Monthly Archives: April 2020

Joe Biden and the Me Too Movement

Back in 2017, when the Me Too movement broke on the heels of the widespread accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, I wasn’t particularly surprised. Hollywood full of sexual predators? Color me shocked. The next thing you’re going to tell me is that Wall Street is full of crooks and the Catholic Church full of child molesters. When Weinstein was indicted the following March for rape and sexual assault, I raised one of my eyebrows. We live in a culture where powerful men, even serial rapists like Weinstein, rarely if ever pay much of a price for their crimes. Court settlements and gag orders basically allow the wealthy to buy the right to commit rape or sexual assault. This February, when Weinstein was found guilty and handed what was in effect a life sentence, however, I was flabbergasted. I assumed he would simply plea out to a lesser charge, get a slap on the wrist, and perhaps have to fork over some more money.

The Me Too movement, along with the Black Lives Matter, rose up in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the murder of Trayvon Martin by a self-appointed vigilante and the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer. By the mid-2010 is became clear the the criminal justice system in the United States was broken. While the courts would impose draconian sentences on working-class, minority youth for drug possession, or threaten Aaron Swartz with decades of jail time for what basically amounted to an ill-thought-out protest against the price of academic journals, it essentially gave police officers the license to kill. No District Attorney would mount an effective case against local police officers, with whom he, or she, worked closely on a regular basis. Black Lives Matter took advantage of the widespread availability of good quality video cameras and high-end cellphones to document just how widespread police brutality against minority youth really was. The Me Too Movement, in turn, set up what was essentially a court of public opinion to shame rich and powerful sexual abusers in a way their victims, who were usually bound by court settlements and gag orders, couldn’t, and in a way the criminal justice system wouldn’t.

Me Too was a necessary corrective to a bought and paid for criminal justice system that refused to punish the rich and powerful. Soon, however, it became infected with an extremist ideology that refused to make any distinction between an Al Franken and a Harvey Weinstein, a Louis CK and a Bill Cosby, a “shitty media man” who might have sent a few creepy personal messages to a strange woman online, and a Roger Ailes. Not only did some women deliberately conflate wealthy and powerful serial rapists with the male gender as a whole — there’s nothing worse in radical feminist circles than to state the obvious that “not all men” are rapists and sexual abusers — many radical feminists seemed to focus on trivial social offenses at the expense of serious crime. There was almost a kind of feminist version of “broken windows policing,” the now discredited idea that if you arrested fare beaters in the subways and handed out sentences for public drunkenness the more serious crimes would take care of themselves. Catcalling, acting like a jerk after having had one too many drinks, making off color jokes, inappropriate behavior online indicated that sexual abuse was universal in a way that the Harvey Weinstein rape mill didn’t. Most men can’t afford court settlements and gag orders. Almost any man can afford to shout out “smile” at an uninterested woman in the subway.

Of course, as a man, I’m not really in a position to judge how common rape and sexual assault. are. I don’t get cat called. Nobody tries to slip knockout drugs into my drink at bars I never go to anyway. I can walk pretty much anywhere I want, anytime I want without having to be worried about getting assaulted by someone bigger and stronger than I am. What’s more, it became obvious reading personal testimony on social media by woman who didn’t strike me as particularly radical that the problem of sexual assault was far more common than I had realized. Every woman seemed to have a story, not of some bad experience with a drunken 19-year-old in college who couldn’t hold his liquor and who hadn’t yet learned how to socialize with the opposite sex, but of being propositioned by men in their 30s and 40s when they were children. I started to believe that women who hadn’t been sexually harassed were a tiny minority, that almost every teenage girl at some point in her life had some creepy 40-year-old uncle trying to corner her in the closet at the family reunion, that every recent college graduate got propositioned by her boss at her first job or internship.

