Lo, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Here's a link to one of the most interesting "mainstream" articles I've read lately. I'm sure it would completely appall Glenn Beck. And here's the appropriate accompanying Herman Melville poem:

Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.

Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.
The image at the top is a painting by, of all people, Victor Hugo -- in commemoration of John Brown. I wonder who'll do the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed version after he's convicted. And, needless to say, I wonder if this is a fair comparison. No really, I do wonder.

All of this reminds me of the one bit of canonized "Theory" that I ever liked, from Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulations:
Against this hegemony of the system, one can exalt the ruses of desire, practice revolutionary micrology of the quotidian, exalt the molecular drift or even defend cooking. This does not resolve the imperious necessity of checking the system in broad daylight.

This, only terrorism can do.


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Kevin said...

Interesting...but the reason I can't at all agree that KSM and like assholes count as checks on the system, as your quote suggests, is that they themselves are self-declared Systematizers. KSM's 'terrorism' may keep some particular system in check for a moment; but only in the service of the dream of some further and more comprehensive slavishness.

And an (albeit unstable) abolitionist as the analog to KSM? Really? Let me try this:

Now there is a moral distinction to be made here-- but it is still fair to say that there is some resonance between today's terrorism and some of the sell-outs from the American sixties in this special respect: both were/are merely the Opposition with respect to details--i.e. only opposed to suborning the individual to THIS or THAT system; but both fundamentally AGREE with each other that, where the System and Individual conflict, the former takes precedence. So these kinds of persons cannot act as anything but the shallowest check on any system, b/c they do not challenge the right-of-way of System as such. Such parties are never rebels at heart, fighting Establishment as such, but partisan hacks, upset that individuals are not currently suborned to THEIR ESTABLISHMENT.

My point is not that there are no differences between some crushing Collectivism and the revival of the Caliphate; only that there is a fundamental agreement held by all Systematizers about the position of the individual before the Authority or State. The Systematizer's rebellion is always a faux-rebellion-- is always in service to some alternative servility.

And that is no 'check in broad daylight', as the clash of Systematizers of all sorts has, as its condition, an ideological agreement almost too pervasive to see.

Casey said...

I'm sold, Kevin. That's convincing to me (I must seem like a pushover, huh?)... it's just so rare and difficult to check the system by way of indifference or apathy -- possibly the way of indifference is the way of Jesus: give to Caesar Caesar's, but ignore that whole system as much as possible.

Maybe John Brown is a bad example. What about Nat Turner, who let a slave insurrection in (about) 1836?

But I mostly still agree with your point... I think I might understand enough about economics to anticipate your response to any claim that "Capitalism" as an ideology is infringing on Orthodox Islam (Islam being the only major religion other than Tibetan Buddhism that's willing to recognize the opposition between its own ideology and the "mainstream" values). So would you say in response, "Capitalism always allows consumers to say 'no thank you,'" so it's not an immoral system: "Whoever is not against us is for us," says Jesus, right?

fenhopper said...

if rebels against a system aren't in favor of another system, i'm not sure i understand what else is available for them. isn't everybody in favor of some sort of system? even those who push for anarchy are hoping for a system based on individual adjustment.

any check on a system is by the imposition of a another system. we can't get away from supporting a system.

now if we're talking about an imposing system, we can probably cry hypocrisy against those who criticize it and try to replace it with the enforced suppression of imposition. obviously it's that imposition, not all imposition they find repulsive.

but i don't see baudrillard arguing for the undoing of "systems" here, rather the check on "a" system.

likewise john brown was trying to undo a system. and ksm was/is trying to bring about the end to a system. and all will argue in favor of another system as the check on the stability of a system.

the importance of keeping a hegemony in check is not because the dune must fall, but because the sands must shift.

as far as capitalism allowing all consumers to say 'no thank you' you can say the same about any system, even a dictatorship. arguing that capitalism is not immoral because it doesn't impose by decree is naive. whether by decree or by indifference to the effects of choices, when a system organizes resources in a way that favours one group over another, it it operating in a moral sphere.

when a corporation is left to choose its own limits and to disregard those who threaten no stark financial check, it is often going to act immorally. it's not a clean break to say -- "well, the consumers can pay whatever they want or not pay. if a financially empowered civilization is willing to preserve the power of the corporation, it's not the fault of capitalism that people are feeding the beast."

it is the fault of capitalism. it's the design of capitalism. the argument is then, should we trust another system to keep that in check? a state system? a privately funded one?

fenhopper said...

and i disagree with essiecuffee.

Casey said...


Here's what I think: Jefferson was right about how this (and every) country needs to refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of its own citizens every so often. So maybe arguing for another, replacement, system is actually the right thing to do -- not because the new system is better organized, but only because it's NEWER.

I feel like I'm living in a country that's the equivalent of a 61-year old baby boomer. Time to shed some blood. Crazy as it might sound, I'd like to live in a more Britney Spearsish country.

Wishydig said...

yeah… you're going to have to defend that one. or at least explain it so i don't think you've completely lost it.

Wishydig said...

(the "spearsish" part, i mean)

Casey said...

I mean, I'd like to try living in a country that doesn't have all its ducks in a row. I feel like America is resting on its laurels. I'd like to live in a young, revolutionary country -- in the 19th century, writers like Hawthorne and Henry James always complained that it was a hard fate to be a novelist in America because America had such a thin tapestry for its history -- they longed to be European writers.

I long for their predicament right now. Less history. I want 2012 to explode everything so we can start over -- I'd like to be in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Congress Debates, or to be Athens before Plato ruined it all by making it so permanent.

I see Britney Spears as that kind of chaotic superficiality -- unaware of history. Remember Bloom on the anxiety of influence? That's me.

Anonymous said...