Category Archives: Punk Rock

Crypto-fascist, Crypto-Jew Pt. 1

zionism-equals-nazism

Bro I wish

I.

When I was eighteen, I beat up a white power skinhead. My late-adolescent self-seeking had taken a schlocky, Daniel Deronda kind of turn, so any opportunity to defend Jewish honor I felt I had to take, no matter how contrived. I guess I fancied myself a little like the Jewboy in Porky’s. 

Anyway, as I was standing with a gaggle of crust punks one weekday afternoon on a downtown corner across from the bus station, a sinewy little guy with a shorn pate and narrow mustache strolled up in boots, braces, beater and bomber, drew one of my punker compadres aside and transacted a drug deal inconspicuously. Then he started back on his way—that is, until I shoved him, hard, from behind. On that day I decided I would simply refuse to accept that neo-Nazis should make themselves visible.

He turned around to face me, breathing through his open mouth, his incisors streaked a scummy, bacterial yellow. He had grimy pores and crusted-over scabs, his fingers were nicotine stained and filthy under the nails. There were little SS lighting bolt runes tattooed on one side of his neck, an iron cross on the other.

I stepped forward and poked him in the chest. Fear flashed momentarily across his eyes but he steadied his gaze, grinning as he reached into his beater and flipped out a brass swastika on a long, thin chain around his neck. That was when I hauled off.

I managed to land a solid several thumps upside his noggin as he flailed, until suddenly he surged into me at chest level, Hail Mary-like—head down, forearms up blocking. He managed to back me up a few steps, grabbing me by the shirt collar as he poked his little radish head up to bite me, square on the nose. The shock of this lent him the further momentum to bare down and take me tumbling to the pavement, back first. I almost rolled him but he bore down hard again, straddling my chest as he tried to strangle me. He overplayed his hand, though: as he wound back to clock me point blank, I availed myself of the empty space between my sternum and his groin, gripped him square in the nether region with one hand and up under an armpit with the other, then pulled him sideways into my chest and flipped him square on his back.

I mounted, I grounded, I pounded. Quite often the toughness of recidivist scumbags has more to do with the capacity to absorb a beating than to mete one out. He struggled, quivering with desperate futility, like a live fish held down for gutting.

Then suddenly I heard a crisp “snap!” I thought the sound was his nose breaking, which it was. Although I didn’t feel the pain immediately, it would also turn out to be the distal metacarpals on my mean right shattering in several places each. The pain settled in a second later, as I looked down and noticed that my opponent, though conscious, had given up, and was bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth.

Just then, someone yelled “cops!”

I looked up to see two peace officers, a man and a woman, sprinting towards us down the sidewalk some fifty yards off. I hopped up, bolted and rounded the nearest corner. Within two blocks I’d completely lost my pursuers and cut through the parking lot of a gated condo complex to a corner hamburger shack on the other side that had a pay phone booth in its back parking lot, out of view of the street. My dad was just getting off work and I called him for a ride.

II.

Awhile after that, once my broken hand had mended, I saw a member of the same local clique of white power skinheads strolling past me on the same downtown block. He was wearing a trucker hat on which he’d stenciled an iconic punk-rock anti-fascist symbol….

keepctryt

Only $12.99 on Angry, Young & Poor LMFAO

….only in his rendition, the stick figure was trashing a Star of David, not a swastika. I was so shocked by this meager display of literacy that I doubted what I had seen until he was well out of sight, but twenty minutes later he came back in the opposite direction with a slice of pizza in one hand.

As he passed by I snorted, ‘Nice hat.’ He turned to see who’d paid him the compliment and I mean-mugged him like I intended to do him harm. He froze, gazing back indecisively, whereupon I decked him in the face with my skateboard, an act I hadn’t planned nor even anticipated from myself. His pizza slice went flying as he dropped, hard, straight back. As soon as he hit the pavement he began seizing violently. I found out later that I had actually cracked his eye socket.