Then along came Joe Biden and Tara Reade. Reade, who worked as a low-level-staffer for the then Delaware Senator Biden has gone public with an accusation that back in 1993 the current Democratic nominee shoved his hands up her skirt and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. I have no idea whether or not it’s true. I probably never will. In spite of the Me Too movement, rich and powerful men still rarely if ever pay any penalty for sexual assault. Donald Trump has had multiple rape accusations leveled against him and it hasn’t hurt his popularity, even among Republican women. Brett Kavenaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by a former schoolmate, sits on the Supreme Court. To this day, no major figure on Wall Street, as far as I know, has been publicly shamed for inappropriate sexual behavior. With the notable exception of Al Franken, who could have easily fought the accusations against him if he had wanted to, the fallout from the Me Too movement seems to have been limited to powerful men in the media and entertainment industry. They obviously have better lawyers at Goldman Sachs than they do in Hollywood. Nevertheless, in spite of how I probably won’t ever really know the truth about Joe Biden and Tara Reade, the tawdry little event that allegedly took place back in 1993 seems believably commonplace. A powerful man assaulting an employee? Haven’t feminists been telling me for years that it happens all the time?

Tara Reade, 56, worked as a staff assistant to Mr Biden from 1992-93 when he was a senator for the US state of Delaware.

In recent interviews, she has said that in 1993 her former boss forced her against a wall and put his hands under her shirt and skirt after she delivered him his gym bag.

“There was no exchange, really, he just had me up against the wall,” she said to podcast host Katie Halper in March 2020.

“I remember it happened all at once… his hands were on me and underneath my clothes.” He then penetrated her with his fingers, she said.

“I remember him saying, first, as he was doing it ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’ and then him saying to me, when I pulled away… he said ‘Come on man, I heard you liked me,'” she said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52462113

How is it then that the same radical feminists who have been trying to convince me for years that men who don’t commit sexual assault are far more common than men who do commit sexual assault so reluctant to believe that Biden, who not only has a long history of inappropriate behavior towards women, but stood in the way of credible testimony of detailing similarly inappropirate behavior by Clarence Thomas, is not only innocent of Tara Reade’s accusations but is being set up by Vladimir Putin and the Russians? Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times, for example, argues that “Reade seems almost engineered in a lab to inspire skepticism in mainstream Democrats, both because her story keeps changing and because of her bizarre worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia.” Amanda Marcotte at Salon, in turn,  suggests that Reade has been duped by the ever disreputable Oliver Stone into thinking too much of those wily Slavic untermenschen.

When asked about it, Reade told Salon she had been writing a novel about Russia at the time and “the blogs read political because I was kind of in that immersion of doing Russian stuff for this novel.” She also told Salon that she had been influenced by Oliver Stone’s pro-Putin documentary and a Russian friend who praised Putin.

After doing “more research,” she told Salon she now feels differently about Putin, although if that’s true her change of heart seems to be quite recent. In February 2020, Reade scolded actor and major Sanders supporter John Cusack “not to repeat xenophobic propaganda against Russia” and lamented that “Putin in 2006 was Hollywood A listers darling now he is the evil master mind.”

https://www.salon.com/2020/03/31/a-woman-accuses-joe-biden-of-sexual-assault-and-all-hell-breaks-loose-online-heres-what-we-know/

(Note: Back when I had a Twitter account Cusack blocked me for being too pro-Russian but that’s another story. Nevertheless, if I ever get mugged, please let it be known that I hate the Russians as much as any good American. In fact, as a Lithuanian American, it’s in my DNA to hate Russians. Bad Russians. Bad Russians. Send the Germans back in. Resurrect Zombie Napoleon. Nuke the bastards. USA USA USA. )

