Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Monday, March 25, 2019

AFRICAN-AMERICAN FOLK LORE


Regular readers of this blog will recognize the name “Esther Terry.”  In 1992, Esther invited me to join the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, and was Chair of the department during the entirety of my wonderful sixteen years there.  Esther grew up in rural North Carolina in the town of Wise, near the Virginia border, and after an undergraduate degree at Bennett College in Greensboro [where she participated in the famous Woolworth Lunch Counter sit-in] and an M. A. at UNC Chapel Hill, she came north to Amherst, did a doctorate in English, and went on to be a founding member of the Afro-Am Department.  Despite this sophisticated educational career, Esther retains some of the linguistic tropes of her youth.  Faced with a departmental mess, she would say, “Well, we shall just have to make chicken salad out of this chicken shit.”  In this post, I propose to make chicken salad out of the pile of chicken shit we have just been handed by Robert Mueller and William Barr.

We are all going to have to survive the choruses of self-congratulation from Trump and his supporters.  If I were a religious man, I would say that a little humility is good for the soul, but since I am a non-believer, I will just call it what it is:  chicken shit.

However, I do honestly see the makings of a quite edible chicken salad here.  Let me explain.  If the report had been as devastating to Trump as we all hoped and expected, Congress would have had no choice but to move toward impeachment.  It is still possible that the full report, when it is released, as it inevitably must be, will make a chargeable case for obstruction of justice.  But it will not matter.  The headline is “NO COLLUSION” and that is all that anyone will read or hear.

Impeachment would have been a political disaster, I have always believed.  It would pass in the House, fail in the Senate, and leave Trump, at some point next fall, triumphant.  What is infinitely more important, it would leave his supporters maximally enraged and energized, and bring every last one of them to the polls in 2020.  By an odd quirk of American political life, Trump’s victory now will calm his followers and lower their voting percentages.  Contrariwise, his triumph and the current humiliation of all the rest of us will keep alive the extraordinary energy now manifesting itself on the left.  Deprived of the quick fix of impeachment, we will be driven by our anger to vote in record numbers.

Trump will not be able to run on today’s victory because it has happened too soon.  There are nineteen months until the election, and “No Collusion” will be old news by June.

Now, would anyone care for a nice cold glass of Riesling with your scoop of chicken salad?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

TIME OUT

I am going to stop blogging about Mueller and what he did or did not find.  It should be obvious that I have no first-hand knowledge, and people I like and enjoy communicating with on this blog have dramatically different views on the matter.  Inasmuch as I cannot do anything at all to affect the course or outcome of the affair, and I since I do not enjoy fighting with my friends, I am going to move on.  In due course, we will see.  Or we won't.  Whatever.

There is one point I would like to make that I think is important.  For whatever reason, the election of Trump triggered a massive surge in ground level organizing and protest that started with the Women's March the day after  Inauguration, which I attended, and which continues unabated to the present day.  That energy has led unprecedented numbers of women to run for office at local, state, and national levels.  It has produced a series of by-election upsets and a big blue wave in 2018.  Although many of those elected ran on moderate platforms [and would not, in my judgment, have been elected had they not], a number of dramatically progressive candidates have emerged, and the national debate about policy has moved sharply leftward for the first time in several generations.  The media frenzy about the Mueller investigation has not, so far as I can tell, derailed or diverted that movement, and it gives no sign of doing so now.

In the presence of this movement, the best thing for all of us to do is to join it, donate to it, work for it, cheer it on, and hope it is enough both to defeat Trump and to elect legislators committed to enacting progressive legislation.

All else is persiflage, to the effusion of which I am on this blog a leading contributor.  No more.

Now, about Duke and Zion Williamson ...

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?


In advance of the release of such parts of the Mueller Report as we get to see, I am going to try to summarize what we know.  Two stipulations before I begin.  First, I am trying to get clear about what we know, not make moral or political judgments about its significance.  Second, I am going to rely on what I believe is well known.  If someone wants to say, for example, that the indictments brought by Mueller against Russians are simply invented out of whole cloth, or even that there is no one named Robert Mueller nor has there been any investigation conducted by this fictional character, I have nothing to say in response, save Go with God.

All right, let us start simple:

1.         Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.  He lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.

2.         Agents of the Russian government sought to influence the outcome of the election to the detriment of Hillary Clinton both by hacking into email accounts and by social media efforts.

3.         There is no direct evidence at all that the efforts by the Russians swayed so much as a single vote.  There is also no direct evidence that either the Democratic or the Republican Party or the two candidates and their campaign staffs by their efforts swayed so much as a single vote.  That is the nature of the secret ballot.  There have been credibly confirmed efforts criminally to sway American elections, most recently right here in good ole Carolina in the NC 9th CD, but not in the most recent presidential election.

4.         We can infer that Mueller did not find evidence of a conspiracy involving the Russian agents and Donald Trump or those associated with him to influence the election.  We can infer that because, although Department of Justice regulations would have barred Mueller from indicting Trump for such a crime, it is impossible to imagine that such evidence, if Mueller had it, would not also have implicated those around Trump, and Mueller says there are no further indictments to come from him.

5.         Did Trump and those around him collude with the Russians to influence the campaign?  “Collude” is not a legal term of art, it is an ordinary English word.  Did Trump and those around him know about the efforts of the Russians?  Yes.  They were told so in the email that triggered the Trump Tower meeting.  There is other evidence, but that will suffice.  Did Trump approve and encourage the Russian actions?  Yes.  How do I know?  I watched him do so on national TV [“Russia, if you are listening, etc. etc.”]  Let me pause to emphasize this.  Suppose Trump had vehemently denied knowing anything about hacked emails and Russia.  And suppose Mueller and his team had unearthed a handwritten note from Trump to someone in Russia, with his DNA on it, saying “Russia, if you’re listening etc. etc.”  From an evidentiary standpoint, there is no difference between the two.  They would have dramatically different psychological effects, but that is a different matter.

            Is this collusion?  Well, that depends on how you use the word.  If you use at as a synonym for “conspire, as defined by law” then the answer appears to be no.  If you use it to mean “know about and encourage,” then the answer is yes.

6.         Did Trump obstruct justice by seeking, with corrupt intent, to interfere with or terminate Mueller’s investigation?  How do I know?  Because Trump told me so [and also everyone else in the world] on Lester Holt’s show.  And also because he tried to get Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and he ordered Don McGahn to fire Mueller, etc. etc.

So, I conclude that Trump colluded with the Russians but did not, so far as we know, conspire with them, that Trump obstructed justice, that the Russians tried to influence the American election, and that we have no idea whether they succeeded.

Why do I care?  First, because elections are one of the very few tools that people like me have to change this country, limited though those tools are.  And Second, because I hate Donald Trump and would enjoy seeing him humiliated and brought low.

Meanwhile, I wait to see what of the Mueller Report will be released.

Friday, March 22, 2019

WRONG AGAIN

Mueller has submitted his report and apparently has indicated there are no more indictments to come.

