counteract the tide of democracy, and the stability which many people think democracy facilitates, any number of deaths, any amount of destruction, any amount of what we liberals consider the height of villainy, had to be countenanced without mercy. 

The more stable an order is, the more labyrinthine the rules that keep it in place, the more a system allows life to thrive, the more brutally ruthless have to be the blows so as to make the walls give way. The more stable a country, the more horrific its downfall. By 1789, France, the kingdom well-known for having the most intricate of all Europe's monarchical hierarchies, was beset by a revolution. First came a financial crisis, then collapse, then the rise of the Jacobins and the guillotine, then the execution of a few hundred noblemen, then the rise of Robespierre who executed most of the other Jacobins and eventually was himself executed for having been responsible for the execution of 20,000 Frenchmen, then came the ten year French Revolutionary War which killed somewhere between 300,000 and 1.1 million French, and then came Napoleon to unite France under his dictatorship and who decided he needed to put the rest of Europe under an Empire united under his rule, and somewhere between 3.5 and 6 million people died for the cause of his ambition to conquer the world. When there is too much order, the ensuing chaos become all the worse. Too much control yields to the demand for too little, which once enacted, yields to the ultimate controller - death. The years 1789 to 1815 were an avalanche of death that claimed ever more lives for twenty-six years before the avalanche finally stopped rumbling.

War did not rage throughout the supposedly civilized part of the world for another hundred years, when it broke out again in 1914, it took thirty-one years to stop, and in the meantime, if we go by the estimates of R. J. Rummel, probably the best known scholar of state murder, who also has an easily accessible website if you can stomach such a thing, we lost somewhere between 17 and 18 million to World War One, then somewhere between 20 to 50 million in the Spanish Influenza which probably broke out because of the unsanitariness of the battlefields - it spread so far around the globe that the world will never get a true estimate of the lives lost. There were an estimated seven million who starved to death in various countries during the Great Depression, another estimated 5 to 9 million deaths due to the Russian Civil War of the early 1920s which broke out after the collapse of the Czar, only some of which are attributed the four million deaths for which Lenin is directly responsible after he consolidated power, and the 5 million killed by Imperial Japan, most of which are part of the 20 million dead in the Chinese Civil War of the 30s and 40s, for which the Communist party led by Mao in the few years before he assumed power was responsible for 4 million deaths alone, then there are the four million Chinese Deaths for which Chiang-Kai Shek's right-wing nationalist government was responsible, then there is the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Turkish generals which killed roughly 1.8 million if one counts a few hundred thousand non-Armenians also murdered, and then the nearly million people killed by the allegedly great Ataturk who is still revered by American neoconservatives - taking their cue from Bernard Lewis - as the model of an incorruptible secularizing dictator, the well over a million killed in quote-unquote minor European right-wing dictatorships like Mussolini and Franco and Horthy and Pilsudski and Salazar and Petain, another roughly 20 million killed in various ways by Hitler's Nazis for which we needn't elaborate, and the probable upward of 50 million people killed by Stalin's various orders and policies alone. It is macabre at best to list these totals and then add all of them up, but let's just say that the wars of the early twentieth century killed so far over a hundred million people that it might be closer to two-hundred million. One then adds up the stupefying death tolls of the Cold War and the quote unquote Third World upon whom it was mostly perpetrated, the roughly twelve million Soviets for which dictators after Stalin were responsible, the 2 million dead in the killing fields of Pol-Pot's Cambodia, the roughly 1.7 million killed by North Korea, another 1.7 million killed in the Vietnam War and its aftermath, the 1.5 million dead in the Polish Civil War which killed my great-aunt after surviving the Holocaust, the 1.5 million killed by the various Pakistani military dictatorships, the 1.1 million killed in Yugoslavia, yes, the 6 million dead from United States actions in the Cold War. And worst of all, the roughly seventy-seven million killed in Mao's China, for which no truly reliable total is possible, and some estimates go up to a hundred twenty million people.

While estimates are obviously unreliable, evidence would seem to point to that five hundred years of traditional Western mercantile Imperialism with all its attendant mass murders and starvations and diseases and slaveries cannot come even remotely close to equalling the total number of deaths engendered by thirty-one years of advanced warfare, let alone an entire global century of it. In fact, for five hundred years of Western Imperialism to reach anything even resembling the equivalent death tolls of the twentieth century one would have to not only accept the very highest estimates - such as putting the total Native Americans killed at 120 million people higher than than the 15 million that is generally supposed, but also include the casualties of Islamic Imperialism. God forgive me if I'm wrong, because I know no one else will, and they might not even if I'm right. I do not want to imply or even give the semblance of implication that imperialism is anything but one of the villains of modern history - but I do believe that imperialism may be the tertiary villain that to which totalitarianism and nationalism must take precedence. All three are obviously bound up with one another, but totalitarianism in the name of anti-imperialism has been proven again and again to provoke far greater suffering and lethal consequence than imperialism in the name of anti-totalitarianism. It may even be the quaternary villain of modern history, with militarism playing a still larger role. I know that it will inevitably sound to people as though I'm making allowances for the practices of imperialism, be it in historic mercantile form or in contemporary unregulated capitalist form, to continue. I'm even slightly doubtful about the statistics and continually worry that I've misread them, every time I've read them they've surprised the hell out me. I know that any complaint I make about the Left's wail of imperialism uber alles will sound like a defense of imperialism...But I find that the blood-curdling stories of the Twentieth Century at its worst makes it difficult to work oneself into sufficient commitment to fighting for every person suffering under injustice. And if the neoimperial injustices of unregulated vulture capitalism add up and the financial system completely collapses sometime around 2040 and sends the world spinning into a Third World War, and perhaps then an even worse Fourth World War thereafter, would it be that unreasonable to assume that the next world war would claim yet another multiple of ten - more a billion lives as its eternal property? Would it be unreasonable to assume that the aftereffects of dictatorship and illness and proxy war and yes, imperial wage slavery, from the conditions it leaves could claim another two billion? Or is that underestimating the number of possible casualties?

Friday, January 20, 2017

How We Got Here - A Cultural History of the 21st Century - First Half of Episode I

I leant upon a coppice gate 
      When Frost was spectre-grey, 
And Winter's dregs made desolate 
      The weakening eye of day. 
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 
      Like strings of broken lyres, 
And all mankind that haunted nigh 
      Had sought their household fires. 

The land's sharp features seemed to be 
      The Century's corpse outleant, 
His crypt the cloudy canopy, 
      The wind his death-lament. 
The ancient pulse of germ and birth 
      Was shrunken hard and dry, 
And every spirit upon earth 
      Seemed fervourless as I. 

At once a voice arose among 
      The bleak twigs overhead 
In a full-hearted evensong 
      Of joy illimited; 
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, 
      In blast-beruffled plume, 
Had chosen thus to fling his soul 
      Upon the growing gloom. 

So little cause for carolings 
      Of such ecstatic sound 
Was written on terrestrial things 
      Afar or nigh around, 
That I could think there trembled through 
      His happy good-night air 
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew 

      And I was unaware. 

Thomas Hardy was born a little too late. He was a generation younger than the great Victorian intellectuals who represented Merry Old England at the optimistic zenith of its Victorian Era; writers and thinkers like Dickens and Thackeray and Tennyson and John Stuart Mill and Matthew Arnold and George Eliot and Cardinal Newman and Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin and Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone - men, and at least one woman who took a man's name - so influential that they defined a country and a century. The world has moved on from their overly proper and priggish optimism and their peculiar and pecuniary liberalism, but it was, for better or worse, probably the best the world was going to do in the 19th century, and a hell of a lot better than what lay in store at the start of the 20th. 
The only way that a still greater and more equitable liberalism than the Victorian liberalism that allowed for the vicissitudes of imperialism and would ever be born was to emerge from a meat grinder of death - a blood sacrifice which demanded more than two hundred million victims and made no distinction between the conservatives who held a more equitable world back, the progressives who aimed to create a greater world, and the already oppressed of both the European lower classes and the oppressed of imperial rule in Asia, Africa, and occasionally Latin America - the very people who could have benefited most had they survived the great harvest. Was it worth it?  