My gut feeling is that Michelle Goldberg and Amanda Marcotte probably think Joe Biden is guilty. I doubt either of them is dumb enough to believe Putin put Tara Reade up to it. They’ve simply decided that beating Trump is so important that one little sexual assault 25 years ago is the lesser of two evils. Indeed, we saw a similar dynamic back during the Monica Lewinsky affair, when so many feminists chose to defend Bill Clinton against the Christian right, even though his actions towards his 23 year old intern were clearly predatory, if not necessarily illegal. What’s more, it seems to be the sad case that American women have not only accepted the idea that most men are toxic, but that there’s little use in hoping that things could get any better. All men are sexual predators, but men also have most of the money and the social status. Men, like capitalism, are going to be in power forever. So you condemn some and you protect others. Trump should go to jail, just like Harvey Weinstein. That mangy looking guy who spread his legs next to you in the subway needs to be shamed. Louis CK should never been allowed to perform again. But Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are so important to the feminist cause that you have to look the other way when they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. In other words, the Me Too movement, which has brought genuine sexual predators to justice, has temporarily been canceled.

It’s a Bourgeois Town

fine

Westfield, NJ April 2020

The local bourgeoisie has discovered water soluble chalk. A few years ago, during Occupy Wall Street, or Black Lives Matter, chalking the sidewalk often meant that dozens of militarized police would roll up  on you, throw you to the ground, and put you through central booking (before the judge offered the inevitable ACD). But now, during the pandemic, in Central Union County, NJ, where the average family takes in about $200,000 a year from jobs on Wall Street, or in for profit healthcare, it’s rare to see a street without some message written out in pretty colors. I just wish there were more creativity. 90% of the slogans are generic, apolitical messages like “thank you to our healthcare workers” or “stay safe.” Perhaps I should buy some chalk myself the next time I go to the grocery store and write something like “workers of the world unite” or “end the fed” and see if I get arrested.

A New Jersey Story

So I’m riding my bike down the Kenilworth Boulevard, a broad double-laned highway that runs right through the middle of the compact, little suburb of Kenilworth, New Jersey.  Up ahead are two SUVs, one in the left lane, a white Ford, moving slowly, the other, a black Cadillac Escalade, about 2 feet behind, aggressively tailgating. Even though the traffic is surprisingly heavy for a state under a “shelter in place” order in the middle of a pandemic, there’s still there’s plenty of room to pass. I suppose the driver of the Escalade simply wants to teach the driver of the Ford a lesson before he goes on his way.

At some point, the Escalade passes the Ford in the right lane, gunning his engine as if to say “I’m faster than you and frustrated with your behavior,” before he swerves back into the left lane and slows to what seems 5 or 10 MPH. The tables are now turned. The driver of the Ford has made the transition from “lazily driving along” mode to “Death Race 2000” mode. He steps on the gas and pulls to within about 6 inches of the Escalade’s bumper. He leans on his horn, a steady “honk” without any pauses. After the driver of the Escalade, admitting defeat, switches into the right lane to let his beaten adversary pass — the Virgin Cadillac Escalade and the Chad Ford Explorer — the driver of the Ford, still leaning on his horn, follows into the right lane him and continues to tailgate.

At this point, I’m starting to get worried. I’m a vulnerable 178.5 pounds of flesh against 6 tons of Detroit metal coming my way. They never make it that far. The driver of the Ford guns his engine and hits the Escalade in the rear bumper, pushing them both up against the curb before they finally come to a stop on the shoulder. Fortunately for the driver of the Escalade he spins clockwise and takes his adversary’s blow in the passenger’s side door. There is no passenger, and, praise Jesus, nobody is hurt except the door of the Escalade, which has a big dent, and the front end of the Ford, which iss half caved in. I stop, desperately trying to swing my backpack around to get my camera before I realize I have forgotten it. The two men — of course men — get out of their respective vehicles and face off in front of each other on the sidewalk.

They are both wearing N95 surgical masks.

King of the Jews

work-progress

Cranford, NJ April 2020

It looks like the local Romans are planning a little good Friday’s entertainment. Just make sure you wash your hands so you are innocent of that man’s blood if you go out during the coronavirus pandemic. See you on Sunday.

Not Even Coronavirus can stop Mass Shootings

The deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history just happened.

