Sunday, May 27, 2018
我還沒刮鬍子,人也還昏昏欲睡,但依然鎖上我在台北 這位於五樓的家門,等著電梯來。我看看手錶,上課快遲到 了。然後,當自高樓層龜速降下的電梯總算在我面前打開, 我便瞧見這位媽媽和她年幼的兒子。這對母子是樓上的住 戶;兒子差不多四、五歲,抱著一大片用保鮮膜包好的西瓜。 那是片黃肉西瓜,而且顏色就跟他 T 恤上印的腳踏車一般 黃。做媽媽的則提著一只過大的 LV 包包,臉上仍舊化著過 濃的彩妝。小男孩對我笑了一笑,但婦人始終低著頭。
Unshaven, still drowsy, I lock the door to my 5th floor Taipei flat. I check my watch as I wait for the elevator, realizing I’ll likely be late for class. When the elevator door finally opens, after an annoyingly slow descent from a floor high above, I come face to face with some upper-story neighbors, a mother and her young son. The boy is four or five and carries a huge slice of watermelon covered in clear plastic wrap. I notice the yellow of the melon perfectly matches the yellow of the bicycle stenciled on his teeshirt. The mother, as usual, has way overdone her makeup, and is carrying an oversized Louis Vuitton bag. The boy smiles at me, but the woman keeps her gaze on the floor.
Then, as the doors close, she suddenly whacks her son sharply on the head and snaps in Mandarin: “Stop touching the melon! You’ll ruin it and no one will want to eat it! It’s like butterfly wings. If you touch them you ruin them!”
I watch the boy’s reaction in the mirror as the elevator begins to descend.
“Do people eat butterfly wings?” he asks her after a few seconds.
She makes a scoffing noise and says just a single word: “Stupid.” She clutches her bag closer to her.
As we near the ground floor, I catch the boy’s eye in the mirror. He’s clearly upset to be hit and insulted in front of the tall foreigner. As the elevator slows to a stop, I smile at him and say: “We eat them in my country.”
And just before the doors open, he looks up at his mother and defiantly says: “He eats them!”
As I step out of the elevator, I catch the mother scowling at me. But the boy is happy. I know in his mind he’s already picturing foreigners munching on yellow butterfly wings.
That I’ll be late for my class matters little now. I step out into the rain, hoist my flimsy umbrella, and head to the subway. I’m glad I caught them on the elevator. One must always try one’s best to get to children when they’re young.
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Have some deadpan with your coffee. From Idiocy, Ltd. Dryest humor in the west.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
I was chatting with a new friend on Facebook and he threw out the question of why the American left has in weird ways gone “so far left” but in other ways has become so disconnected from the actual working class. He was trying to figure out Marxism’s role in this shift.
Well, I’d been watching this transformation for years and have a basic explanation. Following is the answer I gave my friend.
The ONE-TWO PUNCH
So, what happened to the American left? What has made it into basically a fake left with nothing going for it but cheap identity politics and authoritarian urges?
A lot of people are asking these questions, because in fact none of it makes much sense. Until you look at where our left came from. Then it makes all too much sense. Pathetic, ridiculous sense.
Our current left was born (stillborn I’d say) from the convergence of two trends. It's crucial to look at them both in tandem as a kind of historical ONE-TWO punch. As follows:
1) In the middle of the 20th century, Marxist thinkers hatched a strategy called "the long march through the institutions". We in America are now seeing something like the belated results of this strategy.
The "long march" doctrine arose when it did because Marxist intellectuals realized that, contrary to Marx's predictions, the Western working class was not in fact organizing itself for revolution, but was rather, in their view, being easily seduced and misled by the glittering toys of mass culture and the dreamy promises of capitalist ideology. Their solution: to focus efforts on a slow takeover of the professions, especially education, media, and other areas with mass influence. As this takeover would require some time, they dubbed it “the long march through the institutions”, with a nod to Chairman Mao. They theorized that once leftists had enough control of these institutions, they could forge a true revolutionary consciousness in the masses, and then an actual revolutionary movement. This "long march" thinking is one of the reasons that so many hard-core leftists starting in the post-war period were content to become academics. They could tell themselves they were seeding the ground. The Frankfurt School thinkers, with their Marxist cultural criticism, offered a bridge over which would-be revolutionaries could walk themselves into academia.