Sigh.  We shall have to do it the old fashioned way, by winning the election.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

FOOLS RUSH IN


An old Christian superstition has it that graveyards are dangerous places because the damned souls of the departed linger there.  It was thought that angels shunned such places for this reason.  In early eighteenth century London, St. Paul’s Churchyard, which is to say its burial ground, was the center of the book trade.  In his great poetic work, An Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope attacks the literary critics of his day, for whom he had a bottomless contempt.  At one point, alluding to their involvement in the book trade, he writes of them that Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

And so, despite Pope’s warning, I rush in to offer predictions.  I shall spare you the disclaimers, which would be otiose. 

Mueller’s grand jury meets on Fridays.  There has been no news that the grand jury has been dismissed.  The role of grand juries is to hand up indictments.  I infer that there are more indictments to come.  It is the practice of the Justice Department not to call before a grand jury someone who is a target of an investigation, which is to say someone who is in jeopardy of being indicted [because such a person would simply invoke the right not to incriminate himself or herself.]  Donald Trump Jr. has not been called before the grand jury, despite having participated in the much discussed Trump Tower meeting.  I infer that Donald Trump Jr. will be indicted.  It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Mueller will ask the grand jury to hand up a RICO-style set of indictments of Americans engaged in a conspiracy with Russians already indicted to defraud the United States of America by illegally interfering with the 2016 election.  If such a blanket indictment were to be handed up, it would probably be the final legal act by the Mueller team before the submission to the Attorney General of the report required by the terms of Mueller’s appointment.

Therefore, keep an eye out for news that the Mueller grand jury has been dismissed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

AN IMPORTANT BIT OF INFORMATION

I am sure we are all interested in the lively discussion about Hegel prompted by my remarks, but we must not lose sight of what is the most important tidbit of information to emerge from the fog.

CHRIS IS FINISHING UP HIS DISSERTATION!

Congratulations to Chris.  I wrote a letter in support of his application to graduate school, and now he is about to finish up!

I hope, Chris, that in this brutal job market, you bag a good tenure track job somewhere.

I feel as though one of my children has taken a first step.

Monday, March 18, 2019

A RESPONSE TO TALHA


In the midst of a quite complimentary, indeed even fulsome [in the original sense] reference to me, Talha says this:  “Why Prof. Wolff should despise Hegel so much is a fun mystery!”  Talha goes on to note that I draw insights from and praise the work of Karl Mannheim, Herbert Marcuse, and others who were themselves deeply influenced by Hegel.  So what’s up with my hate on Hegel?

I think it is worth replying, not merely to clarify my personal preferences [a rather minor matter, after all], but to spell out my views on how one ought to do philosophy, which may be of interest to a slightly larger audience.

Personal matters first.  I hate Hegel because he makes relatively clear ideas obscure, whereas I have spent the last sixty years trying to make difficult and puzzling ideas as clear and transparent as I am able.  I freely acknowledge that Hegel had some interesting ideas.  I just can’t stand reading his exposition of them.  So sue me.  I don’t like Mahler either.

Now let me try to be a bit more serious.  I was introduced to philosophy at a relatively early age [from sixteen to nineteen] by a group of very gifted philosophers in what was then called the analytic tradition:  Willard Van Orman Quine first, then Nelson Goodman, after that Henry Aiken and Morton White, and then most importantly of all, Clarence Irving Lewis.  By the time I was old enough to get a driver’s license, I had internalized standards of clarity and precision that have stayed with me to this day.  Some were rather trivial: never to confuse use and mention, always to make sure I had the same number of left and right parentheses in a logical formula.  Some were a good deal more important: always to struggle to say what one had in mind as simply and transparently as possible, never to be satisfied with a metaphor that I could not, if called upon, cash in for a literal assertion.

Quine and Goodman and White struck me as supremely intelligent but lacking a certain moral urgency, a deep conviction that what they were doing was important as well as interesting.  It was in Lewis that I, at the age of eighteen, found a satisfying combination of intelligence and moral passion.  To this day, I cherish his comment on the term paper I submitted to his graduate seminar in epistemology.  I had written a paper on Hume, ripping various of his more questionable claims to shreds.  Lewis treated my efforts very gently, and after remarking that "in this paper, it would be out of place to ask that [the points] should 'add up' to something in conclusion," he wrote, "I should hope that this general character of the paper is not a symptom of that type of mind, in philosophy, which can find the objection to everything but advance the solution to nothing."   If I could be described, rather extravagantly, as having had a revelation on the road to Damascus, that was it.

Once I began my own philosophical work, I was guided both by the demand for clarity and precision and by Lewis’ inspiration.  My first major effort was a struggle to come to terms with the Critique of Pure Reason.  I could chop logic with the best of them, but I sought, like Gandalf in the Caves of Moria, to dive deep and struggle with the Balrog to discover the argument lying at the heart of Kant’s great work.  Like Jacob, I wrestled with the book and would not let go until it bless me.  I insisted [and here the voices of Quine and Goodman spoke to me] that what I found within it must be stated by me in clear, precise English, capable of being presented in the shape of a valid formal argument without losing the depth of Kant’s insights.

I brought the same need to Das Kapital, which was, I found, much more difficult to cope with because to succeed I needed to deploy not only the resources of philosophy, economics, mathematics, and history but also the insights of literary criticism.  I brought the same need for both clarity and depth to the writings of Mannheim and Marcuse, in  both of whose works I found insights and arguments of great power.

When I read the writings of Gerald Cohen, Jon Elster, and the other so-called Analytic Marxists, I found that they had achieved clarity and precision at the expense of Marx’s deepest insights, a disappointment I expressed in my essay on Elster [to be found in Box.net].

I can easily imagine that were I to bring to Hegel the same generosity of spirit that has animated me in the reading of these other authors, I would find much to value.

But you must allow an old man his crotchets.



Saturday, March 16, 2019

COMMENTING ON THE COMMENTS, AKA NOT HAVING ANTHING TO SAY TODAY

I have read with interest and some amusement the series of comments triggered by my remark about Paul Krugman.  I was particularly struck by one of Chris's observations, both because I think it is absolutely correct and because I do not recall having seen anyone else make it.  It is something that first crossed my mind a long time ago.  Here is what Chris wrote:


"Chomsky is a genius yes, but you know as well as I do, besides his encyclopedic memory, his genius is almost largely relegated to linguistics. His political commentary, while often correct, is actually transparently simple. I don't think the general public struggles to understand his political points. So we don't have to say genius in politics must be tantamount to Chomsky's genius in linguistics (which the general public would and should find confusing - 'merge' is infuriatingly difficult for me to wrestle with)."

Noam's capacity for absorbing and remembering factual detail is phenomenal, and since he is supremely intelligent and clear-minded, his mustering of that detail is impressive and usually overwhelming.  But he speaks and writes from the standpoint of a disillusioned moralist.  He does not seem to possess, or at least to deploy, the sort of deeper insight into capitalism that Chris and I more or less take for granted.  If I may attempt something approaching a bon mot, he unfailingly locates everyone's clay feet but seems not to grasp the distinction between base and superstructure.

On the other hand, his grasp of grammar is transformative.