The gunman, identified as Gabriel Wortman, 51, is dead, he said. There was at least one exchange of gunfire between the suspect and police.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told the CBC late Sunday that 16 people, not including the suspect, died.

The death toll makes it the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history, surpassing the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, where a gunman killed 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/19/at-least-10-dead-in-canadian-shooting-rampage-195506

After the Warming (1989)

This 1989 British TV show about the origins and consequences of global warming is so good I can hardly believe it’s not better known. James Burke is the Carl Sagan of environmental history. Just watch it. It’s well worth 2 hours of your time.

The Fascists’ Rear Guard

Fascism is an expression of a larger social tendency that, in English language translations of Marx is called “the slaveholders’ revolt.”

It is a process by which every couple generations the revolutionary potential of the angry mob is turned in on itself in the hope that the destruction of society is the only hope to save the rich and their vacation homes from the consequences of their actions.

Every time this happens, there is a faction that arises as the rear guard for the fascists.

This rear guard is usually seen by their contemporaries as being part of the center-left. They will pay lip service to left social causes. They will probably even consider themselves as being politically to the left.

This faction thinks that they can save society and the rich and their vacation homes through small, largely symbolic distributions of pats on the back and cookies. They become covert extremists. Their extremism usually goes unrecognized because it arises in the paradoxical form of their doing nothing or as close to nothing as they can get away with.

As the metaphorical house we all live in burns around us, they insist vehemently that the smoke you feel in your lungs, the char that you see, the heat that you feel in anxious tingles just under the surface of your skin is in fact a problem of interior decoration. Or a misunderstanding.

They will get angry to defend this interpretation. They will gaslight. They will kneecap those with the audacity to acknowledge the house is on fire.

They will finally acknowledge after it’s too late that the house is in fact on fire, but claim that to say the house is on fire is impolite or uncivil.

And finally, when the crisis can no longer be denied, they will market themselves as “the only people who can save us.”

They believe half-heartedly their arrogance will magically make good faith negotiators out of Nazis.

They believe this because to believe otherwise would contradict their savior complex.

They believe this because it’s easier than doing something.

Having gone through bad faith motions of “negotiating” on our behalf, these cowards will offer up the populations they claim to represent as human sacrifices when the wolves show their teeth, craving blood.

The wolves dream of reinventing society to match their internalized self-image of endless opulence and grandeur.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.

The moderates dream of history stopping because they feel entitled to it because…they feel entitled to it.

Cruelty shields the wolves from the heat of the burning house. Denial shields their rear guard.

They are a cargo cult. They think if they say “the house isn’t on fire” enough times, the house will cease to be on fire.

The moderates “mean well.” This “meaning well” means nothing.

It means nothing because whether we kill each other or support each other we are ultimately in this together. The world I live in is the same one you have to live in.

The moderates’ denial will not stop the wolves from eating them, it will only clear the space for wolves to eat the rest of us first.

All their “good intentions” just help pave a wider road to hell.

They leave behind mass graves and Trümmerfilm.

Is Conan the Barbarian a Superior Reboot of Apocalypse Now?

We find ourselves in a small village out in the countryside. Tomorrow it will not exist. An army approaches, an invincible juggernaut bearing down on a tiny community of people who have no idea that their way of life is about to come to an end. The villagers are not pacifists. Indeed, they are a martial race with warrior gods, a nation of people who are skilled in the use of arms, a civilization that has survived for hundreds of years, perhaps since the beginning of recorded history, and they put up a brave resistance, but they have no chance. The invading army has not only has caught them off guard, they attack with a ruthless efficiency that makes the outcome all but inevitable, the slaughter merely a formality. At the end of it all, we meet the invading army’s commanding general, a cruel sociopathic man with no mercy or compassion, a would be god who sees the defeated villagers as an inferior species of animal put on earth for his sadistic pleasure. Genocide is just another day at the beach.

Which scene from which movie am I talking about?

a.) The helicopter attack from Apocalypse Now?

b.) The opening of Conan the Barbarian?

