Fri May 1st, 2009 at 06:52:37 PM EST
See? Utopia, it's kind of scary:
Contents: I don't know. Whatever I manage to cough up to fix this writer's block... << Hack! >>
It's been a while. A long, uneventful, outrageless while. Oh, maybe not so uneventful for those of you who occupy the economist-financier class. It's probably quite exhilarating for you, having your faces on Wanted! posters all over the world and philosophers questioning the necessity of your very existence. It is still all about you... And of course you doom-p0rn crisis-monger types are still having a grand olde time. I mean, just when the global economic meltdown together with the climate crisis were on the verge of blowing your mind, a pig flu pandemic shows up at your door and rings the bell! You probably thought these things happened only in magazines or on pay tv. Here's another fear to add to your list: chafing. But go ahead and enjoy it while it lasts. Because I am here to tell you that it won't last. One day, you will wake up to find the ideas for which you have been arguing so passionately being passed off as conventional wisdom by the punditocracy, not even meriting further discussion. You will observe (in surprise, because they don't make any official announcements about such things) your well-oiled Keynesian economy creating jobs and prosperity and sealing up the gaps, your already renewed several times now energy sources being renewed again already, and right in your backyard, your plate of delicious bacon made from pigs taught to cover their snouts when they sneeze and wash their hooves frequently, and you will - secretly, without ever EVER confessing to this thought crime - wish people would go back to acting like ignorant sociopaths. Because Utopia is only inspiring so long as it remains out of reach. You fight, fight, fight and finally get what you want, and suddenly you are the object in Newton's first law of motion. This is why the French vacillate between doing nothing and re-enacting protests out of tradition. These are your choices in Utopian conditions.
I told Andy at Siberian Light - I see other blogs. I am a libertine. - that I haven't been writing Russia round-ups because I have bookmarked so many stories that I no longer know where to begin. I keep adding links, but not writing anything, so I get overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the largely trivial material I have collected. He suggested I delete my bookmarks, start over. So I did. Delete them. Now, I have nothing to write about! Brilliant, Andy! Maybe next I will have my fingers amputated, because sometimes I just find it too physically tedious to write. As Crazy Horse noted, I'll still have my brilliant writer's mind! I'll need to score one of those EEG machines that allow you to post to Twitter using the magic of telepathy. Except, I can't really think in 140 characters or less. Not that I discourage those who do. Twitter thinking may very well save us from the horrors of Utopia, primary among them being: writer's block. Gah!
Maybe you are wondering what the hell I am talking about. "Utopia? Erm, poemless, have you left the house in the past 6 months, turned on a tv, read a newspaper or blog? ... Are you insane?!?!"
Allow me to answer your first question. The second may be irrelevant. Yes. I know, despite having an ankle bone on suicide watch and a sexy jazz musician at my disposal, I somehow find the motivation to leave my bed. Not that I'd need to do that to stay up-to-date on current events... Know what else I do in bed? Read books. I have been reading Foucault, because facebook quizmasters have determined we share a likeness, and redstar has recommended The History of Sexuality. It's ok. I've decided that "post-structuralism" is just fancy talk for "humourless devil's advocacy." And in that tradition, I will now assert that everything you have been told about the impending collapse of life on our planet is wrong and that we are, in fact, headed down the path of Utopia. Apologies to Mr. Orlov.
Observations about America:
"Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy ..." ~T. Jefferson.
Last November America overwhelmingly elected the right person. We now have a President who is literate, well-educated, intellectually curious, cool-headed, humble and wise enough to admit our mistakes. It doesn't even matter if his policies are lacking. He still gets an A for effort. And extra credit for not being named George W. Bush. And 50 extra frames for winning the photo shoot challenge. This is such an improvement that even though America has spent decades bullying the rest of the world and sometimes not bullying but actually killing, our harshest enemies are now standing in line for hours just to be seen hanging with Obama. A photo op with Obama now improves your chances of reelection by a significant margin. People just LOVE Obama. And love is the opposite of nuclear war. Thus, because of Obama, we will avoid nuclear war. Check it out: Ahmadinejad was on George Snuffleupagus the other day sending his warm regards to the American people. I expect he and Chavez may do an office collection for Barack's birthday...
"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism ..." ~Einstein.
