Mar 192019
 


Leonardo da Vinci First anatomical studies c1515

 

 

Sometimes we find ourselves merely pondering, not so much solving big problems. Is there playing out, in the world at large, or at least the world of men, something akin to the Kondratieff cycle in economics, a larger cycle, a force, a tide, an energy, that we mostly ignore, but which drives our ‘affairs’? Dr. D. thinks there may well be. But if so, what happens to free will?

Dr. D.:

 

 

Dr. D.: I seem to have taken a dark and grumpy turn lately.  Probably the winter, but as I get older, I find the present state of the world more and more frustrating.

I fear with the present madness it’s just de rigor to 1) label people as something they’re not, even the OPPOSITE of what they are, 2) furiously fight that strawman and 3) not care.  I have no explanation for it, but there are times and tides in the affairs of men (as Shakespeare would say) which flood you out and cost a fortune.  …Or something like that.

And it’s certainly flooding in Europe right now, as darkness falls as the shutters of censorship and totalitarianism are bolted up everywhere, every bit as clear and methodical as was done in 1935, even with a call for a shiny new army.  …To use on no one, of course, because we all know broke nations fund and create armies for no ill intent whatsoever.  But these things happen regularly.

“If…any person had told me that there would have been such [chaos] as [now] exists, I would have thought them a bedlamite, a fit subject for a madhouse.”
– George Washington, 1786 (after a fiat money blowoff in the states)

My belief is that these things happen from forces outside ourselves and are sadly predictable, as “the lesson of history is that no one learns anything from history.”  There may be the “Fourth Turning” of generations, but a 4th-of-4 turning is some 200 years, the next cycle, the next fractal up, and things crack quite a bit wider. 

As this follows exactly the weather, earthquake, and volcanic cycles, it suggests far more its external origin, the way birds grow senselessly restless and flock in fall, or animals are agitated and predict earthquakes.  In this case, my guess is the human nervous system is very sensitive to the fluctuations in the sun, or possibly further, the wing of the galaxy we fly through like sand ripples 240 years apart.  What else could it be to affect men, weather, and volcanoes all at once?

 

But I suspect the additional energy flooding into all men gives them a very hard time, hyping them up, and those who don’t know how to shed and direct the energy appropriately — which is most of us — become manic and unthinking, and to some extent collectively go mad.  As events on the ground direct them, so it can be channeled into grandeur, like the industrial revolution, or into a suicidal bloodbath like Jacobin France.

We appear to desire the latter right now, where the most astonishing, easily falsifiable accusations are made, and followed through just as thoughtlessly by the mob.  They attack and hang one man one day, then the next his accuser comes under scrutiny and is hanged in turn, yet no one makes a call to sense and order, but rather to more ghosts, more bogymen, and more panic that chases them in turn like the devil of Sir Thomas More. …Thankfully merely murder-by-reputation so far, but it would be shocking indeed if that lasted long.

I also believe men know this, and far from stopping it, prefer to make fortunes by going with the tide and pushing it along, tirelessly undermining nations they can short, and then supporting the kings rising on the wheel of fortune and hitching to their star until in the next cycle they will be undermined in turn. 

Unfortunately, it is Europe and America’s time down on the wheel, and they are doing everything they can — spending trillions, directing Facebook and the Guardian, buying ministers and judges, undermining every pillar of our society, economic, social, moral — in their quest to drive us down, and therefore buy us up cheap in “Disaster Capitalism.”  And being in the lowering tide, we don’t need any additional help.

 

However, with such sturm und drang, there’s just shouting man to man everywhere, sheer bedlam, and otherwise good people get caught up in it, accusing you, accusing me, and exhausting and ruining themselves at a time we most need to pull together, make forgiveness, and apply what limited forces we have to the task of saving ourselves and our values.

So what do we do? Well if indeed we are each being over-energized and overloaded as it seems, we need to calm and ground ourselves in deeper principles that are unchanging — a thing far easier said than done. 