If you go out of your way to seriously insult strangers, you should probably be better prepared for a backlash than this guy was. But then, if you set out to harm everyone who says stuff you don’t like, you’d better know your limits a little better than I knew mine. I’d been reading a lot about the Irgun and Murder, Inc., but imitating them didn’t feel so good. I had beaten people with fists before, but this was the first time I used a weapon. In an instant I had become a more brutal creature than I realized I was, or ever had been. Frozen in shock, staring down at my victim, I experienced the disembodying sensation of a strong compassionate impulse concurrent with the realization that I had now forfeited my right to feel it. When I reemerged into linear time I heard shouting, and glanced up just soon enough to outrun bus station security.

I was less than six months out of high school then, and while I was heavily into pot and earning C grades at the local community college on my Jew-doctor daddy’s dime, my best friend Max (a goy, if you must know, and a profoundly goyische one, at that) was getting heavily into meth. He used to flop at a mutual friend’s apartment, where a female roommate was dating one of the skinheads, who also happened to be meth retailers. They would party there too, and crash on weekend nights. Word got back to me from Max that the White Power crew was looking for me and that their leader, a hardened ex-con by the nom de guerre of ‘Panther,’ had vowed to handle me personally. I didn’t know what Panther looked like, but he sounded fearsome.

III.

At that time I was also running a moderately lucrative sideline in pot (re-upping weekly by the quarter-pound), and one of my occasional customers was a six-and-a-half foot homeless high-yellow, also an ex-con, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Lawrence Fishburne—pockmarks and all—and went by a nom de guerre of his own, ‘The Reverend.’

In some visceral, sub-conscious nether region I understood perfectly well how predatory and aggressive the poor can be—must be, oftentimes—and I certainly recognized all the ways this tends to manifest among blacks. But at that age the psychic patina of racial pathos and Pavlovian guilt-inculcation at the hands nearly two decades’ worth of Hollywood movies and civics lessons prevented me from metabolizing this information to the full benefit of my survival instincts. If defending Jewish honor was a legacy passion project, evasion of actual danger was a work in progress.

Perhaps intentionally, The Reverend dressed a lot like Morpheus from The Matrix, in a ratty trench coat over an unwashed hoodie, with greasy cargo pants and army boots. His hustle was fortune telling for racially solicitous post-pinko granolas at a card table he used to set up in front of a health food store on the downtown strip, with a purple velvet table cloth where he’d lay out crystals for sale. Obsequious in characteristically downtrodden-black fashion, with that opportunistic malice lurking plainly underneath, The Reverend used to call me ‘Young Buck,’ and I showed my appreciation for his backhanded flattery by over-weighing his twomp sacks by a half-gram. Sometimes I’d smoke a joint with him just to be friendly. I was listening to a lot of rap music at that age.

One day as I was making my rounds on the downtown strip, I passed by The Reverend’s tarot table when he hailed me. I was carrying a bag of fruits and vegetables I’d just purchased from the health food store. He asked if I had any bud for sale, and slid a twenty spot onto the table. I snapped up the bill, slid my backpack down one arm and fished out a half-eighth (about half a gram more than I normally charged twenty for). But The Reverend gave a pensive, dissatisfied grimace and deadpanned, ‘Now why you tryin’ ta short me, homie?’ My balls dropped a bit as it dawned on me exactly what The Reverend took me for—ironically, this Morpheus-lookalike kind of redpilled me that day. As I returned the weed to my backpack and tossed his twenty-spot back onto the table I told him, “Go fuck your mother you shitty fuckin’ nigger.” It was the first (and second to last) time in my life I availed myself of that epithet in the second person.

Well that must not’ve made The Reverend’s day, because no sooner had I made my way half a block up from where he sat than I heard someone murmur, “The fuck you say to me?” and when I looked back over my shoulder, there was The Reverend in hot pursuit. I turned, snarling to face him and he stopped about three feet shy of me.