In fact the strategy has ultimately borne fruit, although a different fruit than originally intended. What happened? Orthodox Marxism was increasingly debunked. So that in the intervening decades the work of all those "left" professors shifted focus to cultural analysis: Foucault, structuralism, the postmoderns--thinkers in all these movements set their sights on something other than class warfare. The issue du jour became more one of identity warfare--all the marginalized “victim” groups, whether sexual or racial or whatever. So that when the French intellectual movements of the 1960s crossed the Atlantic in a big way and infected American universities, the results were predictable. No more was the focus on supporting the American working class in general: rather everything was suddenly feminism, African-American studies, post-colonialism, gay and lesbian rights, racism racism racism. And in fact the main base of the Democratic Party, the huge number of white working class Americans, itself suddenly became suspect, especially if those white working Americans also happened to be Christian. Marxism as an economic philosophy being defunct, these identity squabbles became the supposed new revolutionary battleground. And note: though Marxism itself was left behind, the authoritarian ethos of Marxism was retained. For most of these academic Lenin wanna-be's, there is of course little worth supporting in our Constitution, with its dangerous protections of free speech and religious liberty. They want none of it, because their goal to direct what people are to say and think.
This, in short, is how our professoriat and all the media shills who now echo it came to abandon economics as the basis of their progressivism. In the US, the shift in academic focus slowly shifted the whole idea of what it means to be "left-wing". Basic bread-and-butter issues became secondary to sexual/racial politics.
Then this deeply entrenched new “leftism” met up with a parallel development occurring in the Democratic Party, as follows.
2) The Democratic Leadership Council, created in the mid-1980s by Bill Clinton and cronies, pushed the party toward an explicit embrace of big business. In my view, the DLC was the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party as a party of working people, though sadly it has taken decades for the American working class to realize just how badly they've been sold out.
The DLC is the origin of what we see today: a Democratic Party just as beholden to Wall Street and corporate CEOs as the old GOP ever was.
But note: When the Democratic Party stopped fighting for working folks in the 1990s, when they abandoned the American working class for the CEOs, they knew they still had to show they were fighting for SOMETHING. They still needed some banner to wave to claim their left-wing cred. Voilà! The banner was there on offer from the children of "the long march through the institutions". The party just needed to pretend it was fighting for the identity dignity of all the new supposed victim groups. Note also that doing so would not require them in any significant way to break ranks with Wall Street or the big corporations. They could screw over the mass of the working class (those white folks in flyover country) while getting all emotional in their speeches about things like transgender bathroom passes and the “rights” of illegal immigrants.
The Democratic Party thus found a pseudo-revolutionary movement it could meld with: all the SJW morons that now swarm our academies and publish in rags like Slate and Salon and Vox. The Democratic Party has thus become a fake left party in the same way that our academic leftists are for the most part fake Marxists. Both have abandoned the hard bread-and-butter fight for the relative comfort and glitz of identity squabbles. Lady Gaga couldn't be happier.
What happened in 2016 is thus pretty clear. Enough of the American working class, especially the white working class, had finally seen the Democratic scam for what it was. Fortunately, they switched to Trump in protest against both the corruption of the establishment GOP and even more so in protest against the fake leftism of their former party.
That's my quick take on why the American left is what it is. Interbreed fake academic Marxists with a fake Democratic Party and you get what we see today: a double-fake movement of screaming little Stalins of all flavors and dyed hair colors. Their mantra stems directly from their academic programming: "You're a racist! You're a homophobe! Down with the patriarchy! Die, bigot! Transphobe! End white supremacy! Racism racism racism!" And this in a country where gays and lesbians can live their lives as they choose, where more women are graduating university than men, and where a white-majority population twice elected a black man as president. Read the pages of our left-liberal press and these SJW -isms are virtually all that is talked about. You can follow one or another of these rags for a month straight and you will not find a single article about the struggles of working Americans in general, because, see, too many of those working Americans, being white and/or Christian, are seen as hateful bigots who need to be sent to gulags for ideological training. And that's not a joke. It is to me absolutely believable that these people, if empowered, would set up gulags in which to imprison their identity enemies.
Hopefully hardworking Americans will continue to realize how fake and how toxic this new left really is and will keep voting it out of power.
My own analysis, to speak most generally, is that our Constitution and what remains of our traditional culture are under concerted attack by myriad forces and that the only political movement capable of defending them is the populist right.