Friday, March 15, 2019

DUE DILIGENCE

OK, so I watched the Netflix documentary on the Fyre fiasco [well, sort of watched it -- I clicked through and watched maybe thirty minutes of it, quite enough to get its gist.]  For me, it was like watching one of those old National Geographic travel documentaries about strange "primitive" people with incomprehensible customs not wearing much in the way of clothes.

Is Ja Rule a big deal?

EVEN A STOPPED CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY


Inasmuch as the Good Book tells us “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” [Matthew 20:16], we ought to celebrate Paul Krugman’s recognition today of the fact that the deliberate destruction of labor unions is a significant cause of income inequity in the United States.

To be sure, Krugman did write, on the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, that “By my reckoning, Karl Marx made about as much contribution to economics as Zeppo Marx made to comedy.”

Let us grant that Paul Krugman has a good heart.  It is his brain that fails him.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

LIVE AND LEARN

The college entrance scandal has intrroduced me to a new social category.  The daughter of one of the actresses, whose college entrance [the daughter, not the actress] was facilitated by hefty bribe payments, is described in news stories as an "influencer."  

Am I the last kid on the block to learn this term?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

MY J. D. SALINGER MOMENT


I have often wondered over the years what it is like to be Ralph Ellison – an author who wrote a great book young and then spent the rest of his life giving readings from the book, and listening to people wondering what he was going to write next.  Our perception of such an author is completely different from our perception of an author who writes his or her great work late in life.  And yet, in each case the authorial output is the same.

What on earth got me thinking about this today?  Well, if you leave aside the fact that I am not a great author, I was brooding during my morning walk about the big college admissions scandal.  I wanted to write something serious about it, and then it occurred to me that in fact I had.  Some years ago, I gave a talk at Teacher’s College at Columbia, in which I said – rather well, it seemed to me – some things I had thought about education for a long time.  “Why don’t I post that today?” I reflected.  So when I got home, I reread the talk.  I still liked it, though I did think I could leave out one or two of the stories.  But out of an excess of caution, I checked to see whether I had ever posted it before.  And by God, it turned out I had.  Twice!  AND THE LAST TIME ON MAY 30, 2018, ONLY TEN MONTHS AGO.

Socrates remarks to Callicles that he does indeed talk about the same things, and in the same way too.  Kant responded to critics who said the Moral Law was nothing more than the Golden Rule by observing that since the truth never changes, of course what he says has been said before.  And Kierkegaard built an entire book around the thesis that although the essence of the aesthetic is novelty, the essence of the ethical is repetition.

But the blogosphere cares nothing for Socrates, Kant, or Kierkegaard.  It asks only, What have you tweeted in the last nanosecond?

So I shall remain silent about the admissions scandal, having had my say.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS [OR SHOULD I SAY CONFESSIONS]

By now you have all heard or read about the massive college admissions scam just busted up by the feds. If not, read it here.  I know that I am supposed to pull a long face, say tut tut and shame, and then opine seriously about the deeper meaning of it all for capitalist society, but I am having trouble controlling my giggling.

I will make a little bet:  the students who were fraudulently shoehorned into the elite schools by this RICO-style conspiracy are doing just as well as the ones who were legitimately admitted.

Monday, March 11, 2019

FREE COLLEGE FOR ALL!


Earlier today, I posted a lighthearted comment about the reappearance of the word “socialism” in mainstream discourse.  I alluded to several of the most popular proposals grouped under that heading – universal health care, etc. – but purposely omitted free college, so that I could say something more serious about that a bit later.  Herewith that more serious comment.

Free public education is a form of social investment [I am here once again drawing on the insights of James O’Connor’s 1976 work The Fiscal Crisis of the State.]   Literacy and math skills are required by the workers in all but the most elementary production processes.  In a capitalist economy, making them available to children and young adults at state expense is a way of socializing what would otherwise be capitalist expenses.  Since the schooling is paid for by taxes, it is in effect a socially invisible way of lowering wages.

In nineteenth century America, grade school literacy was adequate for all but a very small fraction of the labor force.  Many adults in the early years of the 20th century did not have a high school education.  The father of my first wife, for example, never finished high school, and yet ended his work life as a Vice President of Sears Roebuck.  In the first half of the 20th century a nationwide movement made free high school available, and in cities like New York it was actually mandatory that students remain in high school until age sixteen.

During this time, going to college was extremely rare in America.  As I have noted here before, when I applied to colleges in the fall of 1949, only about 5% of adults had college degrees – so unusual was it to go on to college from high school that in New York City students entered and exited the el-hi system twice a year, in January and June, depending on their birthday.  As a December baby, I was slated to graduate from high school in January, and had I not accelerated, I would have had to wait six months before going to college.

But the transformation of the American economy made college level skills more and more necessary for the productive operation of capitalist enterprises, and by the 1950’s, public colleges and state university campuses were expanding rapidly.  They were rarely free, of course, although when my father went to City College in New York all the way back in 1919, it was free.  But even Harvard in 1950 charged the equivalent of only $6000 tuition in 2019 dollars.  Many state universities were much cheaper than that.

The explosion in the cost of a college education occurred in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War, and though I have no evidence to support my belief, I am convinced that the latent function of the soaring college costs was to burden young college graduates with a more or less permanent debt that made it impossible for them to do rebellious, countercultural, politically unsettling things.  The debt not only effectively lowered their wages but also made them behave themselves.

The “socialist” demand for free college is neither pie in the sky nor truly radical.  It is one more effort to socialize the costs of capital.  Inevitably, the cost will come out of the wages of labor.  But because the proposal comes at a time when the college graduate cohort – roughly 35% of the adult population these days – has been given a life sentence in a no-walls debtor’s prison, it feels liberatory.

The explosion in the cost of college, by the way, is traceable to the unconscionable bloating of the non-educational departments of the college or university, but that is the subject for another post.

WORLD FAMOUS IN POLAND

Well, the Rawls lecture has now hit 1000 views, which is nice and cozy in a small way.  I should explain something that was more or less obvious in the lecture but may not be noticed by those who really care about Rawls.  What interests me about Rawls' argument is that he claims, with all his hedges and caveats and hemming and hawing, that it is a theorem in bargaining theory.  That is, in my estimation, an excting claim.  It turns out to be false, which is also interesting.  Beyond that, I find Rawls rather boring.  That may put me on the wrong side of history, but there it is.

BEYOND THE FRINGE


I attended the Edinburgh Festival in the summer of 1954, at the beginning of my fellowship-underwritten wanderjahr after earning my M.A. at Harvard.  By then seven years old, the festival was supplemented by an assortment of low-cost uninvited unofficial performances collectively known as the Fringe.  That was mostly where I hung out, since I could not afford more than one or two of the toney shows that were part of the official festival.  Something quite similar sprang up in New York after WW II.  Young actors and playwrights who had not yet succeeded in breaking into the Broadway scene set up shop in low cost venues Off Broadway.  Eventually, wannabees who could not even get invited to perform Off Broadway started mounting shows Off Off Broadway.

Those of us who espouse one or another variant of socialism have for some decades now been living on the intellectual and political version of Off Off Broadway.  Indeed, we might lay claim to the title of a very successful post-war Dudley Moore vehicle, Beyond the Fringe.  Convinced that we are smarter, deeper, more trenchant, more interesting than mainstream theorists and talking heads, we debate with one another endlessly about what, with pathetic yearning, we call Late Capitalism, blithely oblivious of the fact that no one beyond our little circle cares.