The Reverend was fairly big. He probably could have fucked me up; he probably could have fucked me. A crowd gathered ’round as we stared each other down, but this didn’t register immediately. All that was going through my head was that fight-or-flight electric slow-mo, and while (relative to his size) I might not have had the ablest fight in me, there was no flight. On that day—in spite of the stifling, kumbaya college-town atmosphere and the gaping hipsters and granolas gathered ’round to spectate—I simply refused to accept that I owed a predatory hustler anything but flagrant contempt.

The Reverend looked around at the assembled throng and decided to go for a half-measure: kicking around the back of my shins in big circular motions, trying to trip me. I jumped, took a step back, and grabbed an apple out of the grocery bag I had dangling from my wrist. My side-hand curve went ‘thwap!’ upside The Reverend’s head and dropped to the sidewalk broken open, dripping juice; then I hurled another, and another, each one landing with a ‘thwap!’ as we danced around in circles like a folk jig, him still trying to trip me, until I was out of apples.

Realizing, I suppose, that this spectacle was liable to cost him business, after a minute or so The Reverend stopped, hung his head sullenly, and skulked back to his tarot table to pack up his things. As I moved on up the strip, the atmosphere around me seemed to inflate with a laden tingling of shame. Had anyone heard me say nigger? Would word get around? Would I now be labelled a racist?

In just a few short months, The Reverend had made himself such a figure in town that at one point, about a month prior, he officiated a well-attended, interactive ‘white privilege’ self-flagellation demo organized by some intrepid sociology students at the university campus. But after our confrontation I never saw him in town again.

Bu the day of our confrontation, as I tender-hoofed my way up the strip and away from the scene, the strangest thing happened. A lousy, shirtless, sunburned little man with a shorn pate, wearing blue jeans, combat boots and braces came straggling along behind me. When he caught up he blurted out, breathless, ‘Are you having trouble with that nigger?’ Unsure of his intentions and leery of being judged by any proximate third-parties who might’ve seen what just happened, I replied ‘Hey man, that’s some pretty strong language right there.’ But when I glanced over I noticed that he was covered from torso to neck in Nazi tattoos. This dude intended to lend me moral support on the grounds of white solidarity. ‘Man, I hate that fuckin’ nigger. Just out here preyin’ on dumb fucks in this town. You don’t have to take that shit.’

‘I don’t know if you wanna take my part, bro. I’m Jewish.’

‘Well…..’ He paused. ‘I don’t have anything against Jews. I just have a problem with certain Zionists.’ I was taken aback, not at the note of acceptance but at the vocabulary, and not because it was impressive, but because it existed at all.

‘Name’s Panther.’ He extended a hand and we shook. Panther was small enough I could’ve picked him up and tossed him in a trash compactor. ‘Stay out of trouble, brother. Just look at me’—he was pretty haggard—‘it ain’t worth it.’ And off he went into the evening.

Stockholm calling

20091124164639-of-mice-and-men

This’ll only hurt for a minute

Regarding what promises to be another protracted summer of orchestrated destruction, the following non-sequitur from Henry Rollins, who is to punk rock what Lenny is to a mouse:

In 1969, when I was about 8 years old, I saw the divide. I went to a school in Washington, D.C., with mostly African-American kids who were bused in from different neighborhoods in the same city. It was a constantly harrowing experience. I got picked on for the color of my skin. Pushed into the urinal, head slammed into the water fountain, shoved down the stairs…..

It was in this year that I understood that my life in America was going to be different, not only because of the color of my skin but because of the advantages that came with it.

Then there’s this other advantaged guy. Like Rollins, he learned the hard way.

 

 

Waiting for the Millennium

shooting

Stop or I’ll shoot

Part 1 here

‘But I didn’t tell you this beautiful story to show you what it means to me or how it relates to my life; I told it to point out that it’s forgotten,’ said Blue……’Once upon a time, people knew it by heart—from Tabriz to Istanbul, from Bosnia to Trabzon—and when they recalled it they found the meaning in their lives.’ —Orhan Pamuk, Snow

‘Then think what would happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions.’ —Socrates in Plato’s Republic

Man is wolf to man: self-flattery! Wolves conclude their quarrels.

