Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Running Off the Rails" by Shoujing Zheng


Many people have convinced themselves to believe they are who they are in order to cater the favor of the society. The minstrel believes he comes to the world to ease people’s mind with his magnificent melody. The butcher believes his existence is for cutting pork or shark fins. The lawyer believes he is the defender of justice. As Alan Watts, a British-born philosopher, points out, “Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.” Yet this realm of nature has its own limitation, which confines most people to a fenced enclosure during most of their lives, like a transparent dome above everybody’s head. Normally the dome is hard to perceive. Even though people do realize its existence, most of them try not to touch it because of the overwhelming force coming from the society. The force, which keeps the wheels of people’s train-thought on their rails, is known as a taboo.

I grew up under such a dome, a meticulous and artificial wall determined by my country. My father’s generation used to be fed with the information that China is the strongest country in the world while the people living in capitalist nations are waiting to be emancipated by the great proletariat. With the passing away of Mao and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the propaganda finally declined and people began to realize how poor they were and how this country desperately needed to develop its economy. Nonetheless, the dome is still there: the main news agency is still run by the state, and people cannot found other parties and only join the communist party. The constitution provides us with the most munificent rights in the world, the right of freedom, the right of parade…. Yet those empty promises just exist in the books. Indeed, we live in intersting times.

I began to gradually get the sense of the taboo after finishing my University Entrance Examination, a special Chinese exam that compels students to spend every available minute of their high school time studying if they want to go to a prestigious university in China. In order to find out the truth that the government was hiding, I read and watched almost anything I could get. I spent so much time, and so many efforts, that the learning experience of Frederick Douglass speaks to me so well when I read about his story: “I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed.”

I also associate with the movie “The Matrix.” Although the hero Neo always feels that something, a tiny portion of his life, is too abnormal to believe, he would never have imagined that human beings, lying unconsciously under the icy boxes while stuck in the illusion of enjoying civilization of modern life, are actually under the control of the ruthless machine. Neo suffers from great pain and numbness after he confronts the unbearable truth, which pushes him into the transformation from just being a normal and mediocre person who is under the manipulation of the captor to an omnipotent savior. That is what Neo has gone through when he tries to figure out the truth of life. Just like Douglass, I didn’t handle the blocked information very well. The anger caused by feeling fooled and the pain caused by fear occupied my life at the same time. What I feel towards Neo is envy. He is chosen to fight against the taboo while in real life most people can do nothing but become a coward filled with hatred. After all, life is not a movie.

But I don’t want to be a hater, nor do I want to be a coward. There are many ways to cope with censorship, and leaving is one of them. Frankly, this is one of the reasons I chose to become an exchange student and study in America. When I read “The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X, I admired his guts to boycott the discrimination by shouting out: “I’m one of the 22 million black victims of the Democrats, one of the 22 million black victims of the Republicans, and one of the 22 million black victims of Americanism.” Yet the nationalism he advocated to remove the taboo is too violent for me or for normal people. The nationalism may work well for black people fighting for their rights in 1960s, yet the last time Chinese people tried to join a march for liberty and democracy, it led to difficulty.

While I came to America, the sense of loss, across the Pacific Ocean, came along with me. Avoiding shall never be an ultimate solution. It may ease the mind for a while, but it hides somewhere deep in the heart like a volcano waiting to erupt again. You have to face it in a nonviolent way, be optimistic and stayed open-minded. Like Watts said: “Faith is, above all, openness—an act of trust in the unknown.”

Openness is actually what Watts implemented in his life. As a westerner, he embraced Buddhism and Hinduism, which obviously contradict Christianity in a lot of aspects. He criticizes commitment, saying, “Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world.” An open mind liberates Watts from the confinement of taboo, a dome that is so effective that people have stayed inside it for hundreds of years.

With the help of an open mind, a seemingly unsolvable problem tangling me for a long period is resolved. The government may be tenacious about the absolute governing over its people, and is very sensitive about any movement that threatens its governing. The first step you need to do is still hold the open-minded attitude. After accepting a fact for what it is, you can start to learn about it and try to communicate or interact with it. Total repudiation can only ruin all the progress that has been made so far and result in a retrogressing crisis. If you want to liberate your own people, you have to liberate yourself through an open mind first.

No matter whether you live in China, America, or anywhere else in the world, there was, is and will be a transparent dome. The society can never be perfect, so the impetus for making today better than yesterday shall always exist. Individuals can never be perfect, so people have the desire to learn so as to overcome their deficiency. The taboo should not be the blasting fuse for violence; it should be the start for improvement. An open mind can create a tolerant society which allows different voices. If you get tired of keeping the wheels of thoughts on the same rails all the time, why not try to run off the rails for a time or two. Maybe a whole new rail can be found by a movement that someone claims to be dangerous.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Worry, Warring Nations: The Bankers Have Your Back

“You’ll know war’s been defeated when you
cannot leave your room.”
by Norman Ball

(This essay appeared previously at Dissident Voice.)

The erasure of national sovereignty leads, not to Shangri-La as some Eurocentrists would have it, but to a supranational consolidated ‘sovereignty’ presided over by banking interests, which is no sovereignty at all. On the contrary, it’s the Town Hall of the Panopticon.

Greece is not some idiot uncle who simply needs a loan to get back on his feet. That’s a tragic misread fraught with stereotype. Greece is the canary in our mine-shaft, loss-leader on the road to global debt servitude. As goes Greece so too will go the world in due course. Others wait in the wings: Puerto Rico, Italy, Portugal, the US. From the back of the cave, day-lit miners are easily mistaken for canaries.