In 1975, a 30 year old director and screenwriter named John Milius, a far right wing California surfer dude who had, quite predictably, avoided military service in Vietnam, and just as predictably developed a deep admiration for the United States Marine Corps, broke into Hollywood with The Wind and the Lion, a deeply confused movie about Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni, a Berber Chieftain in Morocco, played by Sean Connery, who kidnaps an American woman played by Candace Bergen, and holds her and her children hostage for reasons that we can never quite figure out. The historical Raisuli kidnapped an American businessman and held him hostage until a very specific list of demands was met. In The Wind and the Lion, which opens up with a cavalry raid very much like the one that opens Conan, Milius seems more interested in the romance of the North African way of life, and its reflection in Teddy Roosevelt, America’s “rough rider” President, than in any kind of political agenda. Milius would later go onto direct the paranoid, right wing cult classic Red Dawn, which, and I hope your starting to see the pattern, opens with a surprise attack on a small town in Colorado by a ruthless, genocidal host (this time Russians).

While John Milius is listed along with Francis Ford Coppola is the co-writer of Apocalypse Now, it is unclear which man was the driving force behind the iconic helicopter attack. What’s not unclear is that it’s by far the best sequence in what is in many ways an overblown, confused mess. I think most people would agree that after Robert Duvall exits stage right after declaring that “Charlie don’t surf” the film dearly misses his presence. Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s short novel Heart of Darkness, which re-imagined King Leopold’s genocide as a journey into the heart of European arrogance and hypocrisy, Apocalypse Now has two big problems. The first is that the motivations of Captain Williard, the lead character played by a rather glum Martin Sheen — who had a heart attack during the film’s production — are never entirely clear. Unlike Conrad’s alter ego Marlowe, Williard, a CIA operative charged with assassination a rogue counterinsurgency officer played by Marlon Brando, has no consistent point of view. He accepts the mission out of some deep need to be a part of a CIA black op, but unlike Colonel Kilgore, the wonderfully insane “Air Cavalry” commander played by Duvall, he doesn’t seem to enjoy death and destruction for its own sake. He has no real axe to grind with Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, the rogue Green Beret played by Marlon Brando who established himself along the Cambodian border and set himself up as a demigod over a cult of native admirers. Indeed, he even wonders why the army even wants Kurtz dead.

The second problem is Marlon Brando himself, who phones in a performance so lazy and uninspired he seems to be making fun of us. At least when Orson Welles did wine commercials because he needed the money he put in a halfway credible day’s work.

My guess is that both the liberal Coppola and the reactionary Milius would have liked to have made Apocalypse Now from the point of view of the Vietnamese communists, those incredibly brave warriors who defeated both the French and the American empire in less than two decades. Both men, however, liked to play with big budgets and expensive military hardware. The helicopter attack was only possible because Ferdinand Marcos, the anti-communist dictator of the Philippines donated the helicopters and the pilots. Had Brando not been such a fat, lazy cunt and actually decided to act instead of just mumble, his portrayal of Kurtz might have emerged as a loosely fictionalized dramatization of Pol Pot, the genocidal, and by the way American supported, dictator in Cambodia who transformed an ancient civilization into a death cult that put Jim Jones to shame. Instead we are left with a film that is brilliant in many of its individual scenes, the USO show that turns into a riot, the emergence of Williard as a war criminal willing to shoot a teenage girl through the head rather than risk a mission he doesn’t really believe in, the lurid night combat along the Cambodian border, but a story that never quite comes together as a whole, 3 hours sailing up a far off river, not into the heart of the American darkness to confront an evil, but charismatic cult leader, but into one of the worst performances a great actor ever gave in his career.