Apropos of crying wolves, surely the Israelis have a few suggestions for securing the Brussels metro. And just what’re the odds of getting disemboweled on Hebrew public transit? Apples and oranges, pal. How dare you claim to know Israel’s suffering? At least now, perhaps, Europeans will finally realize that if you’ve seen one terrorist, you’ve seen them all. In the words of Theodore Herzl, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, it is no dream.’

And repeated often enough it doubtless has been, though the lie is not what’s written, but what’s read. Have you ever walked backwards into a cave, blindfolded? A tabloid Golem straight out of Misfits lyrics and Bourne films is grinding to dust mosaics, pottery shards and catacombs, the last evidence of the monotheistic epoch. Before long, the death of God won’t even be a rumor.

But for the time being, the world’s dirty bomb preparedness capital and ham-handed jihad early-detection consultancy persists in carrying out a police action whose age and meaning are unknown, a contest of demented wits, the viscera of scripture, a final flash of recollection on the road to oblivion. It should be prolonged indefinitely.

Above ground, in the neon lights and traffic jams, violence is a “public health issue.” Feelings are a “public health issue”—they should be treated with mass surveillance. Intransigent monotheism is all that stands between the meadow and the paving crew, and when swords are finally beaten to plowshares all that remains will be to clear the slums and make way for Olympic village.

There’s a story about Yitzhak Rabin, that during his initial tenure as prime minister (in the late 1970s), the possibility was being explored of courting Lebanese allies to counter the PLO who, at that time, were based in Lebanon. Arrangements were made for the godfather of the Maronite Phalange to meet the Israeli high command aboard a submarine. When his yacht arrived and he was brought onboard, he spent the entirety of the forty-five minute meeting huffing and puffing about how it was beneath the dignity of an Arab to collude with Israelis. Rabin weathered this abuse magnanimously, and 11,000 casualties later Israel was forced out of Beirut by the first Reagan administration, within a hair’s breadth of Arafat’s jugular. If Begin had been premier that early, the alliance would never have been struck, and if Rabin had been re-elected rather than losing his seat to Begin it never would’ve resulted in such loss of life as it did. But there’s cool-headedness and there’s soft-headedness. If the European far-right was prepared to do to its prime ministers what the Israeli right eventually did to Rabin, there’d be no pederast mohammedan orcs prowling Munich, Milan and Manchester.

Like Rhodesians and former Soviets, Israelis’ attunedness to the dogshit facts of life once lent them an edgy mystique in an affluent world, one that now exceeds cartoonishness. The question is not whether to act, but wherefore. Like an obsessed plaintiff oblivious to counter arguments, Israeli concerns long ago ceased concerning others, and woe betide he who forgets that where there is concession, there is strength

Not long ago, a pair of young Arab men from a West Bank town slipped into Israel armed with knives and pistols, boarded a Jerusalem bus, and began attacking passengers indiscriminately. In addition to the attackers (shot by security forces), three Israelis were killed, among them a child and an octogenarian pensioner, who died of bleeding from lacerations to (among other places) the face and neck, “for men forget more easily the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” Perhaps future incidents of this kind could be avoided if only Levantine schoolchildren were made to memorize the lyrics of “The Gambler” in appropriate translation?

But, “then also pretexts for seizing property are never wanting, and one who begins to live by rapine will always find some reason for taking the goods of others.” So as part of its policy of collective punishment, the Occupation determined to demolish the home of one attacker’s elderly parents. (See also, Aesop re: precautions ex post facto.)

The father, standing in the rubble of his former home, then gave an interview to a CIA, er…. American news agency. He said that his son was a perfectly ordinary youth, that the acts his son committed on that bus were a natural, equitable response to the humiliating rigors of the Occupation, and that this policy whereby his home had been demolished would only provoke further attacks (from other perfectly ordinary youths, I suppose. “It belongs to human nature to hate those you have injured.”) Well I’m sorry, sir: unless you have more sons, you can’t threaten anyone with acts that have already been committed.