You can search more on "the long march through the institutions" and the Democratic Leadership Council if you like. But perhaps, S., you already know plenty about these two fatal pincers of the shabby claw that is our fake American left.
My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
with Tanya Selvaratnam
White Democrats and their sick obsession with race. When is it going to end? They can’t decide if they want to save people of color or dominate and abuse them. And either way it’s the same power-trip behind it. Our white liberals assume they are gods of some kind: saviors and/or masters. Both at the same time. It’s sick.
Me I don’t much care about the black community. And why should I? When black people succeed, I’m cheering for them. And many many black Americans have accomplished great things. It’s just not the ones who spend two-thirds of their time talking about racism racism racism.
Yes, there are particular challenges people of color face. But those who manage to recognize that, challenges or not, they still have a much better shot at a good life in the US than many other places--these are the ones who will overcome the dumb bigotry that still rears its head now and then. And they get on with life. And when they find happiness, and struggle, and build families, and succeed in work, and thumb their noses at the haters--well, I’m their fan. More power to them.
A few days ago a friend of mine wrote the following sentence in a thread: “Republicans are people who want to keep the boot on black America’s neck.” I think that’s errant nonsense. What I see is that far too many black Americans are keeping the boot on their own necks. They get up in the morning and first thing they do is put on that boot. Like it’s a necessary item of apparel. And the Democratic Party keeps telling them it is.
I’m just glad more and more black Americans are starting to realize what a sham it is. People who have better things to do than play supporting role in a sick drama. People who take that boot off and don’t look back.
(Link to article in photo.)
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
在今天之前,我通常會用謙恭有禮的語氣間接表達我想警告各位的事,也會把重點放在相對次要的問題上:狗乎,貓乎— 孰為人類適合豢養的寵物。眾所周知,世人有「狗派」和「貓派」之分,而我先前投注了這麼多心力,就是希望能一語驚醒夢中人— 我想讓那些貓派就飼養寵物這點重新思考自己的選擇。我想助他們擺脫對自己朝夕相處的這種不潔生物,所抱持的不實妄想。
「這樣吧— 」我會這麼開始。「咱們來進行一場小小 的思考實驗。要玩嗎?」
「或許你說得對。不過這當中的區別就在於狗會等個兩三天,等牠真的餓到受不了才會下手— 反觀你家的貓,牠可是會在二十四小時之內就把你的臉啃得一乾二淨。我敢拍胸脯保證。而且,不管怎麼說,我的重點應該非常清楚了:你的愛貓壓根沒想過要保護你。牠就顧著躲在沙發後面,只求自己毛茸茸的小屁股可以全身而退。所以囉,從這件事看來,我們就知道貓很— ?」
「得了吧你。話說回來,狗在這種情況下又會怎麼做? 請想像一下。真的:請試圖想像一下。狗會做出非常不同的反應。狗一見自己的主人突然變得這麼小,一定會驚慌得嗚嗚直叫,尾巴也會緊張地擺動起來。牠會拚命跑來跑去,努力思考應該怎麼辦才好。換句話說,狗表現出來的行徑,就 跟一個人碰到這種情況時反應差不多。而這就是狗跟貓的差 別— 天差地別,就像狗和蜥蜴之間的差異。」
我當時正走在台北一條巷子裡,就離我的住處不遠。最近這幾天,我注意到有隻陌生的貓會在附近出沒;每當我出門上班,都會發現牠悄悄溜到停在路邊的車子後方,然後就 開始怒視我。一隻混雜了牛奶糖色和灰白色的小討厭鬼— 他們都管這種貓叫......斑貓?我懶得理牠,只回瞪了牠一 眼。
言歸正傳。當時下了班,正要回家的我走在小巷子裡, 接著便有台載著兩名年輕女子的摩托車朝我高速衝來(沒 什麼好擔心的,因為她們應該只會從我身邊飛馳而過)。豈 料這一回,那隻流浪街頭的斑貓竟決定從路邊的車下奮身一 跳,不偏不倚地撲向那兩位年輕女子。
「貓咪沒事。」另一個女孩說。她氣喘吁吁地跑回來。 我這才看到她頭上那頂 Hello Kitty 安全帽。
講到這裡,各位或許能從中瞧出一種日常性的交通小事 故:被嚇了一跳的貓忽然衝到街上,駕駛見狀馬上緊急轉彎, 然後就撞倒了路人。我卻不是這麼看的。不。因為這種事可不是今天才有。事情的真相很簡單:那隻貓企圖致我於死地。 牠一開始就是奉上級的命令,才會踏進我居住的社區,好伺 機奪取我的性命。是的,我今天發生的這場小小意外說穿了 就是謀殺未遂的案件。這就是為何我總算打定主意要公開手 上那些貓的相關資料。因為事情的真相必要揭露;一定得有 人拆穿牠們的西洋鏡,而且事不宜遲。
貓其實是為了占領地球,才會光臨我們這顆星球的外星 物種生命體。牠們是一種寄生物,但模仿哺乳動物的技術 已經非常成熟— 以便接近我們,這些被牠們催眠的人類宿 主。牠們在占領地球這方面也有階段性的進展。相信牠們很 快就會啟動第三階段的任務。到了那個時候,我們就連掙扎 的機會都沒有了。
. . . continued . . .