Suddenly, in what can only be considered a world-historical joke, “socialism” has come to mainstream Presidential politics.  I write “socialism,” not socialism, because it is entirely unclear what those who celebrate it, condemn it, vote for it in polls, or put it on their yard signs mean when they use the word, but we who lurk beyond the fringe cannot afford to be picky.

The principal “socialist” demands – a higher minimum wage, universal health coverage, massive green infrastructure spending – are little more than 1940’s New Deal Light.  I have yet to hear anyone utter those fateful words, “collective ownership of the means of production.”  Still and all, I must be grateful for crumbs.  Perhaps I can pitch a talk show to MSNBC.  I could call it “The Wolff is at the Door.” 

Friday, March 8, 2019

FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN


I should like to say something more about the Ilhan Omar flap, particularly in response to the impassioned anonymous comment to yesterday’s post.

I have virtually no first-hand knowledge of Israel.  Some years ago, my wife and I made a three day detour there on our way to Paris, but though I visited some world historically significant sites, such as the garden at Gethsemane, I met and talked to almost no one.  However, I know a number of Israelis, and my impression of the country is that it is a vibrant, exciting place where political life and the life of the mind are both fully alive.  Indeed, it is my impression that the most knowledgeable and devastating critics of Israel’s policy toward the huge number of Palestinians it imprisons and oppresses are Israelis living in that nation.

The foreign country I know best is South Africa, which I have visited more than forty times.  I first went to South Africa in 1986, four years before Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the liberation process was begun.  I found it a vibrant, exciting place where political life and the life of the mind were both fully alive.  The most knowledgeable and devastating critics of South Africa’s policies toward the huge number of Black, Coloured, and Asian residents whom it oppressed and exploited were South Africans living in that nation.

In those days, Israel and South Africa were allies, and Israel supplied South Africa with sophisticated military assistance.

I grew up and have spent my entire life in the United States, a vibrant, exciting place where political life and the life of the mind are both fully alive.  The most knowledgeable and devastating critics of policies of the United States are Americans living here.  The United States is a settler state, built on land the settlers seized from the indigenous population, whom they then tried to exterminate, and developed with a labor force it imported from Africa and then enslaved.

In these days, the United States and Israel are allies, and the United States supplies Israel with military assistance.

We do what we can, in a world we did not make, in the knowledge that the evil will live after us.  We can only hope that the good will not be interred with our bones.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, i GUESS I HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING

I am referring to the enormous, self-defeating, dishonest flap about Ilhan Omar's remarks about Israel.  Pretty much everything I have to say has already been said by Paul Waldman in this fine Washington Post column from two days ago.  By a bizarre twist of fate, Born Again End Times Evangelical Christians have gotten it into their God-besotted brains that  the Second Coming and associated final time-ending clash between Good and Evil can only take place in an expanded, reunited, Old Testament Israel from which the Palestinians have been expelled.  Since these folks are the base of the Republican Party, in alliance on this matter with AIPAC, which pretty much owns the Democratic Party, there is a United Front in America against anyone who talks sense about Israel.  Never mind that both Israel and America are full of Jews who condemn the policies of Bibi and his brethren.

Now, I invite readers to condemn me as a self-hating Jew.  Knock yourselves out.

IT'S UP

Okay, nerds, the Rawls lecture is up on YouTube.  You can find it here.  Be the first one in your neighborhood to watch it.  I think the best thing about it is Geoff Sayre-McCord's intro.  He is a prince!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

TODAY

At 5 pm today, I shall give a lecture at the UNC Chapel Hill Philosophy Department entitled "A Game Theoretic Analysis and Critique of John Rawls' A Theory of Justice."  With the assistance of Alex Campbell, it will be recorded and put on YouTube, there to join the thirty other lectures I have posted.  When it is up, I shall provide a link.

Monday, March 4, 2019

GOOD NEWS

[My natural Tigger cannot be repressed for too long!]  While going through my files, I found the original of my Honorable Discharge from the Army National Guard in 1963.  It confirmed my memory that my service number was NG 21268121.  Considering the nature of my tour of duty, it is probably not necessary that people I meet in the supermarket say to me "Thank you for your service."  Still, I wore the uniform longer than most Republican members of the House.  Through diligence and attention to duty, I eventually rose to the rank of E-4 [the old Corporal].  I was busted back to E-3 for ducking out of summer camp early in '62 to go on my honeymoon, but managed to regain my rank before being discharged a year later.  As I note in my Autobiography, I learned a good deal about the art of teaching while in uniform.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM EEYORE

In 2016, Trump won the popular vote decisively, if you leave out California.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  He did not merely win the rural Midwest, or Texas.  He won the whole country, minus California.  Yes, it is fun to watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's debut on the national scene.  And it gets the blood pumping to read that a sizeable minority of the American electorate is prepared to talk favorably about socialism.  But Trump won the popular vote outside of California.

What does this mean for 2020?  I haven't a clue, save that if Trump makes it that far, he might very well win the popular vote again outside California.  To be sure, a little more targeted attention by the Democratic candidate to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania might defeat him.  And all bets are off if the economy turns south in early 2020, as it well may.  But let us not kid ourselves.  This is a godawful country.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

ARMCHAIR SCIENCE


There being a limit to how much I can obsess about quotidian political trivia or opine about ideological arcana, I thought today I would write about a scientific curiosity that has puzzled me for decades.  I shall offer an explanation, and since I am a philosopher by training, I shall attack this problem philosophically, which is to say I shall address it by thinking about it rather than doing research.

The curiosity is this:  when I take a shower, I run the water until it is hot.  Then I pull the little plunger atop the bathtub faucet that switches the water to the shower head and wait a few moments for the water to run hot.  Then I turn the water off, step into the bathtub, start the water again, and pull up the plunger to start my shower.  Even though I have waited for the water to run hot, when the water hits me, for the slightest split second it feels cold before it feels hot.

Why?

Here is my theory, carefully insulated from any actual facts.  Temperature is essentially a measure of the speed with which molecules are vibrating.  There is what we may call a microclimate around my body, consisting of the first few molecules of oxygen, nitrogen, and so forth interacting with my skin.  Since under normal conditions my body is hotter than the surrounding air, this microclimate’s temperature is higher than that of the rest of the air in the bathroom.  When the first bit of water from the shower head hits me, it brushes away those molecules, and so for a split second the microclimate around my body is actually cooled down.  I experience this incorrectly as the water being cold.  Then the hot water warms up the surface of my skin, and I feel warm.

This, presumably, is why even on a hot day a breeze feels cool at first.

I should be glad to be corrected if someone reading this blog actually knows something about the subject.  

Saturday, March 2, 2019

WHO KNEW?

Bernie Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964.  I taught there from 1961-63.  But I checked, and alas, he was not in any of my classes.

Still ...