I once stood guard on a Hebron rooftop when my commanding officer, making his rounds, came by to check on me. As we gazed out over the town, he pointed out the shoddy construction materials and various rubble heaps that passed for structures, remarking to the effect that our Arab adversaries are primitives—just look at how they live; clearly people of that caliber cannot be reasoned with. Well, I no more believe that Israelis ought to try and reason with Palestinians than I would advise the Palestinians to try and reason with the Israelis. I don’t give a shit (God grant me the serenity….) What I do dislike, however, is cant, and I replied to the officer that maybe these Arabs simply lack access to the kinds of construction materials that we have over in Tel Aviv. This elicited a look as if I’d just committed treason. I got in trouble on several educational excursions for appealing to Occam in this manner. Though I’ll admit in retrospect that the unseemly high incidence of spousal ass-rape and literal slave trafficking in Arab cities where construction materials are abundant would’ve been a devastating rejoinder to my argument, none such was forthcoming, and an army where exercising one’s brain is taken for want of esprit de corps is going to find its returns diminishing, regardless of how piss-poor a recruit (and thinker) yours truly may’ve been.

Take, for example, the recent, much publicized shooting of an incapacitated Palestinian would-be assailant by an on-scene IDF medic; a clear-cut act of second-degree murder and a pointless one, besides (the “victim” would’ve expired before he reached the ER.) But these things happen, and should no more be taken as condemnation of the culture that produces them than any other random act of violence that’s totally part of a pattern. Rather, our interests in the case are legal, and epistemic: in the face of overwhelming public sympathy for this abjectly chickenshit act, the military prosecution is charging the perpetrator with manslaughter only. And the slaying is convulsing Israel for the woeful following reasons: (1) because the existence of video evidence captured by a Palestinian stringer for a left-wing NGO has given the public the impression that the decision to prosecute was influenced by enemies of the country, as if that’s relevant even if it’s true; and (2) because the perpetrator has not been released home to await trial. Yet neither has he been remanded: he’s being held on his battalion’s permanent duty station—the same punishment, as I recall from IDF service, for arriving a moment late to mess hall formation. You still get chocolate milk. Yet this kid-gloved approach only seems to bother enemies of the country. Can we analogize this reasoning to that of other times and places? Without getting hamstrung by matters of degree, I think of course we can.

Second verse, same as the first: one Zuher Bahlul, an Arab, putatively equal citizen of Israel and prominent Hebrew-language sportscaster now standing for parliament on the ballot of the Jewish center-left, reacted to the case by commenting publicly that Palestinian assailants who target not civilians but military positions—as the “victim” in this case had done before being incapacitated by the soldiers he so inadvisably attempted to stab—are not terrorists, strictly speaking. The outrage at this that ensued among Israeli Jews extended through the top of Mr. Bahlul’s own party and all the way up to the Office of the Prime Minister, who took to Facebook to issue a condemnation of the comments. Believe me, you’ll never hear an Israeli schoolchild chiming “words can never hurt me.”

But unless you believe indefinite military rule ought never to be resisted (a misapprehension that would even be deleterious to the defense impulses of the military rulers), and that your own troops are no better than toddlers in terms of vulnerability (maybe that’s why they gave us chocolate milk), Mr. Bahlul’s assertion is self-evident. To not limit the definition of a terrorist to one who targets civilians is to deprive the word of all meaning, as the Israelis have been doing for decades now in trying to transmit its synonymity to ‘Arab’ beyond just the Hebrew language. (Maybe that’s why there’s so much counter-intuitive sympathy in Israel for Syrian refugees making their way to Europe). But there’s something perverse about what Arabs think, say and feel being tantamount to a security concern—if you don’t forcibly live beside them you won’t have that problem. But as it stands, everyday political speech (and not only incitement to violence) has long been regularly prosecuted by the Israeli civil administration for the occupied territories, and the curricula of Arab schools inside Israel has long been tightly regulated by Education Ministry censors and surveillance, to the extent that even certain common-knowledge historical events that are taught to Israeli pupils may not be mentioned to Arab ones, who have to learn them at home from relatives whose views may not conform to Education Ministry standards, to say the least. Sticks and stones may break my bones….