The people who hate Obama? The ignorant sociopaths who were hell-bent on bringing us to the gates of Armageddon, via a scenic rte. through the Middle Ages? Well, they have sort of been relegated to the social status of Emo kids. Like, we accept their right to exist and find their naivete sometimes endearing, or at least entertaining (and we need someone new to pick on now that we're on good geo-political behavior). But we are also embarrassed by their lack of good taste and are frankly sick of being made to pay attention to them. "Look at me, Look at me, I have teabags on my ears! Life is cruel!" Ok, we get it. You don't want to pay taxes or go to class. Grow up.
"The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism." ~Marx.
Free-market ideologue Richard Posner has written a book about the failure of Capitalism. BTW, the pig flu is an airborne virus. Coincidence? ... I had a debate on facebook about loser leftists being too proud to brag. I mean, here is Posner writing a book advocating regulation, and we're all like, "He's still and evil jerk! Boo!" Uhm, I don't know what planet you guys live on, but on mine the people who make very important decisions do so on the advice of evil jerks, not smug lefty bloggers. Just sayin'. Also, a new Rasmussen poll shows that socialism is catching on with the kids. Peace.
Observations about Russia:
In Russia, where the Apocalypse isn't just a religious obsession but a distinct urban development aesthetic, things have been rather fine and dandy. Which is the opposite of normal in Russia. In fact, this might be a sign of the Apocalypse... which would destroy my thesis... Ignore it. Anyway, Here are some of the boring everything going exactly as planned in order to bring about peace and prosperity developments over in the other Evil Empire:
"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." ~Camus
I was dreading having to make a list of all the shiny happy liberal things Dima has done as President.
Fortunately someone at Business News Europe did it for me:
Jan 13: Medvedev orders amendments to constitution published on internet;
Jan 12 : Medvedev starts a blog and welcomes comments;
Jan 27: Medvedev orders amendments to laws on state secrets, high treason, as his office was afraid there was a danger of defining them "too broadly";
Feb 9: Medvedev signs law cancelling election bail: now any candidates and parties can collect signatures to register for elections; previously only the parties represented in the parliament were allowed to collect signatures;
Feb 9: Medvedev signs law on access to data about government's activity, part of an anti-corruption package and aimed to make the activity of state bodies and local self-governments more transparent, according to the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, Valery Komissarov;
Feb 12: signs off on an insider trading bill, making it a crime;
Feb 13: submits a draft law to give prosecutors more powers in defending people's civil rights through civil litigation;
Feb 27: proposes bill to cut number of signatures parties have to collect to be registered in Duma elections from 200,000 to 150,000;
Feb 27: submits bill on parties' equal access to state media to Duma;
April 16: advises citizens to defend freedom of assembly in courts. "Of course, the authorities never want to allow such actions for reasons easy to understand. Anyway, those are not law-based decisions," the president said;
April 24: Duma passes bill entitling so-called "small" parties to be represented at parliament;
April 24: Medvedev inks decree on nomination of governors by parties.
And he gave a friendly interview to Novaya Gazeta, the former employer of several journalists ostensibly offed by his predecessor. And he started a blog on Live Journal. You can't be a freedom fighter without a blog. The only thing Dima lacks now is a cape and leotards.
Regrettably, the sexy, witty villain in our little narrative has gone into hiding in boardrooms where, unable to take out his wrath on idiot Americans and courageous journalists, he yells at big companies about interest rates and small nations about pipeline contracts. Sucks. Dear Jesus, does it ever suck. Alas, there is no room for coy, wicked little spies in Utopia.
"We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." ~F.D.R.
Looks like Masha Sergeyeva has somehow managed to sneak in, though. Wow, she's good! What, you don't know who Masha Sergeyeva is?
Daily Mail: Putin's poster girl: Pin-up politician who hates the West...
Three years ago, Sergeyeva was a proud opponent of Putin and his party. She was a prominent activist in the tiny Democratic Party, a group that wanted Russia to join the European Union. Her most effective protest was a demonstration mocking Russia's rulers as robots and androids.
The circumstances of her sudden conversion to these robots are disputed. It certainly involved recruitment by a close friend who was already in the Guards, prompting some to suggest she'd been planted in an opposition party as a spy before coming 'home'.