Hardy was one of nature's great pessimists. English Literature was ruled at the mid-19th century by Charles Dickens, the ultimate optimist and a poet of hope, who passed his characters through terrible tribulations so that they might emerge more triumphant in the end. Late century English lit was ruled, if by anyone at all, by Hardy. 
Two thirds of the way through his career, at roughly the Century's turn, he abandoned novels for poetry, perhaps because he had too much gloom in his outlook to render any longer his sour thoughts on life with the ambiguities that narrative demands. When he wrote those immortal sixteen couplets of The Darkling Thrush, was his foreboding for his own soul's future, was it foreboding for people he loved, was it for Englands, the world's? 

We are now 116 years after The Darkling Thrush, and there are three people alive in 2016 that were alive in 1900 - none of whom was born before 1899. No one is alive today who can tell us whether or not living in 2016 feels like living in 1900, but I would imagine that a certain kind of liberal felt a foreboding that could not be quenched. 

The historian Niall Ferguson, no liberal he, wrote of 1901 that an "inhabitant of London could, as he sipped his breakfast tea, have ordered a sack of coal from Cardiff, a pair of kid gloves from Paris or a box of cigars from Havana. He might also, if anticipating a visit to the grouse moors of Scotland, have purchased a 'Bradalbane Waterproof and self-ventilating Shooting Costume (cape and kilt); or he might, if his interests lay in a different direction, have ordered a copy of Maurice C. Hime's book entitled Schoolboy's Special Immorality. He could have invested his money in any one of nearly fifty US companies quoted in London - most of them railroads like the Denver and Rio Grande (whose latest results were reported that day) - or, if he preferred, in one of the seven other stock markets also covered regularly by The Times. He might, if he felt the urge to travel, have booked himself passage on the P&O liner Peninsular, which was due to sail for Bombay and Karachi the next day, or on one of the twenty-three other P&O ships scheduled to sale for Eastern destinations over the next ten weeks - to say nothing of the thirty-six other shipping lines ofering services from England to all the corners of the globe. Did New York seem to beckon? The Manitou sailed tomorrow, or he could wait for the Hamburg-America Line's more luxurious Furst Bismarck, which sailed him from Southampton on the 13th. Did Buenos Aires appeal to him more? Did he perhaps wish to see for himself how the city's Grand National Tramway Company was using - or rather, losing - his money? Very well, the Danube, departing for Argentina on Friday, still had some cabins free. The world, in short, was his oyster."

Where stand we in 2016? An inhabitant of the Washington DC metropolitan area, as he, or still depressingly seldom she, sips on their Sunday brunch mimosas, can whip out an I-phone and go on Amazon and there they can order five pounds of replica fat for $70, an old Asian man peel and stick wall decal for $30, a Nicholas Cage pillow case for $8, two ounces of weed for $5, a Kaylen's hand butt plug for $30, a fifty-five gallon drum of lube for $1350, a Roswell New Mexico soil sample for $16, a badonkadonk land cruiser for $20,000 and $500 shipping, an infant circumcision trainer for $192,1,500 lady bugs for $6.25,  a sexy inflatable sheep made to look like Dolly the first cloned sheep for $7.50, a stegosaurus dog costume for $28, 32 ounces of wolf urine for $100, an underpants dispenser for $11, a complete body unitard for $70, and uranium ore for $40. If they wanted to book a trip anywhere in the world, they could find literally hundreds of websites devoted not only to saving money on the trip, but earning money by taking a trip. They could find online classifieds houseswapping and housesitting and dozens of websites to advise them on how to get the most value out of it, they could be subsidized for years by a non-profit to volunteer and fundraise on a development project, they could look at online forums for hitchhiking and carpooling and many websites devoted exclusively how to do either/or of them safely, message boards for staffing yachts and advice on how to crew it, applications to crew a cruise on any major cruiseline's website, they can inquire onto car rental websites for people who've just moved and need vehicles driven from the place they live to a far off place, they can offer to work at a hostel rather than pay it, they can organize a group tour for which they act as both agent and guide.

Some people would say that this is the way that the world's true masters anesthetize us to the world's truest concerns by dangling consumerism and commodities in front of us and forcing us creative types to hustle our way into the lower middle class while the less imaginative and risky of us reap the world's true benefits. Many others, including me, would say that this is evidence that the world is particularly our oyster. The reason we focus on how to procure our own trivial delights not because we are slaves to the world, but because we are its masters, and once again, the world may demand remittance on our trivial concerns with a payment not in in dollars or coin of the realm, but in pounds of blood.  

(cue music)

Greetings, salutations, welcome, and all due appropriate sentiments to this episode #0 of "How We Got Here: A Cultural History of the 21st Century." 

Let's start with the first thesis of this series, and then divert enormously from it. We have just emerged from the Television Era. I believe that in the past generation, it is not movies or music that has represented us most accurately, however well some in each field of the Arts do, and it's certainly not fiction or art. Far more than any other medium, TV gives its creators the freedom and diversity to show our lives accurately, and I aim to show that as best I can.

This podcaster was born at the cusp between Generation X and Millennials, we were not only born in the television era, but even our parents can't remember a time before television. But our parents grew up with three basic networks, we grew up with thirty, and by the time we became adults, we had 300. I would imagine that we are now in the Podcast Era - hence why I'm here. But in some ways there is as great a difference between TV and Television as there is between either of them and podcasts. TV is entertainment, Television is art. TV is escapist, Television is cathartic. TV exists to comfort us, Television exists to drive us mad. 

I would date the emergence of Television from TV to somewhere between the final episode of Seinfeld in May 1998 and the pilot episode of The Sopranos in January of 1999. Something in the American air changed sometime during the last seven months of 1998 much as they seemed to change again around the Fall of 2014. 

The thirties were the decade of fascism, the eighties were the decade when Communism fell. The nineties were the decade of the blowjob. The 'quote-unquote Great Event', the most famous of 1998, and indeed, of the whole decade, was the Lewinsky investigation and the Clinton impeachment, which everyone both Right and Left agreed, represented an absolute low in American discourse - during a period so seemingly prosperous and indolent that the country had nothing better to do for an entire year than talk about the President getting head underneath the desk of the Oval Office. Nevertheless, this roughly seven-month period between Seinfeld and The Sopranos set much of the stage for everything that would later come - no pun intended, honestly.

The great political development of that period was the emergence, and a word like 'emergence' hardly does justice to the effect it had on America, of the Drudge Report. Traditional news, even 24-hour TV news, even FOX News, could not possibly keep up with the proliferation of trivial but distracting political stories, or entirely made up stories, that cater to and inflame the prejudices of people who believe in the inherent bias of traditional respectable journalists who practice journalism through the same process since the founding of The Spectator in the 1720's - and if not that many millions of people believed that traditional news had no bias before the Drudge Report, then the Drudge Report alone convinced millions. No newspaper, not even the Wall Street Journal, no yellow journalism, not even the Daily Mail, no television network, not even FOX news, could ever shape hearts and minds with the ferocious prowess of an aggregating website that could send its audience down a rabbithole of information, often false but certainly not always, that was available to them at the click of a mouse.

But if you think Drudge Report isn't a substantial enough event to mark the passing of one era to another, then for this period that contributed to American life and history - one should remember was that this was the period when the bulk of debate was conducted over whether to repeal the Glass-Steagal act, a financial act passed barely more than three months into the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Glass-Steagal was the most important substance of the Banking Act of 1933 which established a wall between commercial banks and securities firms. What Glass-Steagall meant in laymen terms is that a commercial bank at which middle class people could store their money with expectations that the money would stay put, could not itself be invested in stocks and funds so that banks could potentially make more money for both the bank and for its customers. In theory, eliminating the separation can reap incredible financial benefits to both bankers and their customers, and in practice, that's exactly what happened until The Great Recession of 2008, just as it's exactly what happened until The Great Depression of 1929. Both times, it was shown pretty much definitively that commercial banks trying to increase their holdings through the stock market was spectacularly irresponsible.