But if our little Jewish Sparta is a scaffolding built on a foundation of little-man syndrome, how does the little man relate to a lug? Obsequiously. So, just last month, an American MBA student on a school-sponsored tour of Tel Aviv start-ups was injured in a stabbing attack by a Palestinian assailant on the Tel Aviv waterfront, only to die later in an Israeli hospital of the wounds he’d sustained. It just so happens that this particular American was a Gentile, West Point graduate and recently discharged member of US Army Special Forces. Other than the obvious fact that he wasn’t boycotting, no one in Israel bothered to ascertain his thinking about issues related to the conflict, or the extent of his sympathies with either side, before local memorial ceremonies were arranged by the Israelis, with military honors, as though the man had fallen in uniform, or otherwise under a flag. Local politicians and media outlets issued announcements obliquely expressing—in guise of condolence—the assumption that the slaying confirms the identical nature of the two countries’ geostrategic interests. It goes without saying that if the hapless young gentleman had been inadvertently run over by a settler in a Peugot bent on murdering Palestinians at a checkpoint, his US veteran status would’ve been downplayed or ignored by the Israeli media and government. A waste of human life is bad enough, why waste an opportunity to gain from it politically?

But so what? Aren’t public lying and institutional mendacity endemic the world over? Well, but let’s not lie to ourselves. Self defense is a dish best served cold. 

If Zionism comes down to the simple question of whether the state of Israel should persist, then I’m a Zionist, even though I concur that the state was founded on ethnic cleansing and maintains itself on acts of impunity; sometimes you’ve gotta steal a loaf of bread to feed your family. What I won’t countenance is the consistent denial of all responsibility for one’s predicament, the ceaseless castigation of fortune, or the prosecution of political speech by (for example) sending an armored brigade to arrest a dim-witted beautician over comments she posted on Facebook supportive of jihadi attacks on Israeli civilians. Donkey punch her? Pun intended. Send in APCs? That’s some fag shit right there.

Send a salami

to your boy in the army

I’ll cum quick if you promise to respect my authority

Punk’s Undead

Forgive them, mother

Forgive them, Mother

The Pussy Riot case proves nothing more clearly than the opposite of what it’s deployed to suggest: that Putin’s gravest failing is not his tough guise but its inverse, i.e., his enfeebled effort to play the democrat, which is nearly as half-assed as his much decried tyranny. To the considerable extent his regime concerns itself with domestic public opinion, this is really just an effort to keep one step ahead of America’s diffuse, variegated but—in toto—formidable techniques on that front.

Though glossier and holier-than-thou, the United States’ own forward march of dependent lividity employs all the same time-tested techniques that Putin does. But if recent media exertions designed to turn public anxiety over these into a race issue are any indication, stateside, mind-control commands the very heights of sublimity. It’s just that, in Pussy Riot’s case, Putin’s bumblefucking big-bad-wolfery was practically begging to be pressed into service.

Like Sheena, Heroin Bob and the distressed damsels of Pussy Riot, I was a young punker. I still am (an old one)—all my pottymouth training took place in that aesthetic and olfactory milieu.

Here’s a fun example: as a fourteen year-old, I watched the bass player of the Dropkick Murphys unstrap his guitar in the middle of a set, grip it by the fretboard like a Louisville Slugger and send a guy who had just jumped onstage and given a Hitler salute to the neurosurgery ward…. and get away with it (the guy was actively seizing as security dragged him off).

I’ll be the last to decry the violence of such an act. But the irony of the incident was that, at least aesthetically speaking, Dropkick is no more punk than the IRA is dissimilar to the Black-n-Tans for methodology. To wit, after conking the hapless ruffian, the bassist stepped over him, grabbed the mic and, to the approving roar of the crowd, declared in stentorian fashion that “This is nobody’s private political forum”—easily the most blasé condemnation of fascism I’ve ever heard.

But if Saturday night’s alright for fighting, try donning a sickle-and-hammer T-shirt to a Leftover Crack show and see if you can elicit one-tenth of one percent of that reaction from a human rights-conscientious schtarker. Just don’t overthink it—in punk-rock as in Komsomol, rules are rules.

The obvious criticism of Pussy Riot-hype is that no artist who enjoys the explicit sympathy of the Euro-Atlantic ruling class’ frontman (however melanotic a hipster he may be) retains a shred of punk credibility. But while (say,) Jello Biafra may not view Hillary Clinton’s Department of State as a moral improvement over Alexander Haig’s, any sanctimonious rabble that leaves an appreciable legacy will have its Bolsheviks and its Mensheviks. Before a bearded lady joins the circus, she’s just a freak—afterwards, she’s a commodity, but that doesn’t make her any less of a bearded lady (see also: Billie Joe’s return to the Gilman).

So Jello’s great claim to political correctness is that he’s a cut-rate bearded lady. In contrast, not only did the basically apolitical GG Allin not have a retirement portfolio, he was perceptive enough to croak rather than sticking around to appear on This American Life with Ira Glass. We can only imagine what Jello wouldn’t say if GG had lived and was out touring for car payments and being blasted as a misogynist on Gawker.

Another fine example: the other day I was driving along, listening to Born Against on my car stereo. If they were still around, they’d be #Ban[ning]Bossy, whereas circa 1993—the last year there was a substantive subset of unshorn college womyn—this band was raging against pro-lifers, John Wayne’s body, evangelicals, &c.; basically, avulsing a flux of creepy-crawlies with their gnawed-down fingernails. And thank God they did: are we, in 2015, living in a world forged by VFW Dole voters? By the Moral Majority? Then again, were we then (in 1993)? Sure, G-Dub did a lot of pandering to pro-lifers, but did he (as in: he himself, not some Iowa state senator) restrict baby-murder even just a little, i.e., did Planned Parenthood get one less federal dollar from January ’01 through January ’09? How likely is it that dead babies are anathema to the Bush clan, anyway? They’ve done a lot of pandering to the NRA, too, but after two terms of Texas, the number of rounds in my magazine is still subject to the Clinton-era limit. If you think Ricky Bobby wants the full body scan any more than Ed Snowden, I’ve got a 1911 with a 12-round magazine I wanna sell you, in Brooklyn. (I also thought I heard Matt Taibbi telling Amy Goodman that the Holder DoJ has not prosecuted a single banker, though I may just be off my Abilify.)

But if your entire sense of gall is predicated on the fear that Tony Perkins, Grover Norquist and Bill O’Reilly will one day lead columns of tanks down the Capitol Mall, Tiennamen-style, put Bernie Sanders, Lena Dunham and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on show-trial, then recommission the Enola Gay to frack Yellowstone with, you may be having a hard time following. I’m not saying they wouldn’t do it—I’m saying that such power exists somewhere, and that your Daily Show cast of villains will never even warm their hands in its toasty glow. “So you mean The System, the one that shredded Glass-Steagal and invaded Iraq for sport, is progressive?” Not exactly. I’m asking you to consider the purposes progressivism serves.

As komsomolka Nadyezhda Tolikonnikova informed one man post-sentience sleep apnea awareness campaign Slavoj Zizek in the Guardian, “Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side…” (Does anyone put their criminal history on a résumé?) “…in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.” That must be what she was doing on House of Cards and The Colbert Report—but then, would Lenin have gotten anywhere without the Kaiser?

Notice how unfiltered her big-girl thesis statement is. Taking a piss demands more mental energy, one at least needs to aim (well, maybe not Pussy Riot). What in the hell does Putin have to do with the enslaved millions? A cheese-fond knee-capper with a badass dojo is all he is. Are they his sweatshops, or Black Friday’s? For chrissake, Flava Flav bears more responsibility for the predations of global capitalism than Vladimir Putin does.

The norm of production is manic, not normative; precarious, not stable. What’s normative and fantastically stable is consumption, from pickled daikon right on down to Dinty Moore (TM) beef stew, yet these two beacons of post-retro moralism are blind to what any Dinty Moore consumer can garble if not exactly articulate, which is that Soilent Green is The People. So thoroughly is Anthony Bourdain to the reigning racket what Lazar Kaganovich was to Stalin’s that you’re even liable to find a can of Dinty Moore wet food in your Chopped basket. Do you reckon a ground-down Shenjien assembly-line tech would rather organize his colleagues, string up the foreman and issue a list of demands from behind a makeshift barricade, or indenture himself to the Triads for passage to the States—or Peru—on the off chance his kids’ll ever be in a position to afford the kinds of products he and his ilk manufacture?

Remember the mid-90s? I seem to recall a lot of fulminating over sweatshop labor. There were stories all over NBC’s Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, 60 MinutesTime and Newsweek. Nike was on a PR defensive. A bunch of brace-faced bar mitzvah kids from my synagogue organized a downtown candlelight vigil with their counterparts from the local Catholic school. Being anti-sweatshop was all the rage. Now? More sweatshops, more Whole Foods, more free range, fair trade, more low impact, more farm-to-table…… more contrived moral distance, but if you want a piece you’re gonna have to be paying a lower tax rate than somebody’s secretary.

In 2015 Nike is on the right side of history, and more evil than ever. The System picks its battles; these are what we call progressivism. Those skinny jeans aren’t going to stitch themselves, so moral qualms are outsourced to identity politics and presto!, everyone’s a Twitter activist, and no one’s a revolutionary. Thus the stability of the “norm of production”. Give it thirty years and see how you like the alternative.

Ever wonder why, since the early-90s—that pitiful last outburst of rock-n-roll ardor and petulance—there hasn’t been any superseding groundswell of teen spirit? The iconoclasts of that period are all now bloated icons. Meanwhile, weed is literally five-hundred times stronger, psych meds have become party drugs, the great satirists of the day are a pair of regime spokesmen, actors and actresses shamelessly model cosmetics and haute couture well into their sixties and seventies, Hollywood is cannibalizing itself with remakes and biopics of dead celebs before they’ve gone cold and the country’s number-one public intellectual is a food tourist. And they’re all red-diaper babies.

Menachem Begin (Yasser Arafat’s and my personal favorite fascist) once hypothesized, based on his experience of NKVD interrogation, that the publicized confessions of disgraced Soviet leading figures were almost never procured by direct physical coercion, but by gradually giving the prisoner to understand that if he were to persist in maintaining his innocence, his obstinacy would go unacknowledged and unremembered by the cognitively manicured society beyond the prison gates. How much more is this the case where the tap yields potable water, Payless is having a perpetual two-for-one sale and anyone can become a YouTube sensation? People protested sweatshops, and they got gay marriage, and if Kennedy sides with Ginsburg a whole lot of bar tabs will become wedding registries, and a whole lot of rent checks will become mortgage payments. “Endless development and diversity”, anyone? I’m afraid slave labor’s here to stay. I don’t much like it either, but if it really bothered me, I wouldn’t be in college, learning progressivism.

If you’re so disturbed by consumerism, no one’s stopping you from donning a bear skin and going foraging on BLM land, or dumpster diving, or cashing in your chips and homesteading. In Russia, they’ve got the whole of Siberia. There’s a well-known Old Believer named Agafia who has been subsisting off the taiga, single-handed, for upwards of five (count ’em) decades. Pussy Riot, on the other hand, was living in the heart of Moscow. I don’t think they hand-stitched those balaclavas.

(Updated 09/2015)