Friday, March 1, 2019

SUFFICIENT UNTO THE DAY

This is a word of advice from an old bull to Young Turks.  I sense from some of the comments an impatience with the attention I paid to the Cohen appearance before Elijah Cummings' House committee.  How important can it be when a mob lawyer turns on his mob boss?  Not very important in the world historical scheme of things.   It may be an appropriate subject for a movie, but is it fitting that someone puffing himself up as a Serious Thinker should pay the event any heed?

Let me answer, not as The Philosopher but as an eighty-five year old man who has been fighting the good fight, or at least has been trying to, for sixty-five years.  It is hard, really hard, not to give up over all that time, especially when every victory is followed by a string of defeats.  What is more, it wears on you to be angry for six decades.  It is not good for the digestion.

So it is simply self-defense to relish the confusion of one's enemies, the little momentary triumphs of one's friends.  Is the electoral victory of a few self-declared socialists the first light of a New Dawn?  No.  Will cruel things be done and exploitation pursued by rich and powerful people even so?  Yes.  How then can I make much of the appearance of Michael Cohen before a House Committee?

Because it is fun.  It feels good.

But won't my pleasure in the spectacle weaken my resolve, make me settle, lead me to abandon The Cause?  Well, it didn't when I sat in the lounge of William James Hall at Harvard during my first graduate year and watched Joseph Welch say to Joseph McCarthy, "At long last, have you no sense of decency?"  It dd not when I read of the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.  It  did not when I sat in my third floor study, watching the spot announcements of Spiro Agnew's resignation.  It did not when I saw Bill Clinton humiliated by a stained dress.  And it will not now that I have had the momentary frisson of seeing Michael Cohen put up an enlarged photo of a hush money check signed by Donald J. Trump.

Gather ye rosebuds where ye may.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

BINGE WATCHING


Now that I have recovered from binge-watching the Cohen hearings, I thought I would make a few comments.

First, it was a spectacular disaster for the Republicans, as countless commentators have noted.  The only Republican member of the Committee who uttered a word in defense of Trump was North Carolina’s very own Mark Meadows, who brought in a Black woman who works for the White House as evidence that Trump is not a racist.  I mean, really?  Rashida Tlaib took Meadows on about that and made a real rookie error that demonstrated that she is not ready for prime time.  As she should have known, it is a long established custom and rule of the House that Members cannot make attacks on other members.  There are all manner of elaborate rhetorical tropes that Members use to get around this rule, but she violated it by calling Meadows a racist.  This allowed Meadows to protest, and the Chair, the splendid Elijah Cummings, was compelled to side with Meadows and soothe the troubled waters.  I must confess I was not impressed with Tlaib.  Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, used her five minutes splendidly to elicit from Cohen a list of people who should be called to testify to one or another specific bits of Trumperie.  Well done!

As everyone has said, the high point of the entire day was Cohen’s dramatic production of the check, signed in Trump’s distinctive hand in the White House, for one-twelfth of the reimbursement to Cohen for the payoff to Stormy Daniels.  This was magnificent theater, and will be replayed uncounted times for years.

Now, a little complaint.  Among the many bad things Cohen said he did for Trump was to write a series of threatening letters to Trump’s high school, two colleges, and the College Board warning of law suits if they released Trump’s grades.  Now I know this is not at the top of most people’s lists, but I really salivated when Cohen said that and I wish someone would follow up. 

As for Cohen himself, I am an atheist, so I am not required to believe in redemption.  Cohen is a dirtbag, regardless of whether he loves his wife and children, but he is now our dirtbag, and God Bless Him.

All in all, it was a day well spent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ANTICIPATION

Well, I have read Michael Cohen's opening statement, courtesy of the NY TIMES, and I must say, whoever wrote it for him did a masterful job.  As the old saying has it, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.  If he were Catholic, it would contain enough contrition to buy his way out of a ton of Hail Marys.  He is bringing documents!  I plan to watch the whole thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

SOLA FIDE


Although I grew up in an interfaith household [my father was an agnostic and my mother was an atheist], I never learned much about religion as a boy, not even Judaism, since I took a pass on a bar mitzvah and bought Natie Gold’s set of Lionel model trains with the $100 my parents gave me as compensation for not having a big party.  My only encounter with the past in high school was Mr. Wepner’s Modern European History course, but all I remember of it is that we had to take notes [uncommon in high school courses in the forties.]  In college, I quickly moved to the forefronts of logic and analytic philosophy [which in those days meant the analytic/synthetic distinction and related arcana], and as a graduate student, of course, I learned nothing beyond the four corners of my discipline.  It was not until I got my first teaching job as an Instructor in Philosophy and General Education at Harvard, assigned to teach the history of Europe from Caesar to Napoleon, that to defend myself against accusations of gross incompetence I actually sat down and read 20,000 pages of European history.  Among other things, I discovered the Reformation.  To be sure, even growing up in Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, I had heard distant rumors of a distinction between Catholics and Protestants, but since that did not seem to have any relation to Gödel’s Incompleteness proof, I paid very little attention.

To prepare myself to confront a class of Harvard preppies, all of whom, it appeared, had taken six or seven years of European history at Groton and Phillips Andover Academy, I actually read some Luther and bought an English translation of Calvin’s Institutes into which I dipped desultorily.  I discovered for the first time the subtle distinctions among the various Protestant sects, and managed to commit some of it to memory.  Coupled with what I had learned about the almost two millennium old Roman Catholic Church, I was sufficiently clued up on Christianity to avoid embarrassment in my twice weekly classes.

Which brings me to the current Roman Catholic sex crisis.  The casus belli of the original Reformation was the sale of indulgences – partial reductions in the punishment required in Purgatory for temporal sins before admission to the eternal bliss of heaven.  The broader centuries long resistance to the authority of Rome and the Papacy exploded in a rejection of the political structure of the Church, leading to a splintering of large segments of the Roman Catholic world into a wide assortment of sects: Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, even Shakers and Quakers.

The current crisis is much, much deeper and more dangerous to the survival of the Roman Catholic Church than the sale of indulgences ever was.  The immorality of the clergy, their sheer evil [if I may, uncharacteristically, use a term drawn from Theology, not Ethics], the total complicity of the hierarchy at every level from Diocese to Vatican, in my judgment threatens the survival of the Church in its present form.

I do not think we should be misled by the mayfly brevity of our current secular attention.  The first Reformation was a century or more in its development.  The present crisis is developing at breakneck speed for an institution as ancient and tradition-bound as the Catholic Church. 

How will this crisis play out?  I have no idea, but it would genuinely surprise me if it were simply to subside and die.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

GEARING UP

As I noted here just two weeks ago, 80% of the delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination [i.e. 40% of the total] will have been chosen by the time March 4, 2020 dawns.  The big prizes are of course California and Texas [with the other big prize, New York, not scheduled until April 23rd], but tucked in there on March 3rd with the jumbo states is l'il ole North Carolina, so it looks as though those of us down here will have a slightly disproportionately larger shot at making a difference.

Because California and Texas are so expensive to campaign in, candidates like Bernie with an established money machine will have an especially good chance.

This time around, the unpledged superdelegates do not get to vote at the convention until the second round.  Unless something crushing surfaces about her, Harris looks to make it past March 3rd, along with Bernie, probably Elizabeth Warren, and maybe [but maybe not] Biden.  Booker?  Klobuchar?  Who knows.