Others believe Putin's cronies simply recognised her potential and recruited her on a hefty salary, a claim she denies. Whatever the truth, she now lives and breathes pro-Putin politics.
According to her internet postings, one of her current assignments is to promote training sessions for loyalist bloggers-under the acronym KGB. Kursy Gosudarstvennykh Bloggerov stands for Courses For State Bloggers, and its purpose appears to be to teach loyal cyber-warriors how to hack into opposition blogs and find the addresses and telephone numbers of those behind them - all apparently sponsored by the Russian taxpayer.
In return, the loyal bloggers are given a membership card, Putin's book on ideology, a CD of Medvedev's video.
But politics will always come first. 'I would like one day to become President or at least Prime Minister,' she says. 'I don't think Russia is ready for a female president. On the other hand, in 20 years' time, when I am 44, this may change and it will be the right time for my presidency.'
In the meantime, she proudly recalls the achievements of another of her role models, on whom history's verdict is somewhat equivocal.
'I adore Catherine the Great,' she says. 'Now she was a great leader.'
Masha is also an advocate for environmental reforms, railing against pollution and promoting recycling. She's the whole package! Well, I think she needs a stylist... If she were really a high-paid propaganda monster, she'd have better clothes, like Peter Lavelle. But come on! Is this not what democracy is all about: civic participation, youth looking in the mirror, popping a zit and saying "Yes We Can!"? Doncha know the children are our future? Indeed, if Barack Obama could grow up and be President, why can't Masha? Is this not the very definition of democracy, a society in which every kid has the ability to believe they can grow up and be President?
So. I've been observing this "pandemic" of Utopian progress ever since November. I think it is more of a threat than pig flu. There are no vaccines for viral optimism, happiness, freedom, responsibility. The lullaby of a world without Bushes and Putins and bankers may lull us into a sleep so sweet we will refuse to wake up. Not even hungry mewing kittens will be able to stir us from our reverie. Eventually, they will have to eat us... Speaking of cats, here's another problem with Utopia: cat piss. Now that I am off plastic bags, toting around reusable bags like some babushka praying I will spot a line for bread on the way to a job I may or may not have, I don't know what to do about the cat box. How can I keep it clean, and my apartment smelling un-zoo-like? No Putin. No plastic bags. No cold wars. Nothing to write about. My fate is that of a smelly, unafraid basket-weaver living in someone else's idea of Utopia. Because my idea of Utopia includes clean litter boxes, Vladimir Vladimirovich, and something worth writing about. Well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that it is someone else's Utopia. That leaves me something to rebel against.
So imagine my terror when I woke up Saturday discovered a probable case of my own Utopia right in my own home!
From an RT ad campiagn:
I awoke that morning as I would any Saturday morning. I scowled, got up, made coffee, washed my face & brushed my teeth, chatted on the phone, made a list of things to do, wondered if I'd be able to finish them before those looming storm clouds would no longer contain themselves. A positively unremarkable morning. I turned on the tv to look at the radar and plot my activities according to breaks in the rain. For obvious reasons, I generally do not turn on Russia Today for my local weather forecast. I don't even turn on the local PBS station which airs RT for my local weather forecast. PBS doesn't show weather. They assume that if you are watching PBS, you are not one to venture out anyway. Normally, I flip on a local commercial station like, say, NBC, if I want to see the weather. They have several local digital stations (poor people's cable) and one of them only airs the weather, with live radar, ideal for the timing of errands in Chicago.
So imagine my horror when I turned on NBC to find ... Mark Ames' face and that ghost-slime greem RT logo in the corner. Gah!!! I have profound empathy for unwitting women throughout the Russian Federation. This face is NOT the first thing you want to see when you wake up in the morning.
Wait. Background for new readers (do we ever have new readers?): Mark Ames is the despicable but brilliant editor of the eXile. I wrote a really good piece about the eXile here. (You can compare it to this one and see for yourselves how dire my creative situation is.) And RT is like the Russian version of BBC or France 24.
Back to my story. I realized I must have pressed the wrong button on the remote. A more profound, unsettling shock set in when the caption in the corner of the TV assured me this was NBC. Alright. I took a deep breath, and slowly stepped backward away from the TV, in fear and confusion. What are the possible explanations for this? It is a dream. This would only happen in a dream. But shocking dreams wake me up. Demonic possession? Fuck. That would just have to happen today. Like I don't have other things to worry about. Psychic displacement, like in the Twilight Zone movie, where the kid put his family into the tv? No. Stay reality based. The best defense against the supernatural is reason. Ames was still there on the screen, travelling to Yasnaya Polyana and firing up a samovar. Ok, cyber attack. That's what this is. I checked my messages, e-mail, list-serves. No mention of a cyber attack. I opened a compact and breathed on the mirror, and as Ames tried to pick up a seal - like he would a girl, not a seal - a dewy mist appeared on the mirror. I waited for a message about "technical difficulties" but instead only got more RT, more Ames, now laughing and turning off a pipeline to make gas prises go up. I waited for something to happen to make things normal again. Ames toured Russia, showing off its many splendours and idiosyncrasies. I thought about a conversation I'd been having earlier in the week with another Russia blogger, about our interest in Russia being rooted in the Cold War, in our curiosity about that which we were not allowed to see or know. About how we Americans really know so little about Russia. Ames was making food in Kazan. I thought now about the question I'd wanted to pose to Putin in one of those annual Q&A's but for some reason never did: "What are you doing to make Americans better informed about Russia? I mean, you do realize education is the only way to repair our broken relationship, right? I know you think the onus is on Americans to educate themselves, but that's because you are Russian. If you were American, you'd know that we are rather intellectually lazy and need to be spoon fed information from the TV." I flipped through other channels to see if they were all RT or snowy, for some breaking news to explain this. Nothing unusual. All swine flu terror all the time. Back at NBC, Ames was on an island in the Volga. I sat there, having forgotten about the weather, wondering why today was the day I'd finally gone insane. The show ended, and message appeared, "The views expressed in this program are not nec. those of NBC. NBC brings you this RT program in cooperation with blah blah blah..."
Ok. I am going to tell you something, but you must never tell NBC, or President Obama. Or anyone with the last name Doss.
Western state and commercial media claim that Russia Today has close ties with the Russian state authorities  and a few years after the channel started broadcasting, for being a "cheerleader" of the Kremlin, applying positive spin to reports about governmental institutions and refraining from criticizing Prime Minister and former Russian president Vladimir Putin or the government. A CBS News story contains allegations that Russia Today is "a continuation of the old Soviet propaganda services". Western commercial media, including The New York Times, routinely call it "state-run".
RT is a propaganda channel. Now, that doesn't mean it is nefarious, or deceptive. It's not better or worse than France 24 or BBC. Well, actually, it is better, by virtue of much more interesting content and much more attractive presenters. But that is not the point. The point is that NBC was airing the very same evil Russian state-run media that they condemn in their national news broadcasts as examples of how there is no freedom of the press in Russia. Only now they are airing it as family appropriate, educational Saturday morning programming. OMG, what is freakier, RT supplying NBC with programming, or Mark Ames hosting a G-rated show? I'm so disoriented. Nothing makes sense...
Wait. There is more. How much of a trip is it that our man in Panama, on the run from Kremlin bad guys, whose motto is "Banned in Russia!," is the face of Russian propaganda?! That irony is more delicious and has more layers than a Kiev cake! I can't handle it! Give me more!!
Well, it is nice to know that someone in Russia took my advice about educating Americans about their lovely country on easy to understand TV. How they got that advice, I'm not sure. KGB mind-reading techniques probably.
Now I will answer your second question. Yes. Of course I am insane! Within the last week I have seen 1) a documentary about the tense last years of the Cold War, 2) an interview with Gorbachev and Schultz in which they relived those bad old days, and 3) RT programming being aired on NBC. It's like that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where he speeds so fast through those pretty lights and ends up in a parallel universe. My experience of the space time continuum is all outta whack. Honestly. Don't try this at home. Like, don't watch all of Ken Burns Civil War and then immediately watch Obama's press conference. You'll crack. You too might end up walking down the street wearing a placard announcing "Earthly Utopia is at Hand!!!"
There is an old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." I always suspected this was said in order to promote the American value of lowered expectations. I guess it worked. I certainly never expected wake up one morning to find in an America broadcast network's Saturday morning line-up Russian State-run TV, let alone a Saturday morning line-up hosted by the editor of the eXile.
I'm still trying to figure out what to do about the cat box. Any advice for Bella?