I suppose I'm giving away my political bias right at the beginning of this series - are there really that many conservative podcasters anyway? You'll quickly see that compared to most progressive podcasters I'll seem downright conservative, but I am a liberal, through and through, clinging to it like a religion in insecure times precisely because liberalism is the most insecure of all philosophies, a coreless, constantly evolving and debated theology that ultimately seems to adapt itself from era to era for the specific needs of that particular historical moment. But regardless of whether one is liberal or conservative, moderate or progressive, alt-right or intersectional warrior for social justice, everyone seems to agree that something extremely dangerous happened in American life during this period - even if we all disagree about what the particular dangers were that we passed. Whatever the center of American life was, whatever America's basic expectations and routines were, it seemed to be hollowed out sometime around that infamous year of 1998.

Around the corner was the twenty-first century, and while America is still unquestionably the world's only superpower, we are all the more vulnerable because of our indispensability, and every American would seem to agree that the 21st century beset our country with an endless parade of hopelessness. Not hopelessness by the standards of history, but hopelessness by the standards of the most prosperous and wealthiest nation in the history of our planet. Nobody knows what 2017 will bring, but there is no question, even in 2016, even in December 2016 (!), that a person desiring to make a success of him or herself has the best possible chances right here, and right now, to rise and lift oneself from poverty.

Lifting oneself up from poverty does not mean alleviating one's hardships through social programs while still contenting oneself with little more than a minimum though living wage as progressives like to believe, and contrary to what conservatives believe, it can be done while still respecting the economic rights of communities and refraining from the exploitation of others to achieve one's goals. But to rise in financial security and status to a place of self-respect and pride, and to create an identity, a security, a future, a career, and a freedom for oneself, is still something that has happened in America tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of times more often than any other place in the world.

Since I would imagine that it is mostly liberals, progressives, and socialists, who would listen to this, I would like to point out to them a certain quote. "The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America."  This quote was from the 1935 State of the Union address, it was given by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The human spirit,... spiritual and moral disintegration,... how old-fashioned, how out of touch, how quasi-religious and conservative, how bourgeois those terms sound to the enlightened modern ear which can't help but hear the echoes of Bill O'Reilly or Newt Gingrich or Margaret Thatcher talking about the corrosive effects of dependence on a citizen's ability to lift himself up by the bootstraps. But what other option has there ever been? What other motivator moves a society to prosperity? Socialists and Marxists, and sometimes even Progressives, would have us believe that a dream of self-respect is just something which we would all have innately if companies and their advertisers did not constantly deny them to us. According to such people, these are all part of the lies told from inside the whirlwind of the great neoliberal machine, which gives us feelings of security and freedom and achievement precisely by taking these feelings away from us, and always depriving us of any real version of all three.

The various substrata of leftist religions can never seem to agree upon a solution to this matter, the reason being as clear as day to its Doubting Thomases that there can be no solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Neither corporations or governments can deprive us of self-actualization when they are both extraordinary products of the human mind and its miraculous powers of organization. Both private and public organizations can be and are used for good and ill, and both are used for good and ill billions of times every day. The problem is neither corporations nor governments, the problem is the messy minds that thought of them both, organized them both, keep both running, use them both, exploit them both, and heal them both. Just as President Obama says that we are the one's we've been waiting for, we are also the ones keeping ourselves waiting. It is neither possible nor desirable to eradicate either or even shrink them significantly. But even if it were, it would be in the interests of every living being on the planet to keep both of these literally superhuman entities which simultaneously control us and are controlled by us to operate in good health and be as representative of our interests as any organization can possibly be by being so inflexible in how both are regulated that we endow both with the flexibility to check the most oppressive impulses of the other.

No matter what Jacobin intersectionalists say to discredit it, no matter what FOX News conservatives say to discredit it, no matter how many times Bill Clinton-like moderates acceded to conservative demands to dismantle it, no matter how effectively the alt-right will assault it in the future, there is only one way to live your best self,  and that is self-creation, and at least at this moment in time, America, wounded as she clearly is, is still the best place to do it.

At this point in our chat, I have to take a moment to point out that I very much realize that all this especially rife with hypocrisy when coming from a chronic manic and melancholic and learning disabled person who is therefore perhaps the last person deserving of a show on intellectual matters. I'd like to think my reading is impressively wide but if the breath of it is impressive, then the lack of discipline is truly astonishing. I will be talking at length about books I have in no way come close to finishing, cherrypicking chapters all over the place ripped from their contexts and necessarily simplified. I am, in every sense, one of those 19th century cultivated amateurs, dilettantes, who soaks in a little bit of a subject at a time and calls it knowledge. I don't think much of a lot of most academia, where specialties are, as the saying goes, a mile deep and an inch wide, but they wouldn't think much of me either, because I'm their mirror image, a relic of the kind of unspecialized pseudo-erudition that created modern academia's condition in the first place.

I am also someone whom thus far in his adult life has, to his humiliation, relied upon all manner of social welfare doles from family, friends, and in mercifully few instances, the state itself. All I can say in my defense of badmouthing the impulses to mercy and pity that let a ne'er-do-well white male born to upper-middle-class privilege like me live, and perhaps even live well, is that I'm all too intimately, all too infinitely, all too regrettably familiar with the humiliating corrosion of welfare and how it can erode a human being's self-respect. So much for partial disclosure,... There are, thankfully for me at least, structural balances that favor people like me and prevent me from falling into the worst situations which the world has to offer. Nevertheless, I think I've earned, at least to a small extent, the right to be critical of the institution. A person who requires any manner of social welfare should be able to get access at the first possible opportunity. But if it can at all, ever be avoided, the price of a person's knowledge that they have been forced to declare themselves unable to cope with life's vicissitudes without assistance on the most existential levels is a burden greater than many of us can bear.

But if we all let our personal hypocrisies hold us back from saying what statistics tell us is true, then the world would be a less knowledgeable place. To anyone willing to read the history and statistics, it should be obvious that American Liberalism has achieved more in less time than any nation in the history of the world. Let's just take one obvious example: since fifty years ago, poverty has fallen by one-sixth it's level, since sixty-five years ago, poverty has fallen by nearly 40%. Imagine what might have happened had conservatives not cut and demonized Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs. We did not end poverty, we didn't even come close, but we lifted fifty million people out of it whose ancestors never knew anything but poverty, and we lifted their children, and their grandchildren, and soon, let us pray, their great-granchildren. How many hundreds of millions are now more secure for what the United States government accomplished with the Great Society programs?

This is just one of a hundred areas where America's achievements defy description - most of which we hope I'll have something resembling the intelligence to enumerate here in detail.

So here's the problem, why are we all so hopeless? Two years ago, there was a Wall Street Journal poll that should break everybody's heart, because it showed that everybody's heart was already broken.

Why is it that the America of 1967, segregated and rioting, perpetually terrified of nuclear armageddon, wading into the mud and shit of the first war America would ever unquestionably lose, was so much more hopeful than we are today? Time and time again, postwar America achieved great and unprecedented things; but rather than fortify us and give us confidence for the next challenges, they exhausted us and depleted us of the ability to keep meeting them. Every hope that America would become a better place to live in these fifty years was born out, every one of them, and yet every hope seemed to die. We have achieved the better new world for which many of our grandparents and parents fought in all sorts of ways both militarily and, more importantly, civically, but not only did this new world turn out not that great, it also turned out that that this better world often seems terminally ill. In January 1967, we were secure that the future would be better. In January 2017, America is better, and the world probably is too, but we are anything but secure.