It will be interesting.

Friday, February 22, 2019

WAIT FOR IT


Now that the Mueller report does really seem imminent, the current obsession is whether we will get to see it.  Let me explain why I believe we will, regardless of what it says.

There are three possibilities.  The report could be good for Trump, bad for Trump, or devastating for Trump.  Good for Trump means that Mueller says he has no credible evidence that Trump was aware of or participated in his campaign’s attempts to acquire, or cooperate in the release of, Russian-hacked materials harmful to Clinton.  Bad for Trump means that Mueller details credible evidence of just that.  Devastating for Trump means that Mueller hands up a sweeping RICO-style indictment in which Trump is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator.  [God, I love that phrase!  It is as close to poetry as we ever get in politics.]

If it is Good for Trump, he will proclaim it from the rooftops, including every detail from usually secret Grand Jury testimony.  NO COLLUSION!!!!!!!!!!!

If it is Devastating for Trump, it will be presented in open court, and all hell will break loose.

If it is Bad for Trump, William Barr will bottle up as much of it as he possibly can, several House committees will issue subpoenas for it, the White House will take the case to court, it will go to the Supreme Court, and they will either order it released, or they will allow the Administration to keep it secret, in which case it will be leaked.

How do I know that it will be leaked?  Because everything is leaked these days.  Remember, these are not the good old days when reports were typed up on standard typewriters with numbered carbon copies.  This report will be a computer file, maybe a megabyte of code, existing on a variety of platforms.  It will be easily downloadable and anonymously sent to the NY TIMES and the Washington Post.

There is simply no way that it will remain secret more than a New York minute.

Now it is 8:39 a.m.  Nobody can accuse me of being obsessed, right?

GOOD GRIEF, CHARLIE BROWN

I put up a 197 word humorous post and it triggered a tsunami of deadly serious responses.   We all need to take a deep breath.  It is going to be a long run up even to the first caucuses.

Last time around, I gave so much money to Bernie that he gave some back.  [I exceeded the legal limit, so his campaign sent me a check for $300.]  I am not so flush now as I was then, and we are all four years older, so I shall go a bit easy.

Once again it is Friday, the day of the week on which Mueller indicts people.  We can only hope.  It is 7:09 am where I am.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

After bombshell testimony, the North Carolina Election Commission has just voted 5-0 to invalidate the House race in the 9th CD and to call for a new election.  I guess this means we have to contribute to yet another campaign.  The Republican, Mark Harris, won by 905 votes in a massively crooked election.  Maybe we can win this time.

MUSINGS OF AN OCTOGENARIAN RADICAL

I have been thinking of running for President.  Until a few months ago, I had never been elected to anything, but after winning the contest for Precinct Representative of Building 5 at Carolina Meadows, a race that was hard fought [even though I was the only candidate, since nobody else wanted the job,] I think I am ready.  Some might say I am too old, because I will be 87 when taking the oath of office, but now that Joe Biden is about to jump in [or so it is speculated], that argument doesn't carry as much weight.  Of course I would be 91 when I was up for re-election, so maybe I should choose Bernie as my running mate so that he can take over for me after one term.  If I won, I would have to give up my teaching gig at Columbia, but I could still go on posting to this blog.

Speaking of Biden, his entry poses an existential problem for me.  If the polls continue to show, as they do now, that he has far and away the best chance of beating Trump, do I throw my support to him or not?


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

BACK TO OBSESSING ABOUT TRUMP


Despite my efforts to appear above the fray, au courant, sophisticated, a deep Marxist philosopher absorbed by underlying structures and world-historical movements, a veritable zeitgeistnik, the truth, as I suppose is obvious, is that I am totally enmeshed in the minutiae of the daily political catastrophe.  The latest source of fluttering heartbeats and heavy breathing is Andrew McCabe’s book tour through the talk shows.  [I shan’t explain who Andrew McCabe is.  If you don’t know, you won’t care about the rest of this post.]

Everyone on cable news is obsessing about McCabe’s recounting of the meetings at Justice in which Rod Rosenstein brought up the 25th Amendment as a possible way of getting rid of Trump, but that is not, to my way of thinking, the real news in McCabe’s insider account.

According to McCabe, very shortly after Trump was inaugurated, the FBI received information that raised the possibility that Trump was acting as an agent of Russia, and so a counterintelligence investigation was launched [this is not the real meat – wait for it.]  Then – and this is the important tidbit – he went to a meeting of the super clued in group of members of Congress known colloquially as the Gang of Eight to brief them.  The Gang of Eight consists of the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Ranking Minority Member of that Committee, the Speaker of the House, the Minority Leader of the House, and the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.  Regardless of which party is in the majority in either chamber, this is by construction a committee of four Republicans and Four Democrats.

Let me make two points about McCabe’s account of the meeting.  First, it is certainly, necessarily true.  Why?  Because if it were not, as soon as McCabe said it on national TV, at least one of those eight people would have immediately contradicted him.  But none of them has.  Trey Gowdy, who was not in that room and is no longer in Congress, has just stated that he does not believe it.  But not one of the three Republicans still in Congress [Paul Ryan has retired] has backed him up.

Second, according to McCabe’s account, the Committee did not explode, erupt, call for hearings, demand that he resign, charge him with treason.  Think about that.  The Republicans have just, against all odds, won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and the FBI is launching an investigation to find out whether the man just inaugurated is a Russian plant, a real live Manchurian Candidate!  AND AFTER HEARING THE EVIDENCE, THEY JUST SIT THERE AND TAKE IT.

I suggest that this is the most explosive single piece of news to come out of this entire affair.

Stay tuned.



Monday, February 18, 2019

AN ASTONISHING COMMENT


Yesterday, I linked to an interesting Op Ed on Iran and asked whether anyone had real knowledge of the situation there.  I imagined perhaps a response from someone with scholarly expertise, even direct familiarity with the country.  Instead I found this morning a six part impassioned response running more than 3700 words by an Iranian student.  Since any readers may skip the comments and just check the posts, I have decided to reproduce the entire series of comments seriatim and unedited.  They are an astonishing window on Iran.  I shall not make any comment, but I invite you to do so.  I am sure the author, who signs him/herself as “Underoverrateds,” would be interested in your views.  Here is the entire comment, verbatim:

Dear professor Wolff
Hi
you may not actually believe this but I currently live in Iran.in Fact I and most of my friends were deeply involved in the green movement that accrued in 2009.we were among the crowds ; at that time I was an undergrad student of Chemical engineering in Amirkabir University of technology(Tehran Polytechnic) which is generally recognized as one of the major political forces in Iran's history . I and most of my close friends were heavily involved in the protests and everything that has happened after those years .
recently I stumbled upon your videos on YouTube since I became interested in psychoanalysis and philosophy , actually more to the fact that I just simply fell in love will your unbelievable stories to be honest and somehow ended up here , looking to find the books you mentioned but found the first topic in the top on your blog about my Country ...what a ride life is !
all right , so I guess I should begin by saying that Yes most of the article is accurate about the current state of affairs in Iran but there's more it than just simply reducing the oppositions to two major forces namely the " Mojahedin " and the " Monarchists ".or mentioning the two " masih alinejad " and " masoumeh ebtekar ". that is just not fair and not the whole picture . there are many people who has had a significant effect in the recent political narrative of Iran whom I simply cant name because they are so many of them .
actually most of the debate and activism that is happening,always, in Iran currently is ignited by the new found powers of Social media and the discourse that it brought to the younger generation . in 2008 specially all the discussion of the "Green Movement" was on facebook . many activist ( in the form of anonymous university students using aliases and so forth ) tried to change the narrative established by the government media (IRIB TV , which is the standard TV stations backed and dominated by the government ) towards specific poetical everyday lies and atrocities happening around us.people being murdered in the streets , being arrested and so forth and this force is still very much alive and run by ordinary people ,even though the narrative sometimes gets caught up to very tedious details of the even or argument which loses its significance of forgets the whole picture .
for instance one of our close friends
namely Majid Tavakoli , a student and activist in the university was arrested and put to prison simply because of his speeches and criticism . so we should have no illusion
Iran is not a free country , just like china or Soviet Russia If you were to even mention Leaders name or criticizes the government you would certainty be considered as " enemy of Islam " or stuff like that and put to jail ; even lately the lawyers of activist been arrested and charged on preposterous charges that If I were to tell you wouldn't even believe me . activist in all fields whether be environment , childmarrige , animal rights to all the other kind ; even in the recent years some of the more important sociology professors have been suspiciously arrested and later found dead by suicide a very clear move by the government to silence not only the opposition and the ordinary people but also destroy its intellectual professors ....very sad what's happening to our country before our eyes 

also as far as my own experience goes I saw many of my own close friends in our own dormitory being arrested and send to prison which created and sustained an atmosphere of oppression amongst student and set a stage for what was to come in the coming years.
. most of these people so traumatized by the experiences of torture and isolation that essentially they were forced to drop out of university leave Tehran or to escape the country.
to this day and after the shift that has happened with so called " the Iran nuclear deal " as a political maneuver to present Iran as a country of reason in the international world and then the subsequent Trump shenanigan isolating Iran more and more ,
there is still a great deal of fire under the ashes of Iranian political unconsciousness even rooting back to the revolution and the war with Iraq . many people because of the oppressive nature of this strange Islamic dictatorship which moves closer and closer hijacking everyday economic and social life , have inevitably chosen to distance themselves from politics altogether .which creates different more troublesome Ideologies .
actually most of the activist in the past ten years have been either arrested , tortured , forced into false and public confessions in the national TV or mysteriously killed. the ones who where able to escape Iran also have a troublesome view , on the one had the have all the freedom they want but they are now disconnected with everyday Iranians and in a very perverted manner would eventually tell Iranian paradox stories to get the attention of the western media somehow , like the whole infamous " Masih Alinejad " complex . someone who has been established by the media company VOA as a journalist but constantly whether consciously or unconsciously hijacks the opposition narrative of Iranian political Struggle into a very waterd-down entertainment of sorts . Iranian oppositions has become an entertainment , a spectacle , a very weird on too .but that's not the whole picture .
there are much more important things going on in Iran which are overshadowed by these sorta people who try to narrate everything into a simple no-Hijab fight which is why this person and most outsiders are seen as opportunistic by oppressed Iranians . unfortunately these sorta movements have some populist attraction but lack the depth of argument and planing and will never become a political party or real civil rights movement . all the true movements in Iran have already been diminished by the secret Intelligence of the government
as you can see from all sides ordinary people have been under more and more pressure .
secondly there are multitude of other serious problems which dictated the conversation , namely the " migration" and " economic collapse " mixed with the " threats of war"
in the past years the sheer number of people migrating from Iran to Europe and recently even to neighboring countries such and turkey and even Georgia has had a very serious effect of the way the people perceive their life even . somehow very strangely this has made a strange dynamic in the people that they think they have a new hope of escaping this prison which is called their country . the sheer access to internet , English learning institutions , movies and social media has at the same time enlightened the youngsters of Iran but at the same time has made them into a very strange and complicated characters . they rebel and argue against different conservative and theological antiquated topics of Iranian culture while pursuing to be accepted in universities in Canada or Germany whilst coming to terms with their old-fashioned oppressive families and society