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Wednesday, May 9, 2018
There’s a comic masterpiece on the loose here in Asia, a book screaming to break out of the small circle of Western expats who’ve read it. It’s titled Party Members, by the pseudonymous Arthur Meursault, and it's deadly stuff.
This book puts to shame a lot of the satire published and hailed in Britain and the US. Meursault’s novel is a kick in the teeth, a page turner that doesn’t miss a beat, by turns hilarious and brutal--the hilarity and abject brutality set in a death struggle to see which will come out on top. In fact neither wins as both manage to be so over the top.
Vis-à-vis his Western literary peers in the genre (writing on corruption and greed in London or New York) Meursault certainly benefited from his immersion in the boom-town culture of contemporary China. If there’s anything in the West as fruitful of black humor as a Communist Party bureaucracy directing a bourgeois capitalist revolution, I’m not sure what it might be.
Meursault follows the career of an at first utterly unremarkable low-level official in the government ministry of a third-tier Chinese city. The narrative tells the tale of how he breaks out of his craven mediocrity after his penis, having had enough and able to keep silent no longer, begins to give him life lessons.
Yes, a talking penis, with its own philosophy. The premise, I know, sounds too predictable, or lame, or juvenile, or something. At least that’s what I feared before I took up the book. Who wants to read a few hundred pages of dick jokes?
Boy was I wrong. This book just snaps and pops and sizzles along. Meursault is a sharp prose stylist and ironist; he knows how to wield understatement and offhand aside to riotous effect. Party Members is far, far from a book of dick jokes. In fact, maybe the only dick joke in it is the title. Which is a feat really: that the writer kept himself so thoroughly from succumbing to cheap humor.
I knew I was in for something very different by the time I reached the second page. I’m something of a connoisseur of beginnings, and Meursault’s opening pages are as good an instance of setting tone as I’ve come across in years.
This novel reminds one of Gogol, of his genre-changing short tales like “The Nose” and “The Overcoat”, but given the hyper-consumerist Chinese setting, it’s like Gogol blasted at rock concert volume, wrecking machines and fireworks and shouts as accompaniment.
But does Meursault give us the real China or an overly negative version? I think the question is rather irrelevant. This is a fictional world, of course, but like all worthwhile satire it is a fiction informed by things that happen far too often in the society it depicts. Or as one reviewer on the book’s Amazon page put it: “Foreigners who have lived in China for several years, upon returning home discover that curiously, nobody really believes even the tamest tales of what happened while they were there, as if they are telling war stories at the breakfast table.”
So again: In a novel such as Party Members, it is a matter of turning up the volume, selecting and pushing certain realities so they cannot be ignored. It is not a total picture of China, but a harrowingly palpable one, enough grounded in social facts to be relevant.
Related to this (and thinking again of the novel’s breakout potential) Meursault has done an amazing job making his fictional world accessible for those who don’t know the contemporary Chinese scene. Yes, there are occasional “in jokes” and allusions, but in general, any reader who knows the rough outlines of China’s history since Mao is going to have no trouble getting into this book.
As a fellow writer of satire, Party Members held especial interest for me, as I had to deal with similar challenges of narrating grotesque metamorphoses and fantastic improbabilities in my novel A Taipei Mutt. Whether I succeeded or not is hard for me to judge, but Meursault has done brilliantly.
And so: If you appreciate black humor, political intrigue, and want to be hit with something that will leave a bruise, don’t hesitate. Pick up a copy.
And while you're at it, check out my Taipei Mutt. Both Meursault's novel and mine are available in print and ebook.