However, if we can see that all of us are in the same dilemma, we are all ill-at-ease, and it’s not the other guy, it’s ourselves too that is short tempered, short-sighted, jumping to conclusions — in a word: short — then we can go through the day and this time better, and address it better, redress it better, and make more accurate, more practical and productive responses than if we didn’t know where our new trouble and new agitation is coming from.

Because history shows these things happen, and we’re in it now and it’s clearly happening to us. Perceiving all this years ago, I took myself to a humble place and planted trees, as the Stoics at the fall of Rome retreated to walled gardens and enjoyed what life they could, and although it’s a hard life and everyone’s answer is different, these things pass and all men have troubles and die even in the best of times.

So while I find it as frustrating as anyone, to be outrageously accused, to not be heard day after day, I try to keep perspective as well.  It may not be a help to them, but it’s a help to me at least, so I can possibly answer the call to help someday, should any someday come.

But I don’t think so.  Like Robespierre or Washington, I expect it to vent its madness on me and on us all with little restraint instead.  My job is to weather it as I can and wait for better springs to come, which they will, but decades from now.
 

 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
– Julius Caesar Act 4 Scene 3

 

 

Apr 172018
 


Charles Sprague Pearce Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt 1877

 

In Matthew 12:22-28, Jesus tells the Pharisees:

 

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

In 1858, US Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln borrows the line:

 

On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

Even Lincoln’s friends regarded the speech as too radical for the occasion. His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically incorrect. Lincoln read the speech to him before delivering it, referring to the “house divided” language this way: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

On April 12, 2018, the Washington Post runs this headline:

We need to go big in Syria. North Korea is watching.

The WaPo is undoubtedly disappointed that James Mattis prevailed over more hawkish voices in Washington and the least ‘expansive’ attack was chosen.

Then after the attack, Russian President Putin warns of global ‘chaos’ if the West strikes Syria again. And I’m thinking: Chaos? You ‘Predict’ Chaos? You mean what we have now does not qualify as chaos?

Yes, Washington Post, North Korea is watching. And you know what it sees? It sees a house divided. It sees an America that is perhaps as divided against itself as it was prior to the civil war. An America that elects a president and then initiates multiple investigations against him that are kept going seemingly indefinitely. An America where hatred of one’s fellow countrymen and -women has become the norm.

An America that has adopted a Shakespearian theater as its political system, where all norms of civil conversation have long been thrown out the window, where venomous gossip and backstabbing have become accepted social instruments. An America where anything goes as long as it sells.

 

In an intriguing development, while Trump pleased the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and MSNBC, his declared arch-enemies until the rockets flew, his own base turned on him. While the ‘liberals’ (what’s in a word) cheered and smelled the blood, the right wing reminded the Donald that this is not what he was elected on – or for.

Can Trump afford to lose his base? Isn’t the right wing supposed to be the side that calls for guns and bombs? It’s unlikely that he can do without his base, it would weaken him a lot as the Lady Macbeths watch his every move looking for just that one opportunity, that one moment where his back is turned.

As for the right wing not being the bloodthirsty one, that is quite the shift. Not that it’s a 180 on a dime, it has been coming for a while. It’s not just interesting with regards to Trump, there are many war hawks who -will- see their support crumble too if or when they speak out for more boots in deserts. Maybe John McCain should consider changing parties?

 

So yeah, what does North Korea see? Should it be afraid? Will it have become more afraid? Kim Jong-Un will have watched for China’s reaction, much more important to him that what the US does. And China has condemned the attack. It would do the same if America were to attack North Korea, and a lot stronger. Therefore Kim Jong-Un doesn’t believe Washington will dare attack him.

An interesting line from Chinese state run newspaper Global Times illustrates how China sees the world, and the US in particular, at present:

 

“A weak country has no diplomacy. As a hundred years have passed, China is no longer that [weak] China, but the world is still that world.”

That is how China, and in its wake, North Korea, see America. And so does Russia. Americans may -and do- think that they are still no. 1, and the most powerful, economically, politically, militarily, but that’s no longer what the rest of the world sees.

Is the US still mightier than China militarily? Probably, but not certainly. Still, how do you conquer 1.3 billion people and keep them subdued? Xi Jinping is very aware of that, and he bides his time.