(cue music)

It is impossible to look at Art and not perceive in it in some way in which it tells the story of the area and era in which it was conceived, and it's furthermore impossible, much as aesthetes like Vladimir Nabokov would disagree, to look at Art without reading parallels into it from the real world - or from our own lives, or from the lives of people we know and love or hate or to whom we're ambivalent, or parallels from the metaphysical cosmos at large and those basic, microcosmic but still deep truths of life and existence.

One of Art's great secrets is its societal tremors. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Art is a societal seismograph. With obvious exceptions of course, a secure era always seems to be dominated by secure Art in which the rules are as clearly defined as are the rules of the society at large. The vast majority of the 18th century, with its intricate and unbreakable monarchical hierarchies, was the archetype of a society in which art was created with extremely distinct rules so as to not upset the precarious balance of an incredibly intricate societal structure. Just about all official European and American buildings seemed to be designed with the kind of columns one finds in Ancient Greece or Rome or even Egypt, and the fact that they imitated a pagan era rather than a Christian one was not an accident. The heights and lengths of the buildings were determined by mathematical ratios found in nature so as to provide the most harmonious possible surroundings. Christian styles, like the Gothic and the Baroque were designed in defiance of nature  - to show that there are higher spirits more important than the harmony of the natural world - or at least the supposed harmony. During the Rococo and Enlightenment eras, so much pictorial art was designed by schematic before the schematic was painted over. Just about all music ended in the same key in which it began, and the phrase-lengths are almost inevitably kept in multiples of four measures; while the poetry was by and large kept in strictest possible couplet form.

The expectations of what art was supposed to be was ironclad because the expectations of society itself was ironclad - it was the age after Newton but before Darwin. For a learned aristocrat of the period, nature was, as Eric Hoffer might put it, as orderly and harmonious as a perfectly set and wound Swiss grandfather clock. To put it somewhat differently, the earth may have been displaced from the center of the universe, but along with the Earth's displacement was moved the Church, not the State. For century after century, the State had to orbit around the Church, but since generations of Astronomers proved that the Earth was not the center of the universe, the Church was no longer the center either - and it would be a mistake to think that the two concepts are at all independent of each other. For more than a thousand years, the geocentric view of the universe was as central to the Western World's conception of itself as Christianity. Geocentrism had been kicking around since Anaximander in the Sixth Century BC, who thought that the Earth was a cylinder held at the center of the Universe, and Pythagoras, who posited that the Earth was a sphere. You can find a better explanation than I can give in Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time, but I'll try my best to do the two-minute version.

These two concepts of the Earth being spherical and being at the Universe's center, were synthesized a quarter of a millennium later by, who else, Aristotle - who added that the other celestial bodies were spheres orbiting around us and whose theory anticipated universal gravitation by holding that the Earth was at the center of the Universe because it was the heaviest of the celestial spheres, and all the other celestial spheres like Mars and Venus would orbit around us at a speed directly proportional to their weight. But widespread acceptance of geocentrism as fact only comes from Ptolemy in the Second Century AD, who added extensive data measurements to Aristotle's observations and in some cases anticipated Kepler's idea that the planetary spheres travel not in perfect concentric circles, but in elipse form. Ptolemy was not quite that prescient, but he did note that planets did not travel in concentric circular paths, and therefore travels in orbits within its orbit, forming paths that look like celestial doodles, the center point around this second orbit Ptolemy called an equant.  As in so many cases in the history of human knowledge, the truth is radical enough that the human brain is only willing to concede next-most radical option. Authorities, rather than concede Ptolemy's equant, conceded Aristotle's idea that the Earth was at the center of the universe and that the planets move in circles around it.

That was the Hellenistic contribution to this form of knowledge, now comes the Judeo-Christian. Together, I'm sure I don't need to tell you all that often, they form the bedrock of all the Western Concepts that came after them. In a moment, hopefully, you'll see how the two are related so intimately.

The Jewish conception comes at the latest from the 8th Century BC, when the writers of the Judean court clearly began to refer to Yahweh - or Adonai - and Elohim, and Shaddai, and Elyon, as the same deity in their texts, texts which now comprise the greater share of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Tanakh. Of these, the two most prominent names for God and the two most often used are, as every Jew knows, Adonai and Elohim. At the beginning of the Torah, or, OK, the Old Testament, there are two separate and directly contradictory Creation Stories - one talking of a deity named Yahweh, whose name is spoken as Adonai in modern Jewish parlance, which in Hebrew is an honorific for nobles literally meaning 'Sir' or 'Lord.' This creation story is the common one we know, about seven days and the world of Eden, and ends with the Garden of Eden, a fruitful and bounteous paradise. But curiously, there is a second creation story, one that's both more mundane and more sophisticated, and you can tell why religions emphasize the first over the second. There is clearly a redactor who tried to make the two into a coherent narrative, but he didn't quite make it work. In the Torah, Man is created twice, plants are created twice, rain is created twice, animals are created twice. Elohim is suddenly referred to as Adonai-Elohim, and the world is not without form and void, but a dry land with nothing but dust. You can suddenly imagine the billions of years in which the Earth was a geologic formation without life. Adonai Elohim breathes the breath of life into man and animals and plants, which could even be taken as the process by which inorganic matter found each other to cohere into organic matter.

All this took place at roughly the same point in history. Between the eighth and sixth centuries BC. The central event in the widespread adoption of geocentrism took place around 150 AD, and the central event in the widespread adoption of monotheism obviously took place in the thirty-three years following 0 AD. Together, they were adopted by the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine the Great, and even more particularly due to the influence of his mother Helena in issuing the Edict of Milan in 313, when the Byzantine Empire decriminalized the Christian religion spreading throughout their lands like wildfire, and if not adapting it personally or even as the state religion as is generally supposed, then at least becoming an extremely productive patron of the Christian faith who built many temples to Christianity.

This patronage of Christianity basically lasted for 1400 years, during which the State realized that a higher allegiance was owed than they could possibly grant themselves. Popes and Emperors and Kings might be anointed by God as representatives to rule the temporal world in God's place, the Church might even make them saints, but there can only be one God, and one ruler in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But if there is a Kingdom of Heaven, then the Earth has to be a place worth ruling too that relates the glory of God and the wonder of his works. Why would this be? Many early Church figures considered it so self-evident that it would be presumptuous, perhaps even heretical, to come up with an explanation. At the beginning of this long era of eternal truths, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote:

"And how does earth below form the foundation of the whole, and what is it that keeps it firmly in its place? What is it that controls its downward tendency? If any one should interrogate us on these and such-like points, will any of us be found so presumptuous as to promise an explanation of them? No! The only reply that can be given by men of sense is this:--that He Who made all things in wisdom can alone furnish an account of His creation. For ourselves, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," as saith the Apostle."

 But for a supposedly God-centric view from which we should be so humble as not to question it, it was curiously man-centric. Perhaps closer to the reality of what this meant for mankind was Gregory's contemporary, St. Ambrose of Milan, who declared of Christ:

"Worthy surely was he to stand forth as a man who might stay the course of the river, and who might say: "Sun, stand still," and delay the night and lengthen the day, as though to witness his victory. Why? a blessing denied to Moses--he alone was chosen to lead the people into the promised land. A man he was, great in the wonders he wrought by faith, great in his triumphs. The works of Moses were of a higher type, his brought greater success. Either of these then aided by divine grace rose above all human standing. The one ruled the sea, the other heaven." 

Take away the poesy and what this means is that there are representatives on earth, aided by divine grace to rise above all human standing, therefore chosen by God to rule all temporal creation in his stead. Therefore, because these rulers are appointed, or anointed, by God, the Church, the conduit through which we can all worship Him, has primacy over the state, which is present to administer exclusively to worldly matters. But near as this not intellectually humble enough practicing Jew can tell, the most important of these early church figures to establishing this de-facto primacy of man is probably Hippolytus of Rome, who wrote:

"For what richer beauty can there be than that of the circle of heaven? And what form of more blooming fairness than that of earth's surface? And what is there swifter in the course than the chariot of the sun? And what more graceful car than the lunar orb? And what work more wonderful than the compact mosaic of the stars? And what more productive of supplies than the seasonable winds? And what more spotless mirror than the light of day? And what creature more excellent than man?