Conan the Barbarian, over which John Milius had complete control after cutting out Oliver Stone from the film’s production, presents no such problems. While nobody would rank Milius on the same level as Francis Ford Coppola, there’s no question that the man knows how to make an engaging movie. What’s more, by recasting the Vietnamese as a fictionalized tribe of northern Europeans, and Captain Williard as Conan, an Aryan superman played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Milius removes all of the irritatingly self-indulgent ambiguity from the plot. The helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now ends with a picnic on a Vietnamese beach while an insane American army officer enjoys “the smell of napalm in the morning.” The raid that closes the opening scene in Conan the Barbarian ends with Thulsa Doom, played by an inspired James Earl Jones, decapitating Conan’s mother right in front of his eyes. From that moment on we know that Conan will eventually seek his revenge and if lucky kill the man who destroyed his people and murdered his mother out of no real motivation other than the urge to play God. What’s more, while Apocalypse Now tells us that Brando’s Kurtz managed to found a suicidal death cult in the jungles of Cambodia, we never really get to see much. In fact that idea is vaguely racist. Brando shows no real charisma or even desire to establish his rule. We’re simply expected to assume that any moderately talented white man can simply wander into a country that beat both the French and American empires and trick the people into worshiping him as a God.

No such problem exists with James Earl Jones, who I might venture to say is a better actor than the overrated Brando and who was at the height of his powers in the early 1980s. Thulsa Doom, a black man who rules over an adoring cult of dumb, white suicidal hippies, a cult that recalls both Manson and Jim Jones, enjoys every moment of his godlike power, and Jones clearly relishes the part. When Jones can’t help by laugh at Schwarzenegger’s thick German accent, he somehow manages to transform the gaff into such a vivid depiction of evil enjoying itself for being evil, that Milius simply kept it in the film’s theatrical release. When Schwarzenegger finally beheads Thulsa Doom in front of a crowd of Doom’s adoring slaves, he not only liberates all of those dumb fuck white hippies from their fate as air-headed human sacrifice, he avenges his beautiful young mother, played by the long forgotten German actress Nadiuska, who makes such a vivid impression as a courageous woman defending her child against pure evil in only a few minutes of screen time it’s hard to imagine why she never had a more extensive career.

In Conan the Barbarian, not only does the Aryan superman Arnold Schwarzenegger become the avenging angel of a small nation ravaged by a genocidal dictator, the heroic Vietnamese communist who defeats the American Empire, the black man James Earl Jones becomes the face, and above all the voice, of European colonialism, and ultimately civilization. In an interview with Dick Cavett back in the 1970s, Jones once expressed a desire to play Ludwig Van Beethoven. Cavett’s, genteel racist audience laughed uncomfortably at the idea, but in retrospect, James Earl Jones in his 30s or 40s would have made an ideal Beethoven, an actor truly able to express the massive, revolutionary passion Beethoven managed to channel into his music. Who cares about his race? Beethoven doesn’t belong to Germany, or to Europe, he belongs to the world. Jones would, of course, go onto play one of the most iconic villains in American cinematic history, the only reason, along with Alec Guinness, for anybody over the age of 25 to see Star Wars. While our culture would probably be better off had the entire Star Wars franchise never existed, Jones’s portrayal of the “Jedi Knight” turned to the dark side of the force is a better dramatization of the central idea of Heart of Darkness, the man of superior culture and technology setting himself up as a genocidal god, than Apocalypse Now. It’s just too bad Jones never got a chance to play the liberating impulses of western civilization embodied by Beethoven as well as he got to play an evil space wizard in a silly children’s movie.

We Are A Lost Generation

For almost 10 years now, I have been asked by people “Why are you so angry?”

I am part of a generation that has seen, time and time again, that the ground under our feet is not solid.

I was 8 years old when the Columbine High School shooting happened. I was aware of it, but it seemed like an isolated incident that occurred far away. Nonetheless, in school we started running different types of active shooter drills. In order to avoid panic, they never told us why we were turning off the lights and hiding behind our desks. Being very young, we were mostly just happy something broke up the monotony of the classes we attended.

Even as other school shootings started to occur across the country, the threat still seemed far away.

I was 11 years old when 9-11 happened. I remember the teachers at the middle school running off to the teachers lounge to watch the shaky footage of the towers collapsing on loop. I remember them looking nervous, but we weren’t told anything until the end of the day when we were about to get on the bus to go home. The band teacher mentioned briefly in 9th period (the last class of the day) that something big had happened, but that we were going to be fine. He didn’t say what it was.

On the bus, I sat with my best friend. Neither of us really knew what the World Trade Center was or why it was important. I figured that it was where everyone traded everything. We talked about building a tunnel between our houses and pooling Capri Sun juice packs.

In the months immediately following I saw the first germs of what would eventually make the fascist uprising currently destroying the United States and killing its citizens en masse. The conservative adults started making racist claims about “towelheads”, buying Hummers, and plastering every surface they could with “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS” magnets. Business owners started building strange folk art-like shrines on their personal property deifying the dead, as we later discovered, at the expense of the living.

100,000 people protested the beginning of Afghanistan War, but it did nothing and I didn’t even hear about it until years later.

The first year I was in college, the real estate market collapsed. My parents and most of my friends’ parents lost enormous chunks of their savings, yet the federal government gifted 100s of trillions of dollars to Wall Street banks.

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I went there as soon as I could. Thousands of people gathered in public spaces and stayed there in order to educate a public that didn’t understand how they’d been screwed over, just that they were hurting. Those who were in a position to deny that anything was wrong, that things weren’t going to return to normal, responded to the Occupy camps with anger and hostility. They thought that by pointing out the emperor had no clothes, we would also make them naked. Those who remembered the 60s treated Occupy with patronizing disdain-they’d abandoned their principles and “gotten that stuff out of their system” and soon would we they supposed.

My peers and I entered a perilous job market filled with “internship” scams-it was taken as a given in the journalism program where I studied that we were going to have to work multiple full time “internships” for free to fight over maybe getting a position that paid $15 dollars an hour. Most people I remember discussing it with at the time defended this practice. It taught you “hard work” or something. A bunch of people who went to college in a time when, adjusted for inflation, you could make $21/hr working at McDonalds decided their kids had it far too easy.

Slowly but surely, we, the kids, decided we didn’t care much if the real estate market crashed again as we also slowly, but surely, realized we would never be in the financial position to own a house. We carved out what space we could. We faced relentless criticism from old people, the same old people who stood by like cowards while the safety net they enjoyed was eviscerated, saying we ruined US culture because we weren’t buying enough things with the money we didn’t have.

With none of the conditions that led to the crash addressed or resolved, the economy bounced back into a hollow zombie boom for a couple years.

With the reality of climate change and the possible extinction of the human race becoming more and more a tangible reality, most people still denied it was happening with their actions, even if they paid the concept lip service. Declaring himself the messenger, Al Gore trained a generation that the proper response to climate change was to be mildly annoyed it was happening but to defend to the death the guy with 5 houses and a private jet who was its PR agent.

And now, after some of us sort of dug ourselves out of the hole, we’re facing a global pandemic set to kill millions and a second Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands will be homeless.

Those who scoffed at the people who fought to defend them now realize they’ve been sitting in boiling water when its probably too late. Those who made great sacrifices to fight back politically face a  population that by and large betrayed them in order to enjoy things “being normal” for a couple more years.

If they didn’t know it was all a ghost dance, why label their children “Generation Z”?

And it took a pandemic to underline once and for all that it was this “normal” that destroyed the hopes and futures of millennials.

Our suffering en masse was apparently the only thing that would even temporarily halt the destruction of the environment we live in and the decade long pandemic of mass shootings.

The last Great Depression lasted 12 years even with a president who (mostly) did the right things and had the realistic option of ramping up industrial production.

We are a lost generation.

That’s why I’m angry.

Coronavirus Hates You for Your Freedom

corona-freedom

Cranford, NJ April 2020

As Karl Marx remarked in his classic account of the Revolution of 1848, in order to make sense of a present crisis, we often resort to the rhetoric and the imagery of the past. “Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”

Here in a typical bedroom community of New York City, epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of my neighbors has put up a display invoking the only two times in the recent past the New Jersey bourgeoisie has faced a life-threatening crisis. The crudely handmade sign “Cranford Strong” invokes the good old days of Hurricane Sandy and the Chris Christie of “Jersey Strong.” The more professionally done sign thanking the “front line,” the troops that stock the shelves with toilet paper and canned tuna fish at the local ShopRite, reminds us all of 9/11, when in response to the way Islamic terrorists “hate our freedom,” which isn’t of course free, the American people rallied around George W. Bush and offered to give up our freedom, to sign the Patriot Act into law, to invade Iraq, and to get to work laying the foundations for the torture/surveillance state.

What I’ve noticed, however, is how muted my neighbor’s patriotic display is compared to what I saw in October of 2001. There are no flags, just an acronym, FLAG. There’s no call for war against China. I have yet to see any sign referring to the “Wuhan Virus.” No new bumper stickers have been mass produced. The overwhelming mood isn’t violent patriotism, but tired resignation. All anybody really wants to do is to be able to buy toilet paper again, to send their kids back to school, and to take their dogs back into the park. No coherent narrative has emerged. While Donald Trump and the far right have attempted to stir up hostility towards China, and while there have been hate crimes against Asian Americans, it pales in comparison to the drumbeat of Russopobia that liberal Democrats maintained for years after the election of 2016, let alone the overwhelming consensus that emerged after 9/11 that “we” had to “support the troops” and invade Iraq. The corporate media’s attempt to make Andrew Cuomo the 2020’s Rudy Giuliani — it’s a little hard to remember these days just how much of a hero that nasty little fascist troll was back in 2001 — seems to have petered out.

Back in March, the Democratic Party crushed a mild mannered insurgency from the very moderate left in Bernie Sanders, but in retrospect it’s a little difficult to figure out why they even bothered. Sanders, who fell in line and voted for the recent corporate bailout as obediently as Amy Klobuchar or Corey Booker, presents no threat to the American ruling class. Those “Bernie Bros,” so feared on social media, are no more likely to produce a Lenin or a Robespierre than I am to get a job doing shampoo commercials. While there may be something resembling a general election this November — a second wave of the pandemic may cancel it altogether — I can’t imagine that it will have much legitimacy. Both candidates will be old men in cognitive decline. Neither will be able to campaign in public. There won’t be much debate. Don’t look for Lincoln Douglass in 2020. I suspect that whichever elderly reactionary wins, the one with the R at the end of his name or the one with the D at the end of his name, the corporate elite will control the government from behind the scenes. Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, and the big tech companies in silicon valley are going to dangle the puppet in the White House on their knee, and drink a glass of water while they lecture us on how for our own good we need to give them anything they want. The democratic system was on its dying legs, a frail, elderly resident of the American nursing home. Coronavirus has killed it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen after the pandemic dissipates. I don’t know what our ruling class has planned. I don’t know how the rest of us will react. But I suspect that we’re going to see a heavy push by the media to increase surveillance and control — whether its by the government or the corporations makes no difference — for our own good. That’s the real tragedy. People in the Middle East don’t hate us for our freedoms. They hate us for our hypocrisy. Coronavirus, on the other hand, does. To be more accurate, Coronavirus loves our freedom because it hates us. Coronavirus thrives in a free society. It breeds in warm, sunny Mediterranean cultures like Italy. The coldblooded Germans, by contrast, seem to have defeated it. Coronavirus makes protest, political rallies, social gatherings, even Holy Communion, deadly. It requires us to shun one another, to fear each other’s presence. It puts all society online, on a corporate controlled Internet that the wealthy can shut down any time they want. It transforms any act of defiance — illegal fishing in the local pond, walking your dog in the park, conversing with strangers — a form of stupidity. Coronavirus, at long last, is the final stage of neoliberal capitalism.