Is the US still mightier than Russia militarily? Almost certainly not. To quote Paul Craig Roberts once more (and he’s no amateur):

The Russians know that they can, at will within a few minutes, sink the entire US fleet, destroy every US airplane & ship in the ME & within range of the ME, completely destroy all of Israel’s military capability & wipe out the military of the two-bit punk state of Saudi Arabia.

I’ve written this before in the past: there is a big difference between how America sees and treats its military, and how Russia does it. A difference that explains how Russia can, with one tenth of American defense spending, still be militarily superior, or at least make any wars against it unwinnable.

That is, in the US the focus is not on making the best weapons, it’s on making the most money on weapons. Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed will develop those weapons that are most profitable, not those that are most effective. The interminable story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter is perhaps the best example of this, but there are many others. The Pentagon is a money pit.

Americans can perhaps still make the best weapons for the least money, but they don’t do it. Russia does. For Putin, the best weapons are a matter of survival. Russia has been under American threat as long as he can remember.

While Americans believe so strongly in their supremacy, and have grown so accustomed to the idea, that they no longer see having the best weapons as a matter of survival for the nation. They have come to see their superiority as something automatic and natural.

 

The attack on Syria is seen as a sign of weakness. Because there was no need for it. Because the evidence is flimsy at best. Because the world has international bodies to deal with such issues. Because there is no logic in allowing the blood to flow in the Gaza and Yemen but cite humanitarian reasons for bombing alleged chemical facilities elsewhere.

What the world sees is bluster emanating from a deeply divided nation (and we haven’t even tackled Britain). It sees that less than 48 hours after the airstrikes, a former FBI chief talks about his former boss in terminology that nobody would dare use in most countries, and throughout most of history,

James Comey is beyond Shakepeare. And in America, the issue is who’s right in the Comey-Trump conflict. In Russia, China et al it’s not. They see a house, a country divided. A weak country has no diplomacy.

That’s how all empires end. Complacency and division. That is what North Korea sees when it watches America, what China, and Russia see. And they may even know how Jesus put it. He didn’t just say a kingdom divided would become less powerful or wealthy, he said:

 

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.

 

 

Jul 232017
 


Ford Madox Brown King Lear and Cordelia c1851

 

Mea culpa. Yesterday I wrote Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?, and not long after publishing it, I figured I missed the target I was going for. Not 100%, and it’s not all bad, as people’s reactions have confirmed, but…

The thing is, Trump’s nomination of Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director was not the main point of my piece. Tempting, because everybody knows the Queen song, but not the main one, and it certainly shouldn’t have been the title of the piece.

So, sorry for that, and let me try to correct. The much stronger point, in my ever so humble view, that I hit on yesterday is the connection between Donald Trump and William Shakespeare. In fact, I think that from now on we should all see Trump in that light. Simply because it fits so … fittingly.

Not because I would call Trump mad, that is far too easy a view. But because his story, both as it unfolds today and in its history, has so many classic Shakespearean elements. And when we look at our world through the glasses of the ‘Old Bard’, we will see it in a different light. As in: Trump could be a man in the process of going mad. Or he could not.

Not that it’s just about Trump. Richard Nixon looks, if anything, way more Shakespeare material than Da Donald. Though, admittedly, we can oversee Nixon’s entire history, while Trump’s is ongoing (he has promise), and Shakespeare is all about development, about what happens to people as they go through what happens to them.

Macbeth and King Lear describe the trappings -and much more- of power. How power corrupts, and not only absolute power. How sociopathic character traits make people seek power, and how it -often- destroys them. But also how outside forces influence them, in -just as often- highly destructive ways.

That’s not to say that Shakespeare, if he were alive today, would have written a play about Trump. I don’t know that, we don’t. I do think he would have found it hard to stay away from Nixon, but that’s just a guess, even if Tricky Dick seems to have all the required boxes ticked off.