I'm sure If you were to just ask around you would find a student in your university who recently left Tehran to pursuit his or her dream .and I'm sure he will be able confirm these problems that I'm suggesting. so you see this new found hope has had a detrimental effect of psyche of Iranians and they are dealing with a melancholic state of mind really. now their concerns are changed in a very strange manner to escape and migrate at all costs.
burning all the resources and all the people around them,exploiting every opportunity here as quickly as possible to get to Europe .
this very weird effect has had a devastating effect on the public consciousness . so in the parties and gatherings people now talk about the daily rising exchange rate of Dollar to Rial everyday or different way to Leave this place as quickly as possible . and this migration works not only on a pure physical level but on a virtual one too . many of my friends who for whatever reason where unable to migrated or find a decent life here(which is practically impossible,whether you have to become a liar-middleman sort person destroying every foundation or a agent of government ) migrated radically into constant addiction to movies , denial of their surrounding and obviously other issues such as alcohol and hashish addiction . this very disposition of the new found knowledge made possible by the access to Internet and the inability to do anything politically or socially to change the circumstance of our lives or improve even the slightest economic or social features literally destroys people willingness to take life seriously anymore. most people life and marriages are falling apart , practically everyone is depressed or suffering a severe mental illness . people of my country are the unhappiest simply by knowing how terrible their lives are and can't do anything about it .that's why illusions are big here .
whilst living in a city where in you where to go from the south to the north you can literally see the class struggle of the whole country , the horrible economic injustices. it's like going from Chicago to Detroit to Bronx to Hollywood hills in 20 minutes.it's terrible how Tehran has become half of the paradoxes of the country combined in a tiny space .
Iran is truely a country of paradoxes , but what I'm aiming at is that the loss of hope which seems to function in itself a conformist category in the discussions among Iranians these days has two major component .
one is that if you were to be a realist in Iran and live your life by the knowledge of all the horrible atrocities that happen around you which you see simply daily on BBC persian news or "Mana Neyestani" 's cartoons for instance ,you would literally feel like a prisoner and sink to the extreme of the depressions simply by the fact that this govenment is so rigged against you that you can never make any sense of it or change it a little bit . you are simply doomed to fail here no matter who you are or what job you have . you don't even have the basic rights of living .
on the other hand if you were to deny the reality and refuge in the govenment-islamic-conservative ideology you will have to stupefy yourself to the point of actually preventing your brain to ask serious political, social and of course logical questions .then you live your life as a sorta animal , a very troubling oppressed creature that wants to bite and resort to every aspect of violence and incivility ...usually towards children , women or other people around them .
something which I fisrt-handly saw with my own eyes among my undergrad colleges .
as the would transition from high school (a complete deprived ideological environment from their small conservative town) to a university (an open-minded modern space full of exciting progressive discussions ) simply in order to function as a human being among all the everyday paradoxes of Iran's society you have to shift,adjust and even morph your own prospective to the point of denying the reality !
which may sound weird but I feel is the exact problem which current Iranian opposition . we as the people , for instance think on two layers , if you go the twitter or even the artistic circles , galleries and cafes in downtown Tehran you will soon find an underground,counterculture vibe , a society and relation standard of like punk era of Britain even . but at the same time when youngsters go back to their homes near midnight(because there are no bars and nightlife is essential prohibited ) where they have to live with their parents mostly because the cant even afford place of their own are confronted with a systemic oppression apparatus that works because it specifically denies the " progressive thought discussion "that it had just yesterday on his or her phone .and rebellious and opposition of the youth and even the older generation can be seen through this lens . people who in their back of minds want to protest but they don't want to lose their jobs or homes or etc. a very weird duality.
this very strange and distorted condition is very clearly portrayed by the melancholy of our contemporary artists namely people like " Mohsen Namjoo " which as a musician always longs for a combination of these two paradoxical aspects of Iranian life .
but my last point
the problem of Iranian people, the major question which is one everybody's minds is why,why despite all these atrocities and oppression and the new found knowledge why don't people rise up ? well the simple answer is the did . and were brutally murdered on the streets.
from the events of 2009 onwards we the youth of Iran see really no option .there is no way out of this mess .
and I can just guess about the future but I think the economic sanctions of the U.S and the current hostile attitude of Trump has had a severe blow not just to the economy of some of the middle class of Iranians (who may want another revolution) but to their spirit in their fights against injustices in general .people are seriously tired of all these conditions .
many of the youth have had not even a single happy year and just simply can't go on so the try to forget reality.
take for instance what happened in the past months first with the teacher's strike and then shortly after with the truck drivers strike and finally with the short lived labor movement in Ahvaz , workers of steel companies there just simply demanded to be recognized as human beings and be simply paid their wages ,showing their solidarity with the French yellow vest movement . not even asking much for their work conditions to be changed or anything ... and the newspapers and the TV stations didn't even mention them once .
all captured and broadcasted in Twitter by common people .what happened in the end ? their leaders arrested twice tortured , forced to confess in in TV shamed by the government , told the truth in Instagram , arrested again and the people ....well the people can do nothing . like literally I'm risking my life writing you these words .... that's the condition here ; a long silence to save our asses and get the hell out of this god damn forsaken place. 
so you see sir we are in a bit of a pickle here ; unfortunately Iranian people also have other tendencies as well to them which is incidentally quite similar to american consumer culture which is their innate fascination by being " surfers !"
they just simply love to surf everysorta stupid wave or trend that's happening around them whether it be the worldcup happening in Russia , the Fajr stupid film festival , the Valentine and Holloween but at the same time the Ramadan and norouz or even the trend of romanticizing their own oppression ! this is where it really gets weird because you see
people here also on some level like to play the victimization card a lot and it goes even back to our cinema during the war . many people are fascinated by the different way we are exploited by our government and the latest of these people are our own so called activist . in a very complex way they try to stage every little bit of oppression as a card to further their agenda which is a really dark a sinister thing to do but unfortunately has happened in the last couple of years . people going on foreign TV shows to promote their own unique way of having been oppressed and I think this last bit is the worst thing to our general cause .
because even if we were to be authentic in telling of our stories at the end of the day we will be viewed as a opportunistic person granting his or her Visa ...
. I mean can you even imagine a more paradoxical social and political psyche than Iranian harbor in their so called "common talk" everyday . they unfortunately have been for the last 40 or even 50 years so swung to left and right , conservative and progressive waves that it seems the whole consciousness of people has gone to waste .they have become a whore of all the worst movements , a spectator , been played all sorta ways to support all sort of candidates that promised hope and freedom and all were simply a lie .
the generation of our fathers and mothers living in small cities live in such a paradoxical ideologies that I even hesitate to write about it here , fearing you wouldn't even believe a single word of mine .being a hardcore Muslim in " Moharam " grieving the death of their so called Third Imam , Hossein at the same time trying to find cheap booze and get drunk so they can perform the strange religious ceremonies better ... like the worst of the paradoxes you could find .
so to conclude Iran is a very complex country even more than Venezuela or Turkey or other so called " third world country " you may ask why is that so . and I can answer simply because of the sheer potential of its youth and the depth of its history . just follow some of the current street photographers on Instagram or the very strange artistic vibrant yet at the same time denied the opportunity and damaged artists living currently in Tehran (which resembles new york in 70s by the way ) to get a good glance of what's really happening .
people are simply migrating into their minds , to the dark and strange places or their existences full of paradoxes and confusion , full of impulsive hopes and dominating depression .
why do you think a 27 year drop out student of engineering like me would become a English teacher then study cinema then become interested in philosophy and Zizek then go to the militarily service for two years come back leave it all out, start studying philosophy and write this whole comment here .what sorta kooky people would do that really
we are seriously strange people living here 

in a very unique positions as well in history , as Europe , the US and most other countries chooses a far-right politician to be their leaders and move closer to another economic collapse , we Iranians struggle to leave this messy revolution stuff behind us not in a physical sense but in a more abstract approach .
while we saw what happened with countries like lybia our people in a panic state have unconsciousnessly decided to migrate to the underground and to the back of their minds .
aha , also I have to mention , yes unfortunately its true Iranian government is heavily involved in interfering conflicts in the region ,terrorism and stuff, mostly mirroring against the acts of suadi arabia , some analysts calling it the "cold war of middle east" . most of theses proxies wars are funded and carried out by "Sepah" of course an organisation and a complete ideological nightmare branch of government which is so crazy I can't even begin to talk about it .which on the same level has modeled its foreign policy after the U.S. by the way .... isn't that a little bit of nice Irony for US ?!!
unfortunately on the other hand people are not consistent in their views nor unmixed in their race and back ground to be united easily. we have many people from many different back grounds from different dialects to different beliefs each oppressed throughout history by the government one way or another but this gap between the people makes our country and our major city lives a place of clash of the cultures . when there is no history or established culture among the ordinary people, people from sheer stupidity and lack or theory knowledge go to either fantasy space talking about Kouroush and 2500 years of our empire or simply go all the way into becoming an agent of capitalism exploiting everything and everyone in their way not thinking about any fellow citizen or even the country. this very dichotomy of our people is core root of their problems . they live everyday between these paradoxical forces , waking up everyday,wearing a mask suitable for another lie, looking for a leader or a wave to submit themselves in not knowing what the consequences will be .
actually if you were to study the 1979 Iranian revolution you would probably find this same " Surfer " pattern there much more clearly and the instincts of Iranian hasn't change much . unfortunately many of what is considered "normal" everyday people are people who simply don't even want to think about their problems and face them since they have been oppressed and sad in a dead-end situation of constant stress for so long they see no point in engaging or the fight and the ones who engage are arrested , killed or forced to exile right in front of our eyes , essentially people here feel that nothing works . no social or political movement can change anything and its just gonna get worse , day by day , and nobody I mean it Internationally , nobody cares about Iranian people .
I hope I didn't bore you too much
by the way I just simply love your videos . wish you would do more one other thinkers like Foucault or derrida ,Heidegger or chomsky
maybe even a simple series talking a little about them would be nice .
Feb 2019