Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

The Bad News

The Finnish eco-fascist Pennti Linkola once said that, “The most central and irrational faith among people is the faith in technology and economical growth.”

Along the same lines, he also opined, “”Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent [a] dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. [The] best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.”

While I’m on the fence about the rolling heads, I share Linkola’s skepticism around growth and have always wondered why anyone would advocate bringing the “American Dream,” for example, to the whole world when, just from a resource allocation perspective, we could not have even half of the Earth’s current population living the way Americans, who represent about 4% of the Earth’s population, do.

Turns out the skepticism is justified and there are mounting problems with the faith harbored by politicians and economists, a faith most visibly at work in the notion that our debt woes will be brought in hand as soon as our economy “starts growing again” or “returns to the growth we saw X years ago.”

The bad news is that the growth the West in particular has enjoyed for the last 200+ years may be an historical anomaly and a chapter in human history gradually, and even precipitously, drawing to a close. If I follow the arguments of the doomsayers, the idea is that said growth, especially in the US, arose out of the confluence of a large, undeveloped (albeit indigenously inhabited) continent ripe for the plucking by the technologically advanced hand of Europe, ongoing technical innovation, and cheap energy (in the form of oil).

The continent having been plucked, technical innovation now tending to increase productivity while decreasing employment, and cheap oil peaked or peaking, the drivers of growth are on the ropes.

And that means things are probably going to get grim (or grimmer, depending on where you are at now).

If you want to read the bad news for yourself, I encourage you to check out: “Forecast 2013: Contraction, Contagion and Contradiction,” by James Howard Kunstler,  “No More Industrial Revolutions, No More Growth?” by Charles Hugh Smith, and “Is US Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds,” by Robert J. Gordon.

I guess the good news is that we may, as a species, be on the road back to the feudal days, rather than all the way back to the stone age.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s good news.

Turning Towards, Turning Away

In the face of a traumatic event (especially one called “incomprehensible”), we either run to the facts—what happened? why did it happen? what were the causes for this effect?—covering up our feelings, our shock, our horror, our sorrow with the details, or the restless search for them.

Or we run to the future, focusing on how we’ll get through this, how we will prevent this from happening again, and how “we won’t let this define us.”

Or, oddly enough, we run towards the event itself, immersing ourselves in it, agonizing over it. But in so doing, we either ignore or forget or neglect what is actually facing us in our own specific lives. Unless you were directly affected, focusing on this is, in its own way, a kind of self-indulgence. In the name of “facing reality,” a turning away.

Thus does madness become a mirror of madness.

Are Men Sociopaths?

I just found out that an acquaintance—a college student— was roofied at a bar several months back. She was not raped but she did pass out, cutting up her face in the process, and awoke in a hospital.

It got me thinking. At what point does a guy begin to consider it “ok” to drug a woman and rape her? Is it simply that roofying a woman is really only one step away from getting her so drunk that she can’t resist or protest (or give consent, for that matter, which makes it rape)? In other words, is it just a logical extension of behavior some men find acceptable?

Talking this over with a friend, she chalked it up to “rape culture.” In myriad ways, according to this argument, men are given the message that raping a woman is ok (or, more commonly, that acts that are in fact rape are not really rape).

While I agree that these messages are out there, and that when educating men about rape you can spend a lot of time addressing such messages and images and encouraging men to reflect on them, I did not agree that men are given the message, “It is ok to drug women and rape them.” In fact this is (I would hope) seen as not only criminal but severely f*cked up (though it is the central theme of many Quagmire jokes).

Personally, I view drugging people in any form, but especially in order to incapacitate and rape them, sociopathic. Mentioning this, my friend replied, “Well, men are sociopaths.”

Again, while I can’t completely disagree with this statement—men are, after all, capable of an extreme suppression/compartmentalization of their feelings and the commission of acts ranging from the callously heartless to the horrendously monstrous—it still begs the question, “Why are some men more sociopathic than others?”

In the end, I’m asking these questions because I want to know what it would take to stop men from doing this to women. If otherwise normal guys are somehow getting the message that it is ok to drug and rape women, then I suppose you might be able to correct this through education about sexual behavior and the myths surrounding rape.

If, on the other hand, it’s a question of sociopathy, then it would seem only early diagnosis and intervention would address the problem. Making that happen, or even what it would look like, seems very challenging.

The fact that there are men who right now are planning on drugging and raping women, or, frankly, raping them at all, is disturbing.

The idea that these men have somehow been acculturated to believe that this behavior is, if not normal, at least reasonable, is depressing.

The possibility that this is ingrained in masculine culture, that it is not a radical aberration but rather occupies a place on a continuum of male behavior that seamlessly links the teenager pressuring his girlfriend into having sex to the “sociopath” putting Rohypnol in a stranger’s drink, fills me, due to its undeniable plausibility, with a sense of hopelessness.

Liberal Media Bias or Right-Wing Disinformation Campaign?

Where Does Information Come From?

I was following the #Resist44 hashtag on Twitter (which was an anti-Obama response to the #Gen44 hashtag) when I noticed an avatar that read, “WAR ON MARXIST THUGS.” Since I follow at least one other person who has declared a similar war, I clicked on the avi to learn more!

The bio pointed to a website called Resist the Lies, which curates rightist content. The curated article from March 18, 2012 was “Liberal Illiberalism” by the historian Victor Davis Hanson (whose book Culture and Carnage I found illuminating and  highly recommend), a piece that sets out to show that certain elements of the liberal agenda as Hanson sees it—radical environmentalism, multiculturalism, affirmative action, illegal immigration (which I’m not sure any liberals advocate but, whatever)—are not just impractical, but “immoral.”

Reading Hanson’s essay, one thing that jumped out at me was a comment in the section devoted to the “unkind dogma” of multiculturalism, here defined as “the very notion that all cultures are professed equal, and those in the West often have a particular obligation to elevate illiberal and intolerant systems above their own in recompense for their supposedly ill-gotten prosperity and success.” Specifically, Hanson derides the press for failing to report that, “Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia — not a minor voice in the world of Islam — announced that he wished, according to his reading of Koranic-inspired statute, that all the churches in the Gulf region be destroyed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

It Doesn’t Get Better, You Have to Make it Better

Commiserating with a friend about jobs a few years back, it turned out that while we both expressed dissatisfaction with our then current situations, we were also pessimistic about finding attractive alternatives. [Ironic aside: Neither one of us is at the job we had then. For my part, the gigs I’ve done since have been, in many ways, better. – Matt]

This struck me as ridiculous and I said,  “You have to tell yourself, ‘It is not possible that this is the best possible job for me. In fact, that idea is absurd. There has to be something better’.”

To this day I believe these words to be true. There is always a better situation that could be happening. And, frankly, this better situation will sometimes come to pass of itself; as if by magic or a miracle, things will “get better.”

But most of the time, you actually have to make things better. You have to do something different, something new, something better.

Are you in the best possible situation right now? The best possible relationship? The best possible house? The best possible job?

The answer, by definition, has to be, “No.” Even the best situation is, like everything else, at the mercy of entropic flux and subject to perpetual change. In other words, even the best situation could be better (free from the gnawing worm of transience, for example).

You can always make your situation better. This I accept, at least, as an article of faith.

That being said, there is no imperative that dictates, “You have to make it better.”

Perhaps, while not the best, your current situation is good enough and, frankly, you realize that wherever you are, you stand astride the threshold which separates “It could be better,” from, “It could be worse.” It’s up to you to choose the side from which you can draw the greatest inspiration or consolation.

If you want to make things better, work to make things better.

To be the best is naturally grand, and recognizing best-ness, acknowledging and admiring it, is commendable.

But make not of the best, or even the better, an idol. And do not, in your idolatry, become as a hungry ghost.

Remember: It could be worse.

A Disappointing Film About Norwegian Black Metal

I watched the documentary film Until the Night Takes Us and was disappointed. I really think it fails on every level.

Neither a true “history” of black metal (Norwegian or otherwise) nor a revealing portrait of the genre’s main innovators (Fenriz of Darkthrone and Varg Vikernes of Burzum), the film never even raises the questions it should answer.

For example, wherein lies an engagement with or appreciation for this genre, especially in its purest, “necro” form (as one might find it on Emperor’s Wrath of the Tyrants, for example, or Darkthrone’s incomparable, Transylvanian Hunger) as an aesthetic experience?

Sure, Fenriz and Varg talk about choosing the crappiest amps and mics, etc., but why does the result sound so compellingly haunting?

And, frankly, how did it even become a recognizable genre and how do we categorize its defining characteristics?

On the other hand, where is the discussion of the neo-Nazi ideology associated with this music, so associated with it, in fact, that there is a sub-genre known as NSBM, or National Socialist Black Metal? I use the term “sub-genre” here guardedly since some of the genre-defining artists have produced music that falls squarely in this dark realm.

On that last front, why don’t the filmmakers actually call Varg on his bullshit?

For example, during the segment about his trial for the murder of Euronymous, Vikernes states that he was given a stiff sentence (by Norwegian standards, not American) because, in his words, the authorities wanted to say, “We don’t tolerate this kind of rebellion.” What kind of rebellion was that exactly? Stabbing a man, fleeing from you in his underwear, to death?

Varg is also shown saying, “It’s very hard to recognize the truth, when you are bombarded by lies all the time.” This may sound noble, until you realize that this is the kind of “truth” he’s after:

If we have a positive relationship to our homeland, to our blood, to our race, to our religion and to our culture we will not destroy any of this with modern “civilization” (id est capitalism, materialism, Judeo-Christianity, pollution, urbanization, race mixing, Americanization, socialism, globalization, et cetera). The “nazi ghost” has scared millions of Europeans from caring about their blood and homeland for sixty years now, and it is about time we banish this ghost and again start to think and care about the things that (whether we like it or not) are important to us.

Finally, why do they let it slide when Hellhammer—known for saying things like, “Black metal is for white people”—refers to the man Bård Guldvik “Faust” Eithun (erstwhile drummer of Emperor) killed as a “fucking faggot”?

I’m sure they’d fall back on the “we’re letting our subjects speak for themselves” ethos of some documentarians (and if you’re reading this, please feel free to comment!) but even there they don’t let their subjects speak enough or at length. One of the most interesting segments involves Fenriz being interviewed by a German journalist (in which he says, “We’re not just sitting around in a trailer camp listening to Anthrax!”). Why couldn’t we have more of his views or ramblings (and, while we’re at it, a conversation about his use of the phrase “Norwegian Aryan Black Metal” back in the day)?

For good or ill, I don’t tend (any longer) to reject music or other works of art based (solely) on the politics or behavior of the maker.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that one should at least explore the ways that politics and aesthetics inform and influence each other and, if only on a personal level, ask ourselves why our response to something, on a visceral level, may be positive when we would reject it on an intellectual level.

Anyway, if you have the time and interest, Lords of Chaos is a much more satisfying account of black metal, its origins, and its consequences.

Consensus, Hierarchy and the #Occupy Movement

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook:

It explains the consensus process used by the Occupy Wall Street folks.

I lived in a cooperative house in college that relied on this process to make all decisions, so I am familiar with both the theory and the practice behind it. The basic notion, if you haven’t worked with consensus before, is that it is the only way to make decisions which affect an entire group in a way that allows everyone to express their opinion and agree to—or at least agree not to block—a particular decision.

Why does consensus appeal to people? It appeals because zero-sum decision making processes such as voting can often lead to an intense frustration and a concomitant sense of disempowerment. Just ask anyone who voted for Kerry in 2004. When Bush won and crowed about the “political capital” he had thereby gained, I was angered and disgusted. 44 million people can vote against you and, because 45 million voted for you, you can basically give the 44 million the finger? That’s just not right. Read the rest of this entry »

Fundamentalism vs. Liberalism

I just realized that in two recent posts, one on class warfare and the other on the Web, I raised the issue of “neutrality.”

In the first instance, I was considering the neutrality of the state and specifically the liberal, constitutional state. If “equality before the law” is the ideal behind this state form, then, at least theoretically, the state should be “neutral.” Of course, no state is ever neutral; its laws and actions ultimately betray some kind of bias towards this or that social group.

In the second instance, I was talking more about a “safe” place, imagining that the Web actually represents a space that escapes the exigencies and conflicts that characterize the physical or geographical space we as humans normally inhabit. While the web can offer a kind of anonymous way out of (or way around) this world, however, it is inevitably embedded in this world and its various flows can and are regularly re-directed, surveilled and blocked by worldly powers.

I point this out because it reminded me that this question of neutrality is ultimately the central question dividing fundamentalism and liberalism.

The fundamentalist view says, “No. There is no neutrality, no ambiguity. The world is divided between good and evil, the righteous and the wicked, God and Satan. You are either for me or against me. You must take a side.”

The liberal view, on the contrary, opines,”The world is ambiguous. There are grey areas and there is much that is as yet unknown. Therefore, rather than seeing the world and its conflicts in absolute terms, we will instead decide on a shared set of standards by which we will determine what is what. These standards are universal and neutral and can be applied in any circumstance and, in fact, the more people we can engage in the application of these standards and the rational discussion of the issues and challenges we as humans confront, the closer we will come to establishing a just and peaceful world.”

So, fundamentalism or liberalism: Which side are you on?

Articles of Faith

  • The amount of money one makes is the clearest indicator of one’s value to society.
  • Success or failure is solely determined by an individual’s intelligence and strength.
  • Suffering results directly from one’s own personal choices.
  • There are no accidents, only instances of weakness, ignorance and indiscipline.
  • The purpose of the state, society and culture is to serve the interests of the powerful the most valuable individuals.

Odd Future in a World that Allows Rape

“In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.” – Eve Ensler, May 2009

The World We Live In

The situation Ensler describes above has only gotten worse and its “intractable” nature, documented by yet another report on the extent of sexual violence in Congo, led her to declare last week, “Here’s what I Am Over/400 thousand women getting raped a year in the Democratic Republic of Congo/48 women getting raped an hour/1,100 raped a day.”

As she rightly points out, we live in a world that “… has allowed, continues to allow 400 thousand women, 23,00 women, or one woman to be raped anywhere, anytime of any day in the Congo.”

Of course, we also live in a world in which Odd Future can release a song (“Swag Me Out,” from the Radical mixtape) containing the line (picked more or less at random), “”Nigga we/take a girl/rape her in the back/of the fucking jeep,” followed soon by, “Chop a bitch head off/Then get a pleasant nut off/Bitch!” In fact, in this world, the band can appear on Jimmy Fallon’s show and even have an interesting article written about them in the New Yorker. Read the rest of this entry »