The Bard of Avon might have opted for Hillary Clinton’s story instead of Trump’s. Hers has most if not all of his ingredients, power, corruption, murder, treason, trust -and the lack thereof-, madness -inborn, inbred and developing-, gossip, innuendo, conspiracies, scheming, backstabbing, the lot. That’s not trying to single out Hillary, it’s just saying that all these power-seeking tragedies have the same elements.

Shakespeare situated Macbeth in Scotland, Hamlet in Denmark and King Lear in Britain, while the latter play was highly influenced by Sophocles’ Oedipus (Rex), which is set in Greece. Location is for once not essential -sorry, real estate guys-, power corrupts everywhere, and in more or less the same ways and sequences.

Apart from the entire list of people in his camp, some of which get thrown out from time to time, the Trump narrative also relies to a great extent on all the outside people trying to bring him down. It’s hard to see how Shakespeare could not have loved that. Fair is foul and foul is fair, but now with the three witches in Macbeth’s opening part -the media, the commentators?!- having chosen sides from the beginning.

Hillary as Lady Macbeth? Again, tempting, but we’re not Shakespeare -or Sophocles-. Putting too much emphasis on any of the specific traits of characters from 400+ or 2000+ year-old plays doesn’t look like the way to go. For one thing, Shakespeare wouldn’t have wanted to repeat himself. It’s the overarching themes and characteristics that count. What the hunger for power did to people then, and what it does to them now.

If only we had someone to write today’s stories, today. But those writers, the ones that can gaze inside their own narratives, don’t come around very often. And when they do, they write about long-ago narratives and conspiracies. Good thing we can learn from them regardless because many things about our species never change. In a few words: what the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare and many others taught us is that Power equals Tragedy. And that’s eternal.

Moreover, since our media is failing us in unprecedented fashion, Shakespeare looks like our best bet if we want to understand what is happening in Washington. Or Brussels, Berlin, Beijing. Think entertainment value. What else are you going to do? The Bard’s original audiences reportedly threw eggs and tomatoes at the stage.

 

 

Jul 222017
 
 July 22, 2017  Posted by at 1:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Hieronymus Bosch Adoration of the Magic c1472

 

So sorry to see Sean Spicer go, even if I never watch TV, so I only got snippets of his acting performances -and Melissa McCarthy’s. One of the very few SNL and other ‘comedy’ shows skids that was actually funny, in the same way that very few of the New York Times and Washington Post ‘articles’ on Trump have been actually news.

As I wrote to a friend earlier today, sure Spicer’s gone, but there’ll be other entertaining characters to replace him. Say what you will about the Trump administration, but never a dull moment. Having Mike Pence become president would kill all the fun.

Sad!

Scaramucci is a great start to phase 2. Or is that 22? The guy’s a Wall Street pawn who badmouthed Da Donald not long ago. Moreover, says a Daily Beast headline, “Anthony Scaramucci Loved Hillary, Gave to Obama, and Deleted Anti-Trump Tweets”.

Wonderful!

Now I know the White House should not really be a theater, but hey, it already is, so we might as well make the best of it. And the name Scaramucci alone carries so much promise. Not only because of the Queen line from Bohemian Rhapsody, but also because of, as Wikipedia puts it:

Scaramouch. 1660s, name of a cowardly braggart (supposed by some to represent a Spanish don) in traditional Italian comedy, from Italian Scaramuccia, literally “skirmish,” from schermire “to fence,” from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German skirmen “defend”); see skirmish (n.).

and

Scaramuccia (literally “little skirmisher”), also known as Scaramouche or Scaramouch, is a stock clown character of the Italian commedia dell’arte. The role combined characteristics of the zanni (servant) and the Capitano (masked henchman).

A cowardly braggart! There is so much promise there. And theater, tragedy, drama, entertainment. Look, that’s what Shakespeare made of politics, and many others did too, so maybe we should just get used to it. It’s not all that new, kings and queens and power hungry sociopaths have been the subjects of plays and worse for ages. When you see anything Trump, think Shakespeare. Give it the proper historical context.

Think Macbeth. Think King Lear. Think Trump.

Think:

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright’ning me
(Galileo.) Galileo. (Galileo.) Galileo. Galileo figaro magnifico
I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity..