Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


i read Candide some years back. i laughed at the joke about the daughter of the pope, and Voltaire's footnote touting his own delicacy in not naming which pope. and Pangloss is a memorable character, a precursor to the Intelligent Designists who have faith that the putative I.D.-er Himself has created "the best of all possible worlds."

so when Joshua (a/k/a Jane, a/k/a, cutely, seasurface [in comments]) equates a questioning of the political utility of violence in this historical moment with Panglossian thinking, he's making with some fuzzy rhetorical math. the precise point is: i want things to be better, which is why i'm asking for the most effective mode of change; in a modern industrialized state, violence has had no history of effectiveness as an agent of social change. and besides, he's read my stuff. he knows i'm no Panglossian.

one might call Joshua/Jane/seasurface a mystico-historicist; "history" with his pen becomes a mystificatory magic wand. forget to mention every waking moment that our present -- his and mine -- privileges are underwritten by state violence, poof, you're ahistorical. question whether history has given us any examples of 20th century armed revolutions that did not lead to massively violently repressive states, poof, you're Panglossian. this priest of "history" wants "history" to mean whatever he says it means.

now, just because we've had a bad track record with armed revolution in the last 100 years or so, that doesn't mean it couldn't lead to something else in the future. but if history is to be of any use, i'd like to see some thinking as to why this time it will be different. in the meantime, i'm going to go on the record and say, regardless of how political the intentions of the French rioters are, burning people to death is strategically stupid. maybe i'm wrong. but, ahem, history is on my side, to my chagrin. chagrin, because i'm hoping someone comes up with something more effective.

meanwhile, Joshua/Jane/seasurface is the classic condescending liberal twaddle-mouther. "the poor dears," says he, "they've had such a bad time of it, who are we to condemn their murderous actions as immoral or ineffectual? we can't hold them accountable for their decisions, they're too oppressed." that's liberal condescension-masked-as-compassion at its worst. Gee, Officer Krupke.

but what's really amazing is the Kierkegaardian absurd leap of faith here. says J/J/s: don't condemn the murderous rioters for their random murders; and, don't worry that these murderous tactics, in the unlikely event that they succeed, may end up with a murderously repressive state. i'm sensing a faith in the wisdom of "history" here; a faith, which, if taken at its face, ends up with, whose violence shall prevail, so shall history be. i know that's not where J/J/s is at, intellectually, politically, or any otherly, but that's the conclusion that his thought tends toward.

i do agree with the gist of J/J/s's belatedly added closing: if you fancy yourself nonviolent, work to change the world for the better: work on the state and on the malefactors of great wealth.

that's right.
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