It’s the math, stupid. That there exists an irrevocable tipping point of accumulated debt derives from the law of large numbers. Debt-money has unsustainability built into its Ponzi structure –unless we get the Martian mineral mines cranking in short order. (Exogenous resources expand the denominator. But then what next? Diamond mining on Saturn?)

In the meantime, the Earth wearies of being picked at for mindless, usurious advance. Those who run the Ponzi are not wringing their hands in distress. Debt is a consciously devised weapon for bringing the world to its knees. This ‘abyss’ is a planned rendezvous. 

So, all the media histrionics about spendthrift nations tempting perfectly avoidable black holes, the character defects of the lazy Greeks, etc. are misdirecting narratives meant to disguise a premeditated arrival point that awaits even ‘fiscally responsible’ nations. The tipping point is a mathematical certainty, not a moral defect in the Southern European character.

Debt is an accusatory finger pointed at the People while the other hand gathers the former’s national treasures as ‘recompense’. The trumped-up contempt for national sovereignty rests upon a circuitous myth: That war in Europe has traditionally been precipitated by jingoism and toxic forms of nationalism, when in fact these are second-order manifestations brought on by the boom-bust manipulations and economic crises caused by the very financial interests that now endeavor to ‘rescue Europe’ from the fascist recoil the former set in motion. How neat. How tidy. We’ve been schooled since birth in ass-backwardness. Debt is not a handmaiden to growth. Debt devours growth; for without it, the former perishes. Nor is debt agnostic. On the contrary, it is laden with agenda as all weapons are.

So when we hear the idealistic refrains of committed Eurocentrists (i.e. idealists presumably, as these hapless cheerleaders lack a stake in the centralized outcome), we witness stupendous naivete greeting circular logic with open arms. Paraphrasing the circle:

“Anoint us as your ruling elite and we will refrain from playing the gaps that have historically visited ruin upon you, indeed delivered you to such desperate straits that you would even consider anointing us as your ruling elite.”

These various ‘sovereignties’ (lampooned to ridiculousness in ‘Borat’ caricatures and the like) happen to comprise the variegated splendor of the human race. Perhaps humanity’s a little too splendid for your tastes? God made the nations. Petition Him, why dontcha!

Core identity springs from sovereignty (the latter really a geo-politicized term for community, coherence and social comity). Sovereignty is the only potent ‘reservoir of recoil’ against a powerful centralizing force. National sovereignty is a life jacket against supranational hegemony. There is a frying pan. There is a fire. It pays to know which is which.

Power didn’t raise no fools. Fully recognizing its enemy (and faced with a prey that’s been trained to sees its enemy as its fwend), absolute power insists its enemy is our enemy, when in fact its enemy is us. Saturation media reinforces the trope of self-loathing. An indeterminate flatland will no doubt aid administrative management, Max Weber’s foretold nightmare. Part of this tactic, again, involves denigrating sovereignty ceaselessly in the hopes of banishing it forever to a pejorative neverland. Another tactic is to flood all pockets of distinction (and social coherence) with waves of outsiders, in effect burying the former alive in their own backyards. Note how the inoffensive euphemism ‘open borders’ is promulgated by the media to gloss what clearer heads cannot mistake for a mass invasion.

The powers-that-be seek gray, flattened automatons alienated from everything that makes them human and distinct –veritable warm bodies whose raisson d’etre consists in holding up the consumer end of card swipes. Sheldon Wolin calls the present system ‘inverted totalitarianism’, a grim evolution from ‘classical totalitarianism’. Suppose though we’re in the grips of a determined eschatology, from proto- to perfected totalitarianism? The ‘perfections’, you ask? Rallying cries are beholden to things that need rallying against. Mussolini, so easily detestable, has been inverted into an odorless colorless gas. You can’t hang oxygen from a lamppost.

Centralization is a thus devil’s bargain that swaps lesser ruins for an eclipsing ruin from which there will be no easy escape. The surveillance super-state will detect intimations of dissent before they congeal into barely-formed intentions. Every hill cannot be taken at once. One hill must serve as lever. Inverted totalitarianism is the ultimate invisibility (ubiquity) cloak.

Today’s Stasi is a trillion eyeballs peering from all pedestrian sides, an army of clever toasters and sensate devices measuring our biorhythms, sizing us up for our propensity for future crime, all the while baiting us with that ingratiating bitch, convenience, and the solicitous winks of emoticons –pixels mocked up to be our flatland fwends! It’s enough to warm the pixels of your heart.

So you’ve been warned. Never touch a sentient doorknob while nursing a fever. You could be mistaken for a hothead. The Internet of Things will work tirelessly for the State (as things do not tire). Without pay. Without compunction. Kitchen appliances will reveal the dark brooding side of inanimateness. The heat of the kitchen hides a multitude of sins! Never curse your skillet. Beneath the scrambled eggs the clever ones are taking notes.

The enemy is ubiquitous and soon to be eternally ensconced. Fortunately manufactured consent has taught us to love and embrace our self-harm. So there need not be a fight. Even a whimper detracts from TV time.

As Wolin points out brilliantly, the instigators and seeming foremen of the Panopticon are themselves unconscious cogs in a system of vague and indeterminate tyranny. With everyone comporting a touch of gray, no one villain warrants the gallows as no one departure is singular enough to halt dystopian advance. 

The Internet of Things is the distributive architecture of complicity. Jeff Zuckerberg became a billionaire launching a pro bono spy apparatus which avails our services both as surveillance target and dutiful cataloger of our every move. Never again will the gumshoe sigh into the camera, ‘damn I lost him at the lights.’ We are he. They are we.

Which brings us to the zipperless fuck of perfected lockdown…

We cannot thwart an enemy we inhabit. Nor can we forestall a future that, by virtue of ubiquitous arrival, rescinds the coordinates of discrete arrival for a mysterious, spontaneous omnipresence.