There it is. The humility before the face of creation that to the modern ear sounds like the exact opposite of humility. God is so perfect that he must create beings who are the image of his perfection, as beautiful in our ways as the celestial circles of heaven are in theirs, and therefore because everything is so perfect in this best of all possible geocentric universees, man, the divine image of God, must be the center of the universe. Man is the purpose of creation so that he can both appreciate God's creation and also appreciate his likeness to the divine image.

And to show how stationary, how incredibly undeveloped, this both extraordinarily humble and breathtakingly arrogant mode of life was, let's fast forward roughly a millennium into the future to St. Thomas Aquinas, certainly thought of as the most consequential Medieval Christian philosopher and whom I shall not claim to have ever read a single page that wasn't from a book or website full of quotes, but thanks to that greatest of all modern incarnations of the divine, Google, we find that Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologicae that:

"Theology as God has taught it differs in kind from the theology of philosophers - notice that Aquinas takes it as a given that all philosophers are theologians. And let's also note that the bar to becoming a philosopher was quite different at the time, since it simply meant a person who loves wisdom, and therefore studies wisdom, and the study of wisdom can take in any of the sciences, or the arts, or the humanities, all of which are present in the world to relate the Glory of God alone.  Sciences are differentiated by different ways of knowing things: astronomers prove the earth round with abstract geometrical argument - from the shape of its shadow - physicists prove it from earth's concrete physical properties... So something that is the subject of a naturally learned discipline when known by the light of reason becomes the subject of another science when known by the light of God's revelation."

He also writes:

"However, we cannot argue from a definition of God in this science, because we do not know how to define him. Instead, we argue from his effects, be they nature or grace. In certain natural sciences we do the same, proving about causes not from their definitions but from their effects."

In this stationary, unprogressive universe of the Middle Ages when all truths are eternal, science is not to be studied for its own effects, science is the study by which we discover how God's glory is manifested on Earth.

Therefore! With the displacement of the Earth from the center of the Universe, the Church must also be displaced. It becomes a secondary worldly body, gravitationally drawn to into the forceful web of State - which could weave a society with far greater intricacy than the Church ever could on its most organized day. When controlled by the Church, what does it matter if peasants are kept in squalor? Blessed are the poor, and the greater the degradation, the greater their reward will be in the world to come. But as horrible as it might seem to our 21st century ears, a nobleman has to look after his property, which is a reflection of his character. If peasants and livestock and land and infrastructure was kept in disarray, it would reflect horribly on the people who ran it. That is not to say that abuses that would horrify us would not be perpetrated every day in every region, it's not to say that abuses that would even horrify people at the time were not committed all the time by noblemen who didn't much care how they were viewed by others - just think of Mozart's Don Giovanni or certain unusually self-reflective musings from King Lear. But there was a marked improvement, and because there was a marked improvement, there was also a corresponding demand for still greater improvement. More on that in a moment.

The point is that while there was evidence which displaced the Earth as the central stationary body around which the universal spheres revolved, there was no hard evidence yet that the Sun was not at the center - as Copernicus would have it. And like the Sun, the central body of the universe which gives light and warmth and protection and vision, the monarchy was the light of the world around which all society revolved as a reflection of the Sun/King's glory - the allusion to the Baroque French King Louis XIV is not entirely accidental. In such an age, life should be a harmoniously regimented hierarchy in which every person knew his place in the social structure, and should be eternally satisfied with it.

But as anyone who grew up in the suburbs can tell you, hierarchy and predictability can at times feel, however well-managed, like a prison, and when the prison walls come down, the chaos is that much more explosive because nobody remembers what chaos feels like.

The Middle Ages were an orgy of chaos. There is no true way of measuring its demography, and because there isn't, there's a distinct tendency in certain circles of the extreme left and the extreme right to idealize it - one of the idealizers of the Middle Ages is a political scientist, if one can even call it that, named Aleksandr Dugan, who is said to be Vladimir Putin's favorite intellectual. Here is one choice quote of his which can be a standin for how many people feel about the European Middle Ages:

"We need to return to the Sein, to the Logos, to the fundamental ontology (of Heidegger), to the Sacred, to the New Middle Ages - and thus to the Empire, religion, and the institutions of traditional society (hierarchy, cult, domination of spirit over matter and so on). All content of Modernity - is Satanism and degeneration. Nothing is worth, everything is to be cleansed off. The Modernity is absolutely wrong -- science, values, philosophy, art, society, modes, patterns, "truths", understanding of Being, time and space. All is dead with Modernity. So it should end. We are going to end it."

It sounds like something Dostoevsky's Grand Inqusitor would say if he were presiding over Kafka's Trial. Now let's be clear, Dugin's not saying that we need to kill art and science and values and philosophy, he just wants a complete reorientation in how we think of them. And his admiring mention of Heidegger is the clear indicator of how he thinks of them, and it's also worth remembering that Heidegger was a Western philosopher in whom a lot of archaically minded thinkers esteem highly. Ayatollah Khomeini went so far as to believe that nothing in Western Philosophy is worth much except Heidegger. But Heidegger, with his inward and contemplative ideas of pure being and anxieties that gradually creep into our concerns - to say nothing of the Nazi sympathies he held which keep getting more and more pronounced the more specialists delve into his private papers - is in some ways the ultimate neo-medievalist. Think of this quote from Being and Time:

"All being is in Being (the second Being is capitalized). To hear such a thing is trivial to our ear, if not, indeed offensive, for no one needs to bother about the fact that being belongs to Being (once again, the second Being is capitalized). All the world knows that being is that which is. What else remains for being but to be? And yet, just this fact that being is gathered together in Being (again upper case), that in the appearance of Being being appears, astonished the Greeks and first astonished them and them alone." 

Heidegger believed that if you went back to the source, you can recapture that initial awe at the discovery of consciousness, before consciousness was supposedly perverted into doubt, and perhaps resurrect and prolong it indefinitely. Thinking and poetry were, for him, one and the same. The truths of great artistic achievement were as literally true in the same manner as great thought. From my obviously limited vantage point, that is a sentiment that is probably true, but no philosopher, even Heidegger, has the intellectual depth to find the levels upon which that is true. I'm not at all qualified to say whether or not Heidegger realized them, but to a dilettante like me it seems fairly reasonable to say that he didn't. And therefore, his search for an entirely different way of understanding thought meant that we had to go back to the very origins of writings about thought. Heidegger did not rely on classical thinking like Aristotle in the way that Aquinas and the Church founders before him did, he went back to the earliest, pre-Socratic thought. He wanted to go all the way back, past the foundations of civilizations to civilization's very dawn when philosophy and poetics meant the same thing and before their arbitrary separation. In other words, medievalism can be considered to not have gone far enough in its rejection of reason - even Socrates and Aristotle are suspect. Aristotle takes it prima facie that we are rational beings. Heidegger does not believes that, he believes that we are beings consistently hurled forth into the future. He did not think, as Kant did, that space was much of a mystery. But if you think of time as space, then we are constantly stretching new parts of ourselves to grow into the new time. We are not rational beings for Heidegger, we are simply three-dimensional beings trying to apprehend a four-dimensional world in which time is always advancing and we have to remind ourselves from moment to moment that time has advanced. Therefore, our projection of time is just a projection, and we are always projecting expectations upon the future of what the future is, and therefore our projections and expectations can never reach proper fruition. He goes back to Sophocles - whom anybody who's read Oedipus can tell us is the great poet of how knowledge can destroy even heroes. He goes back the poet, Parmenides, who's known today because of a single fragmentary poem, the slightly Ecclesiastes-like gist of which is that change is a myth, even time is a myth, and the world as we perceive it is a false reality. and even Anaximander (remember him?) the proto-scientist who is apparently the first thinker to truly ponder the idea of beginnings. The period Heidegger clearly had most sympathy with was the dawn of civilization as we know it, that period roughly around the Eighth to the Sixth Century BC, when thoughts about our place in the cosmos were first centralized; though, good Nazi as he often was, he didn't care much to investigate the Hebrew side of that equation. To this thinking, be it medieval, or be it distantly related to modern totalitarianism, decadent thought sets in almost by the mere existence of thought itself, because thought requires skepticism and critical distance and individuality, which alienates us from appreciating our existence properly and results in all those spiritual diseases that modern language would call despair, which leads to the possibility of wide-scale destruction. Against so much evidence to the contrary, Heidegger believed that the world did not have to be this way. The only way to make a world without such suffering is to knock the whole thing down and start from scratch with no guarantee that at the end of all that revolution, all that murder, all that suffering, you've created a world any better than the one you destroyed to make it possible. Had Heidegger been more open to the Hebrew side of knowledge's beginnings, he might have taken Ecclesiastes more to heart, with its idea that  'For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.'

There are leaders who reassure us that the economic problems we have are not indicative of problems within the human spirit, which is doing just fine, and that all we have to do is take care of some material concerns that with the human faculty for empiricism and reason and invention and dogged persistence, can be overcome, albeit with titanic difficulty. Any follower of the Enlightenment would have to agree that that's at least our best option. In America we have Obama and Roosevelt and Lincoln, and in this nascent post-American world, perhaps we have Angela Merkel. But there are also leaders, leaders like (yes) Adolf Hitler, or in completely different ways, Ayatollah Khomeini, or in a completely different way again that perverts the Enlightenment, Mao Zedong, who assure us that the economic troubles that beset us are due to a spiritual crisis, that our material crises are like a gangrenous limb that has to be completely amputated, and once we do, our problems shall cease - perhaps that limb is Jews, perhaps it's imperialism, or perhaps it's capitalists, or perhaps it's Sunni Muslims, or perhaps Mexicans... and eventually, it's even the salt-of-the-earth people whom such spiritual leaders claim to represent who suffer for the failure of the better world to materialize. The consciousnesses of their followers becomes so pure, so ecstatic, that no amount of critical faculty can compete with onrush of good feelings they experience, and in the process, if they no longer can doubt, their individuality ceases to matter, and they can be mowed down at the leisure of the leader they follow. Humanity will always be a messy substance of labyrinthine complexity - a whole whose parts never fit together. But if you believe that the problems of humanity are due to a spiritual disease, then a guru figure who promises a revolution and a radical break with the diseased parts will always be precisely the intellectual narcotic for which you search. This is, of course, a matter further complicated by materialism itself being elevated by both the American Right and much of the worldwide Left into its own forms of religion, and we'll get to all that in later podcasts.

So consider one of Heidegger most famous aphorisms: "The human being is not the lord of beings, but the shepherd of Being." (the second Being is capitalized), Now that could just as easily have been said by Anselm or Augustine. It's not just the Christian imagery of the Lord and his shepherd, but it has that same medieval patina of humility that says, in the words of the short medieval hymn, the Non Nobis: "Not unto us, oh Lord, but to thy name give the glory."  God, in this case, is replaced by the more elusive concept of Being. So on the, perhaps, off-chance that God might not be there, that there's no Being either in the sense of a superior being or in the sense of consciousness as Heidegger generally understands it (and nobody agrees on how he did), what is it then that we are shepherding? It would seem to me at least that all we shepherd toward some kind of transcendent possibility is a bunch of hydro-chemical machines who can feel great suffering with no guarantee that transcendence can be attained, or even be worthwhile.

Or think of the line from his critique of Nietzsche, which he ends by saying "Thinking begins only after we have experienced that reason, though glorified for centuries, is the most stiff-necked adversary of thinking." What in Nietzsche was merely strongly hinted at becomes in Heidegger an imperative - the enlightenment, the glorification of the human mind, is not just a mixed bag, it's a total flop. Reason itself is a self-betrayal.

Obviously, this is one of the most grotesque oversimplifications imaginable of one of the most disputed and endlessly discussed philosophers in the history of the field. But it would be very difficult to wade into the minefield that is Heidegger unless you were willing to stay there for episodes at a time, and if I did, you wouldn't. So let's suffice to say that even if a certain sympathy with National Socialism might have been an inevitable byproduct of his thinking, even if he spent one year as a very public Nazi party member and then eleven years privately and retained high hopes of reforming Nazism into something more cultured, Heidegger was also clearly a naif. He was a contemplative man had very little conception of politics as it was actually practiced, and after his first year Rector of Marburg University during which he was an extremely eminent spokesperson for Nazism who gave enormous intellectual prestige to its thuggery, he mostly retreated back into the life of the mind for the duration of Nazi Germany's existence. Aleksandr Dugin, on the other hand, is a political scientist, and some have thought him such an effective political activist that they refer to him as "Putin's Rasputin."

Dugin's main idea is of a Fourth Political Theory. The first being conservatism of traditional hierarchies, the second being socialism that overthrows class structure in the name of equality, the third being various sorts of centrism that fuse together economic progressivism with social liberalism - in America, we would generally call this liberalism, with the addendum that the way European third-way politicians define it sounds closer to moderate, Clintonesque Democrats of the DLC variety, or perhaps even that now endangered and unrepresented species - the Moderate Republican. What European thinkers forget is that if mainstream liberal American politicians like Obama and Nancy Pelosi lived in a Northwestern European country where they could advocate for something at least moderately closer to the Second political theory, they certainly would, but they can't.

But just as Europeans see a third political theory in the American style marriage of social liberalism to economic progressivism, there is also a more theocratic marriage of social illiberalism to economic conservatism. Now let's be clear about this, conservatism as it's generally defined in America has become synonymous with illiberalism, but conservatism, properly applied, need not be illiberal, it's just cautious in it's liberality. In the 19th Century, a conservative like Otto von Bismarck or Benjamin Disraeli was in many senses more concerned with the plight of the poor than their liberal opponents. In spite of their bellicosity to other nationalities, it was the anti-democratic Bismarck who implemented the first modern social safety net, and it was the arch-imperialist Disraeli who made the British government monitor sanitation and construct working class housing. In America, a proper traditional conservative would be political figures like George HW Bush who raised taxes and increased welfare spending rather than worsen an economic downturn, or Dwight Eisenhower, who raised income tax to its all-time high and constructed the inter-state highway system. In some senses, their obvious great heir is the Clintons. But if you add a 'very' to the conservative moniker, then you could include John McCain, who has a record of championing campaign finance reform, environmental protection, and treatment of detainees. Or Mitt Romney, who of course instituted a near-universal health care plan in Massachusetts that became the basis for Obamacare and did much else besides as a Governor that could be considered conservative rather than illiberal. Squint, and you might even call John Kasich an ultra-conservative, though Kasich's record on women's rights is certainly abysmally illiberal.

But starting with Newt Gingrich, there was very little either liberal or conservative about conservatives. They were simply illiberal, or more to the point, anti-liberal. Conservatism is not anti-liberalism, it is simply anti immediate liberalism. When a conservative sees a person of different circumstances, he or (more rarely) she, does not see an equal, but they do see a person worthy of protection. A gentry of means and land always looks after his property, and since conservatives generally view America as their own property rather than yours, it would reflect badly on them if the property were poorly kept.

But illiberals, which in this case is basically synonymous with anti-liberals, have an extraordinarily different view of the world. And at this point, it's best to let Putin's Rasputin once again speak for himself:

It is necessary to focus on the Fourth Poltiical Theory

It is based on the existential understanding of the people (as a whole - people as Dasein - which, if I may interject, is Heidegger's term for 'Being There' more on that in a moment), but it ascend to the Logos (meaning 'word of God'), to the intellectual elite of a Fourth Way. And this elite of the Fourth Way can not be a nationalist - it should be imperial, great-continental, traditionalist, metaphysical and sacred. And it needs to understand Daseins of all peoples, and to take into account its fine core, to understand their Logos, to listen to the quiet voice hidden in the depths of people's Being. 

This elite of Fourth Way will collide with demagogues and hysterical "leaders", that a wave of new nationalism inevitably will bring to the front as the foam on the surface of the fermenting sea. And the battle begins now. It would be better that neo-nationalist monster would be strangled in the cradle. But it is about to appear.

Therefore, now - after Trump's great success - is relevant as never before the general plan for fundamental conservatives and traditionalists all over the world - at least of America, Europe, Russia, Iran, Turkey and the rest of Eurasia (and the others who will join us). We need a common front aimed not only at the rest of the Liberals (finish to drain the liberal Swamp is a technical task now) but as well to prevent and neutralize new nationalism.

End quote.

I'm wondering very much if Dugin is his own translator into English because whoever translated this has so many spelling and grammar errors that I have to fill in the gaps myself of what I would imagine is his meaning, though not speaking Russian, I hardly dare say that my filling is adequate. Philosophy is in the eye of the beholder. I doubt many people would consider this great philosophy. Most academics would certainly tell you that this is not philosophy any more than this podcast is any kind of philosophy. What this clearly is, to my liberal Western ears, and I would assume yours, is a battle cry that uses philosophy as the varnish to polish the sword. Very few people who are not Sunni Muslims considered Sayyid Qutb to be a great thinker. Yet his thinking animated the Muslim Brotherhood, incited the assassination of General Nasser, and directly inspired Osama bin Laden.

Thinkers do not need to be good to be remembered, they just need to be effective. We don't need to talk about how Ayn Rand inspired so many Americans, though, to be sure, that will come up in later podcasts. One could even make the argument, one that I think has genuine weight, that it was never the vague theoretical writings of Karl Marx that inspired people, but his journalism which had so many aphorisms that followers could take to heart as war cries.

Just in these two quotes from Dugin, which are consecutive in a text that was clearly written after Trump's election but with no date, we have both a number of striking aphorisms, and an incredibly clever subversion of a thinker generally acknowledged to be extraordinarily profound. Just in this little quote, there is a subtle but unbelievably fiendish subversion of Heidegger. Dugin construes Heidegger's Dasein as meaning the people. Now, a thinker as ambiguous as Heidegger would never take something as revelatory as human consciousness and apply it to something as banal as people, or even 'the people', even if, because he was so ambiguous and removed from reality, he clearly believed in his political life that mass movements could facilitate greater consciousness. In a sense, Dugin's belief is closer to Jung (another Nazi sympathizer though he never joined the party) with his ideas of the collective unconscious, or to Martin Buber because of Heidegger's formulation that thought is organized in such a way that we treat every object as something separate from us as a subject. If you view Heidegger's critique of thought through Martin Buber's lenses, then Heidegger would say that language forces us into an I-It relationship with everything of which we speak. Buber believes that we should have an I-Thou relationship with the world in which we view all beings as equals. Heidegger believes that it is language itself, and perhaps more basic than language, the human reason that constructs language, which prevents us from having an I-Thou relationship with nearly anything at all. But in Dugin, the goal is no longer I-Thou; the goal  is Thou-I, or perhaps even It-I because the goal itself is for everybody to have the same consciousness, and we treat all other beings not as equal to us, but as indistinguishable from us. For Heidegger, that would be absolutely unacceptable - the whole reason to embrace mass movements and mass consciousness is to facilitate greater dignity in people. It would at best be a cheapening of Heidegger's abstraction, at worst, an heretical inversion that results in precisely the opposite of the end goal of living lives more authentic to an individual person's potential that was Heidegger's most cherished goal. But Dugin is not interested in authenticity, he's interested in Logos, the Word of God. He is a thinker in the tradition of novelists like Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, who see themselves just as much the heirs of Eastern Christian theologians like John of Damascus or or Three Holy Heirarchs as they do Shakespeare and Homer. Both Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn believed that the Orthodox Church was the true Christian Church stretching back to Constantine and Helena - who adapted Christianity during an era that Roman pagans still wanted to persecute Christians. These Slavophiles particularly think that the Russian Orthodox Church, easily the most powerful of the Eastern Churches, was endowed with a special destiny to bring the world back to God. It is, in its way, a modern and under-thought of Christian equivalent to Radical Islam that has not yet reached its full destructive potential. If this man is truly Putin's Rasputin, then if this is what he believes, then it's at least possible that Putin does too. And as absurd as it might seem, this brutally cynical world leader who plays grand strategy like Rachmaninov played the piano, plays it with the ultimate goal of waging Holy War. 

Whatever is Putin's ultimate priority, the ultimate priority of Dugin is Logos - the Divine Word. The most famous instance of the word Logos is in the Gospel According to St. John.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." 

Dugin's ultimate ambition is not intellectual like Heidegger's. He does not want to go back to the beginning of thought and restructure thought itself. He wants to go back to the very strict hierarchy of the Middle Ages when the Divine Word was Divine Law. What in Heidegger is a world of abstractions is a world of all too concrete realities to Dugin. Without very careful parsing, you could miss that Dugin makes 'people' synonymous Heidegger's Dasein, which means 'being' or 'existence' or 'consciousness'. What does this mean? It means that in the Fourth Political Theory, people are meant to return to a state of being where they no longer conscious of themselves as individuals but exist as a singular mass consciousness.

Attraction to mass consciousness was perhaps an inevitable byproduct of Heidegger's thought, but it was not the purpose or the Dasein of it. But mass consciousness is most definitely the Dasein of Dugin's thought.  Even if this is not good thought, it's clever thought, it's useful thought to politicians, and what more need be done to make people take a thinker seriously?

And just like in Marx, the theory itself, whatever it is, is nowhere near as important as the aphorisms, or epigrams disguised as aphorisms, which spur the reader to action. You might remember this chilling passage from twenty minutes ago or so:

All content of Modernity - is Satanism and degeneration. Nothing is worth, everything is to be cleansed off. The Modernity is absolutely wrong -- science, values, philosophy, art, society, modes, patterns, "truths", understanding of Being, time and space. All is dead with Modernity. So it should end. We are going to end it.

I count at least five potential aphorisms in this half-paragraph that can be remembered for hundreds of years. But in a different quote which I've read, you may have earlier noticed his most striking aphorism of all, one that in this case just appears in a parenthesis, but I can assure you is scrawled around Dugin's thought everywhere. "Drain the liberal swamp." "Drain the liberal swamp." ... "DRAIN THE LIBERAL SWAMP!"

I don't need to tell you where you've heard this, I don't need to tell you where you're going to hear this. All you have to remember is that when Trump uses this phrase, all he does is extract the word 'liberal' from it, and it becomes just as useful to him as "Abolish all private property" was to Lenin.

So if Trump got this from Dugin, the question then becomes, what does Dugin mean by liberal? So let's look at another recent essay of his, charmingly called: Donald Trump, The Swamp and Fire.

"The Swamp" is to become the new name for the globalist sect, the open society adepts, LGBT maniacs, Soros's army, the post-humanists, and so on. Draining the Swamp is not only categorically imperative for America. It is a global challenge for all of us... We need to purge our societies of the Swamp's influence... Swamp-drainers of the whole world unite!

From now on, the Swamp is an extraterritorial phenomenon, exactly like an international terrorist network. The Swamp is everywhere and nowhere. Yesterday, the center of the Swamp, its core, was situated in the US, but not anymore. This is a chance for all of us to start hunting them. The Swamp no longer manifests itself in a regionally-fixed form. Nevertheless, it exists and is still very, very powerful.... This all seems like the globalists' rapture. They are now absorbed in a non-space, a utopia, in the land of the liberal utopia -- a no-man's land. We are now witnesses to the deterritorialization of the Swamp, the globalist elite, and the World Government.

What is the structure of the swamp? (and this is where it gets important)

First of all, the Swamp is an ideology -- Liberalism. We need a Nuremberg Trial for Liberalism, the last totalitarian political ideology of Modernity. Let us close this page of history.

Secondly, the Swamp is a special post-modernist culture. It is based on the decomposition of any entity through digitalization, obligatory schizomorphism, and so on. To drain it signifies restoring the Apollonian unity of art. Art should return to holism.

Thirdly, it is transnational global capitalism. This is the material motor of the Swamp. It is loans and the Federal Reserve System printing poisonous green bills. We need to end all of this and return to the real productive sector and mercantilist approach. 

He then goes on to propound the ideas of some Russian sociologist named Pitirim Sorokin, who sounds vaguely like a Russian Oswald Spengler with his ideas of irreversible life cycles in societies. The metaphor is very simple and we can pick it up again where he leaves off.

It is impossible for the Swamp to evolve back into a semi-Swamp. After the Swamp comes the Sun, i.e., the fire, the Spirit - the Spirit in its radical, ideational form. To drain the Swamp, we need solar Fire, a Great Fire which should be in abundance. 

The Swamp and Fire are two opposite elements distributed across the earth. Geopolitics now becomes vertical. Both of them can be found at any point. The meaning of place now is the momentum of the process of draining the Swamp. Where? Here and now. 

The USA is the Far West of the world. It is the space of Midnight. And there the final point of the Fall is reached. The moment at hand is one of a change of poles. The West turns into the East. Putin and Trump are in two opposite corners of the planet. In the 20th century, these two extremes were embodied by the most radical forms of Modernity -- capitalism and communism. Two apocalyptical monsters -- Leviathan and Behemoth. Now they have turned into eschatological promises: Putin's Greater Russia and America liberating itself under Trump. The 21st century has finally begun." 

And he concludes: "So all we need now is the fire." 

We can't deny it, it's true and staring us all in the face. We liberals, we alleged global elite, are now so transnational that there is no country that will hold us. Liberalism is not tied to country, it is tied to ethics, and in the absolute sense, will never declare "My country, right or wrong" the way an absolute conservative, or an absolute anti-liberal would, and therefore, it was only a matter of time before we liberals were cut off from nationalism at its very root.

So who then, are these liberals? As Dugin would define it, they are post-modernists - schizomorphics he calls us, which I suppose means that we are so untethered to ideology that we can be convinced to believe anything at any point. It's also transnational capitalism with its paper money and credit, the swamp of which he proposes to drain by returning to mercantilism - in this case meaning the production and trade of raw materials. So socialists and anarchists and Marxists may yet find a place in this proposed world order just as there is clearly a place for Republican anti-liberal elites, whom so often profess to be the ultimate individualists to whom mass movements should be anathema. And yet clearly, in a Trump Presidency, they've reconciled themselves for the moment to thriving. 

Here is part of an article Dugin wrote the day of the election in which he explains both what liberalism means to him, and why he can tolerate the particulars of Republican antiliberalism:

Hillary Clinton is the path of globalism, the unipolar world, and the continuation of US hegemony. Under the present circumstances in which American might is collapsing in all regions of the world, a Clinton victory  means war – war against everyone who opposes US hegemony and chooses the multipolar world instead of the unipolar one. Clinton is the old world order, the one which was formed in the early 1990’s. This order is coming to an end, but it does not want to be ended. And this means agony. The agony of a small state or nation is one thing. It is scary and dangerous, even toxic. But the agony of a global hyper-power is a monstrous challenge for the whole world, for all of mankind. It is like a titan falling into the abyss. It can easily drag all the others down with it. In fact, Clinton is a genuinely possessed candidate. But not only by virtue of her personal qualities. Rather, her individual obsession reflects the madness of the globalist elites. They still rule the world, but their time is running out. They no longer attract or seduce anyone. People obey them only out of fear and weakness. Hillary Clinton is an image of the insane Great Mother Cybele (Sybel) who castrated her loved ones. She bears the matriarchal element of horror that demands submission without guaranteeing anything in return. Clinton means war.

Donald Trump is the America that we almost lost. This is a huge country inhabited by rustic, naive, and strong-willed people who are each busy with their own personal issues, establishing businesses and companies, work and amusement, but they are all Trump’s Americans for one reason: they want to feel free. That’s it. Trump’s supporters are the characters from Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the psychiatric clinic patients ruled by the Big Mother, the chief nurse Mildred Ratched – Big Nurse as Big Mother. They see that the globalist elite of Wall Street, the maniacs of the Federal Reserve System, and the ultra-liberals are depriving ordinary Americans of what is most important to them: their identity. As Patrick Buchanan said, America subjugated the world, but it lost itself. The only way out for the real America, the America of freedom, is direct democracy and dignity. This is Donald Trump. In him there is hope for peace with other peoples, Americans’ return home to their “city on a hill” which has long since been out of sight, forgotten, and abandoned by the transnational elite, the neocons, and the global schemers of the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) who don’t care about America. Trump’s America is an America returning to its roots, an America focused on its domestic situation and renouncing hegemony and global strategies. Such an America could become not only a partner, but a sincere friend to all other nations and peoples. Trump is Randle Patrick McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He rebelled against Big Nurse to free all the others. He encouraged them to have faith in themselves and rid them of their fear of the Big Mother’s black magic. Trump’s battle against Hillary is also a psychoanalytical drama. It is the independent, patriarchal male leaving behind the castrated spell of aggressive and harsh femininity. 

So let's leave aside the hypocrisy of yet another intellectual who hates the decadence of American popular culture but never stops using examples of it when it suits him. Russia tolerates the radical individualism of the hard American right for two reasons. One reason is less interesting because it's the usual one: Russian nationalism - a resentment of America's ability to impose its culture to the world. America can be a friend to all, so long as it is just one nation among many, and not a nation that exports its culture everywhere, but this leads us exactly to the second reason, and the extremity of Dugin's sexist rhetoric indicates this reason so charmingly. The second reason is ideological. Russia resents America exporting its ideas across the globe because the ideas are liberal, because the ideas America represents are not just in contradiction to traditional American patriarchal values, but in contradiction to the world. America, as haphazardly as it's fulfilled its ideals, held out hope to the world that a better, freer, more equal world, which has greater dignity between sexes and races and less income disparity, is possible. As so many governments have, Putin's government doesn't just resent America for exporting its ideas, Putin resents America for exporting good ideas. what those ideas are even more than it resents us for exporting them.

What Russia hates is American liberalism: pure, boring, unreformed, mid-20th century, rock-ribbed, Rooseveltian, American liberalism. An ideology viewed as totalitarian because it's no ideology at all, and therefore invalidates other ideologies. The same liberalism accused of being a perversion of classic liberalism to which Republican antiliberals want to revert, the same liberalism which Socialists and Marxists call neoliberal and think outmoded, the same liberalism which anti-imperialists accuse of being conservatism with the added hypocrisy of a human face, the same liberalism which imperialists accuse of advocating policies no different anti-imperial terrorists. The liberal whose best motto is to live and let live, and in the course of human events, this liberalism corrects itself to better let us live and let live. It corrected itself after World War I to mean internationalism, corrected itself after the Great Depression to mean economic progressivism, it corrected itself during World War II to mean anti-pacifism, it corrected itself during the Kennedy era to make human rights for all, then corrected itself during the Johnson era to mean that human rights should be a particular priority at home where unintended consequences can be minimized - and had to correct itself on this matter yet again during the Bush era. A liberalism that went from Wilson to Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy and Johnson to King, before its progress was halted, and then made manifest again by Obama. A liberalism that adjusted itself by untold numbers of thinkers, statistics, and debates, and constantly evolving itself to give humanity a greater and greater chance at something better for all and not merely the elite. But the greater liberalism's triumphs become, the greater its defeats are when defeated.