Category Archives: Situationist

Name This Manifesto The Old Millstone Around My Neck

Aisle 6
All or Nothing, Aisle 6
WASHINGTON, DC—DATELINE OCTOBER 27, 2003. Forging an identity in these uncertain times is not an easy task for someone who has prided himself on his independence, first and foremost, from most of the reckoning powers pursuing his support or demise, whichever comes first. As a result of this hesitancy, the Scenewash Project has little to promote but is simply a slowly developing critical work-in-progress concerned foremost with identifying in fresh terms the strategic forces now influencing the corrosive state of American politics, its public policies, both foreign and domestic, and in postulating, after careful consideration of the formidable body of evidence, a compelling worldview better suited to these uncertain times which try humanity's collective soul, contaminate our air, corrupt our speech, implode our habits, regale our future, and break our very wills to contribute to a sane and friendly but progressive and fearless community.

We have considered this task a worthy occupation to the end of our lives, if need be, because we believe that the original promises of these United States of America still beckon, and that the American political experiment, despite its follies and excesses which certainly require checking, is superior to any the world has yet seen. We will not prepare for a collapse of the West, just because a few malingering malcontents clamour for world revolution, whether it be from a Marxist, Maoist, or an Islamist perspective, but shall fight these perspectives while calling for a more focussed revitalization of America's own backyard.

Now more clearly understood as a rather ordinary attempt to peel back the layers of a conflicted mental landscape where art and politics beat each other up while few are they the wiser, we will express ourselves in terms of the past and the present, and will not appeal to an uncertain future which fatalists of every tradition, especially those of religion, of politics, and of science, pay homage to and usually broker every prejudice and every pride in vainglorious attempts to thrust the spirit of humanity onto the flaming pyres of god, gold, state, and imperialist superstition.

These dialecticians who worship the binary while faithlessly praising the unitary, operate on misguided principles which presume dialectics is an inclusive exercise of expression rather than the polarizing noise only well-entrenched and sometimes well-meaning fools and their followers, unquestionably trapped in status and nuance, can embrace.
Originally conceived as a wrecking ball to schoolboy aspirations, this site has no choice but to erupt from the silent passages of time and truth by urging a return to those same aspirations, reflecting a growing inversion of the individual artistic urge and its involuntary suppression by the forces of a co-opting culture. This culture is a mythology in which the artist, the politician, the ordinary citizen and varied patrons are forced by necessities of survival to conspire with lessons and insults to separate the vigorous mind from the expansive spirit with shop-worn tautologies and fantasy, eschewing the everyday, the mundane, the merely indifferent, rendering as obsolete the witnesses of this takeover.

A fading youth spent in ceaseless searching, knocking, seeking, and digging only to discover little of lasting value is one whose only inspiration translates an energy dedicated to the enumeration of differences between zero and nothing, self and the other, in recovering value and anti-value based not on a system of indulgences, individually or collectively wrapped, but on an absolute proof that language is mere alphabet dirt and slogans are only wordsuck. Languages run amuck become dangerous constructs perhaps of better service when fashioned into ploughshares of silence than into callous weapons of feathering alienation and mass confusion. Unless followed by actions appropriate to productive language, language has become nothing more than a functionary of aesthetics, and its practitioner, a co-opted pretender.

To that end, we offer few strategies or discernable guideposts to the currently self-enchanted. We have no use for those satisfied warriors of the establishment, those who wear the stripes of our enemies, smile the crooked smile, and walk the crooked mile beautifully camouflaged behind the mysteries of selfishness. We shall show how they also have no use for us. With a multitude of theories calling for bombs and abortion, no one is safe in this calculating world. Of course, we—the radical centrists— refuse to be pigeonholed, not by the haranguing extremists nor by the denizens and addicts of apathy. If we are a hybrid breed of political creature, so be it.

We, however, boast of a singular aim. To articulate a well-considered argument describing what we believe to be the only hope for America and the world, and that hope, in a phrase, is progressive centrism. The center is nearly always dismissed by the polarizing POWERS OF ENTRENCHMENT as mushy or wishy washy, unable to make up its minds. We however, believe that it is these polarizing powers of the Left and the Right, who fight false wars on false battlegrounds, who make well-choreographed concessions in lucrative soundbytes and photo op activities merely for appearances sake who have truly betrayed this country, and this planet.

In the United States with its two party system, the aggragate lobbies and special interests attest plainly to this phenomenon of hypocrisy which disrepects and excludes (while still clamouring for its vote) the progressive centrist. These dialecticians who worship the binary while faithlessly praising the unitary, operate on misguided principles which presume dialectics is an inclusive exercise of expression rather than the polarizing noise only well-entrenched and sometimes well-meaning fools and their followers, unquestionably trapped in status and nuance, can embrace.

The byword is moderation in all things but truth. Extremism is killing us all. Polarization is the sword that fertilizes the fields of plenty with the blood of innocence, and rots the crops of destiny. Our manifesto is not the place for specific criticism, but the Scenewash Project web site will by the best laid plans of mice and men, embrace this dialectical mission.The Left and the Right must be reeled in.

We believe that the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the writings and spirit of Thomas Paine are a good place to start.

The greed of the right and the stupidity of the left have rendered the vast majority of us useless, oppressed by the perfumed stench of their theories and their actions. The salt of the earth purifies and preserves. Where do we begin this purification process? Who will be our leaders? Is it possible that a renewed sensibility can arise from the falsifying political landscape now pulled taut like a rubber band by the existing powers that be? We don't know, but we insist on trying.

We are reminded of this metaphor. Jesus of Nazareth was walking along the road to anywhere. The mother of two of his disciples who were brothers, rushed up and voiced her desire that he grant her wish that one of them sit on their master's left hand (wing) and the other to sit on his right. The Nazarene's reply was simple and to the point: "You don't know what you are talking about. He went on to describe that the rulers of the heathen exhibit hierarchies of the strong who oppress the little ones, but it must not be so among them, the chosen. I add a footnote. Among the common folk there is a general consensus that politics is the mother of all harlots. Thus, I derive my notion of the "progressive centrist" as originating with this tale.

There must be a better way to fix what ails us than rupturing the rubber band while trying to maintain the status quo or sending the globe into unfathomable chaos as many on the far left and far right would advocate, each according to their own specific madness.
In another of the synoptics, the story is retold without the mother's presence, but it is the brothers themselves who approach their teacher with this request for special position and honors. The remainder of the incident is identical to the other.

It is clear. The Left and the Right each boast a portion of the TRUTH, which can be likened to a rubber band that has no beginning and no end. The progressive centrist inhabits the area within the circle created by the band itself, open and free space loosely formed and with equal access to the truth which lies along the circumference of the band. Both parties in the extreme meanwhile haplessly mark battle lines shouting war cries and stretch the band of truth as far as they can by pulling it deep and taut into their own camps, tightening and oppressing the more central and observable truths and those populations which dwell inside the once freely-circulating circle.

Once the tightened rubber band has been pulled to its extreme limit and has been popped, truth no longer exists in its most perfect sense with no beginning and no end, of equal benefit to all, but becomes the ultimate weapon of deception, far worse than the chartable deceptions of the band-tightening oppositional parties in their constrained tugs of war. Surely we can recognize the political landscape in this metaphor.

There must be a better way to fix what ails us than rupturing the rubber band while trying to maintain the status quo or sending the globe into unfathomable chaos as many on the far left and far right would advocate, each according to their own specific madness. So while we recall that the life and works of Thomas Paine are a good place to begin analyzing the difference between zero and nothing, the left and the right, extremism and moderation, life and death, we acknowledge that we do not live in his time, and therefore, must invent new methods to render equality, peace and plenty equitably upon the earth.

What say ye?

So, there is much work ahead of us, and we promise only this:

To experiment with the strident advances of web technology and design, deploying each to an oddball degree, while avoiding the genuflection of a generic stylism which furnishes the cynic with a strategic mouthful of pleasure while leaving us sad and purposeless. We will commit to compiling a point and counterpoint latticework mapping the existing political schematic as we find it. We shall then parse, and emerge with what we consider to be the radical centrist position along this latticework.

To furnish enough raw material to keep us busy through the thick years of our recorded visitation. To live the literary life along the bold, new terms of hypertextual reality, scratching out both an artistic body of visual work to match the music in our heads, keeping our eyes on our own pages and thus working to defeat the demons of boredom that envy and indifference can frequently induce and inadequately generalize while keeping free from the entanglements of frenzy the world mandates with its emphasis on competition and so-called originality. To work the gravitational pull of our own simple orbit, one field of inertia at a time...

Whole Grains of Salt

Cracking Surface
Cracking Surface
DATELINE MARCH 29, 2004. It was bound to happen. It was bound to happen to me. After three and a half years of critical stagnation, or seven, if you count the ego-soaked swillibuster era—after compiling thousands and organizing hundreds of spewing streams of political, artistic, and theological treatise, essay, opinion, oddball blasphemy, jack wrong nonsense, half-baked curds and whey rolling up the sleeves of the duly infatuated—in a single absent-minded act of accidental shredding, the work that had filled my long gaps of inactivity has finally vanished. If I were more the conspiratorial flogstaff, I'd swear that old bean sprout leftie Len Bracken had something to do with this tragic miscue. Just yesterday, he had me worried that he wanted me to yank up some old 1994 manuscript files of a book I'd typeset for him. I still had them sitting on my drive, but wasn't anxious to go digging for them.

This was my first mistake. I'd boasted instead of keeping my own counsel. And as is nearly always the case, I soon paid the price for my bravado, always finding new and ingenius ways to suffer the consequences of ego. Here's my crash report to Bracken this morning:

Thanks again for the editor's copy of your movie. I think I will take a few breaths before watching it again. In a completely unrelated event last night, I trashed and shredded my entire Scenewash Project, losing forever some 800 MB of text and graphics I had been collecting and coordinating as reference material for both the web site and my own stalled writing career, such as it is. Attempts to recover the data netted only about 200 MB of the original gigabyte of material including what was backed up by virtue of sitting on the webserver already in play, so that's one small consolation. Bad news is that among the 800 MB was your entire archive of Guy Debord - Revolutionary, the cover I designed, the original typesetting, et cetera, all of which has been lost.

Young Guy Debord
A Young Guy Debord
The only remains of Len Bracken on my system are those web pages I created, and whatever is posted to the web site in the Situationist section where other "conspiracy" material was archived. Of course, I had the whole mess backed up on the wife's machine, until I dumped it clearing out space in which to edit —yep, you guessed it—The Lazy Ones not so long ago you may recall. Now isn't that a striking irony.

Apparently when I was thrushing out the the weeds I (or some ghost in the machine) managed to drag the entire Scenewash folder containing all these working archives into the trash, and when prompted to empty I noted the size of the dump was rather high for what I presumed was in the trash by choice, but failed to follow up my suspicion with a quick peek of the contents. Result was instant disaster and chaos, regrets in a handbasket.

Bowing to fate, all this so-called scholarly work has been lifted off my shoulders, for better or worse, for the foreseeable future. The weight has lifted. One day I will regain my strength to sort through what little I was able to recover, and merge them with my paper files, and perhaps only then be rightfully prepared to sculpt a work of art worthy of all those keystrokes and hours lost in sitting. Time will always kill a mockingbird.

This post is republished from the Project Scenewash archives.

The Mark Of Successful Leadership

weakdollar
Weak dollar stifles chances of recovery...
HAS NAVIGATING THIS INEPT STINKING SINKING ECONOMY frayed every last creative nerve you once believed you needed to safely and surely keep the course, a roof over your family's head, food on the table, clothes on your back, and a few dollars in your wallet even though you've already lost your 401K and the company you've worked for nearly thirty years is hinting that your profit-sharing plan probably won't be there either? Are you now suffering with the gritty impression you really have no particular place in this failing society known mostly for its slobbering apotheosis of its own spectacular pursuits, ignoring the risk of losing it all in the wave of someone else's disinterested politics? Are you feeling as off-kilter as you did the first time someone told you didn't matter in the big scheme of things. Well, perhaps your own painful tribulations of spirit are an indication that there is still hope for the rest of us. The startling fact is, you might make our next great leader!

...the very qualities that mark those with mood disorders—realism, empathy, resilience, and creativity—also make for the best leaders in times of crisis. By combining astute analysis of the historical evidence with the latest psychiatric research, Ghaemi demonstrates how these qualities have produced brilliant leadership under the toughest circumstances.

The Confluence, an always informative and witty pro-Hillary support site, has posted a lively essay positing why the oh so boring and unpresidential Barack Obama lacks true leadership skills. Read it all. Don't forget the reader comments.

Riding The Big Waves of Capitalism

Capitalism operates in waves. I have held the opinion for a decade or so that the United States would need to eventually ease into a form of national capitalism in order to compete with similar large regimes in China, Russia, Europe, and several oil-rich quasi-socialist entities in the Middle East. Let me be perfectly clear. I am not advocating a misguided heavy-handed socialist agenda for America, or anything remotely close to the pie-eyed Marxist flim flam so popular among Left-wing bookstore café hipsters who are as personally selfish as any pickup truck-driving capitalist I've ever met. Yet so many of these lovely people with the trés chic smiles embrace an ideology which always seems to end in a pernicious totalitarianism and uninvited oppression by an elite class, quite a shell shocker or two in scale from the worse forms of capitalism ever practiced. Forget all that shuck and jive about false consciousness. It exists, but no one has a monopoly on a justifiable antidote. Life is not that damn complex, even for the uneducated. After all, even for the Big Kahuna, negotiating a Big Wave is a good thing. Negotiating a tsunami, not so much.

I predicted this need to ease into a form of national capitalism back in the 1990s to a loosely knit group of internationalists who were known as the Sworgists for no other reason than the fact that we had gathered around the fledgling Scenewash Project to discuss the future of capitalism. Back then, I was a staunch believer in the capitalist system, and at some point in the late 90s I coined the phrase, "Capitalism has proven to be the most effective and purest form of communism ever practiced."

Having founded the listserv I dubbed—THE SWORG SWILL—I was operating among several staunch Marxists, and a couple of progressives who decried all previous failed experiments, of which Situationist Marxism and formal capitalism were the two more prominent. We hailed from Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Nottingham, England, Peoria, IL, and Sidney, Australia. All of us intuited that capitalism was weakening and its constitutional faultlines deepening. Trapped in our own miasma and personal biases however, we often disagreed on how to proceed with our investigations, and the group ended rather abruptly in May, 2000, after several years of communication.

But I had I suggested that we didn't need no stinking revolution because I viscerally agreed with the poet and musician John Lennon, who rejected revolution while advocating peace. No bloody pacifist am I—given the horrid nature of the world—I however still prefer peace to war, a slap in the face or a kick in the collective ass to total war, and a purpose bounced ounce of dignity in life for everyone not waving a death sentence at me or my family. My impression then and my impression now is that capitalism would fall of its own weight and greed, and in that particular historical moment, a massive reorganization towards a kinder gentler socialist model could possibly improve the government, its daily standards, and the uncommon conditions of more common people struggling in this world, where unfortunately the many prop up the few.

I think that time has come. To that end, let's observe the festering approach in today's New York Times:

US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court
FINANCE EXPERTS SAY THAT HAVING Washington take stakes in United States banks now—like government interventions in the past—would be a promising move to address an economic emergency. The plan by the Treasury Department, they say, could supply banks with sorely needed capital and help restore confidence in financial markets.

Elsewhere, government bank-investment programs are routinely called nationalization programs. But that is not likely in the United States, where nationalization is a word to avoid, given the aversion to anything that hints of socialism.

In past times of war and national emergency, Washington has not hesitated. In 1917, the government seized the railroads to make sure goods, armaments and troops moved smoothly in the interests of national defense during World War I. After the war ended, bondholders and stockholders were compensated and railways were returned to private ownership in 1920.

During World War II, Washington seized dozens of companies, including railroads, coal mines and, briefly, the Montgomery Ward department store chain. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman seized 88 steel mills across the country, asserting that unyielding owners were determined to provoke an industrywide strike that would cripple the Korean War effort. That nationalization did not last long, though, because the Supreme Court ruled the move an unconstitutional abuse of presidential power.

In banking, the government took an 80 percent stake in the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust in 1984. Continental Illinois failed in part because of bad oil-patch loans in Oklahoma and Texas. As the nation’s seventh-largest bank, Continental Illinois was deemed “too big to fail” by federal regulators, who feared wider turmoil in the financial markets. In the end, the government lost an estimated $1 billion on the bad loans it bought as part of the takeover of Continental, which eventually became part of Bank of America.

Read it all.

The Delirious Guy Debord

Guy Debord Laid Bare: A Review
By Gabriel Riocabo

Guy Debord: Revolution In The Service Of Poetry (2006)
By Vincent Kaufmann
University Of Minnesota Press

Young Guy Debord
A Young Guy Debord

Revolutionary, romantic, heretic, theorist, vagabond, who was Guy Debord, and wghat was he all about? Vincent Kaufmann’s new biography Guy Debord: Revolution in the Service of Poetry, translated by Robert Bonnono, demonstrates that such a question is inadequate. For Kaufmann, we must know who Debord was. Without recourse to pop psychology or gossip, Kaufmann discovers that the man who is often credited with foreseeing and inspiring the Paris student revolts of May 1968 was no flash in the pan, but rather a remarkably consistent man. His first graffiti, “travaillez jamais” (never work), written at the age of 20 in 1951, bears the stamp of radicalism, simplicity and precision, from which, for Kaufmann, Debord would never stray.

Where autobiography becomes a form of social criticism and where life becomes theory is where we find Debord. He wrote what he lived and lived what he wrote. And he indeed never worked. For Kaufmann, the consistency of Debord’s devotion to himself was a wholesale rejection of every aspect of the world as it appeared in its ruling representation, what Debord famously termed “the spectacle.”

Debord founded an avant-garde devoted to “creating situations,” the more revolutionary the better. The goal was to integrate life and art. The street was the place where this became possible. Kaufmann does well in describing their most prominent tactics. “Derive” – the art of systematic wandering – and “détournement” – the reappropriation of others’ words in different contexts – were intended to create situations where life could be experienced authentically, without mediation.

Kaufmann points out that these techniques were hardly original and in fact borrowed from previous avant-gardes, but for the Situationists this was of little matter. The tactics had been “detourned” and in the hands of the right practitioners they were revolutionary. In Debord’s hands, they were an art of living and a steadfast way to refuse being co-opted.

Unsurprisingly, the task was easily misunderstood. The Situationist International had to remain small. Even today some of Debord’s barbs hurled at more “mature” leftists crack off the page. On Sartre: “It’s not enough to reject the Nobel Prize, you have to not deserve it in the first place.”

But the book is not a laundry list of leftist squabbles or a recital of the Situationists’ mythologies, what the SI didn’t do, how small it remained and how suddenly it disappeared. There were no SI battalions in May ’68, but their invisible hand is evident in the slogans still remembered today: “Take your desires for realities;” “Demand the impossible.”

Naturally, talking about an invisible actor makes for some repetitive and overly rhetorical moments. Long passages in the middle of the book become proof of Debord’s insistence that “the more well received our ideas, the shadier we will become.” Kaufmann occasionally lapses into wistfulness and does not give context for the uninitiated. Overheated defenses of Debord against previous paper-tiger biographers also make an unwelcome appearance.

Read it all.

Hints On Intellectual Honesty

Gabriel Thy
Gabriel Thy
SWORG SWILL LISTSERV | June 21, 1999

Crash writes: I'm glad that you are so clear on your political position.

Kube writes: This was a joke right? Here are a few clearer generalisations.
1. that everyone is and should be out for themselves (individualism)
2. that everyone is mutually interdependent and only equity (of opportunity to develop what you are) can ultimately deliver what anyone needs (communism, self-interest). That is, the nurturing of the parts is the nurturing of the whole.
3. that such an interdependent and complex system can only work on the basis of control by the people (anarchism, efficiency.)
4. that the task is immense and cannot be perfected overnight (revolution, pragmatism) (also see my position on violence)
5. that human relations are inseparable from material conditions (sociology, biology)
6. that all that is springs from material conditions (materialism, religion)
7. there are loads more, but the above will do to fill in most of the traditional boxes.

Crash writes...
Because I'm still working on my position and feel that I'm constantly evolving, I'm not willing to throw my hat into the standard groups (situs, anarchists, marxists, whatever).

Kube writes...
Well I've been TRYING to throw in my lot with some kind of standard group or other for longer than I can remember, for the simple reason that I felt it necessary to organize and coordinate in order to have a benign effect upon a hostile social order. But the trouble with all these groups is simply that they're all fucking wrong.

And writes...
This is not to say that I disagree with Situationism (I want to live in situations!), Anarchism (I want to be free!) or Marxism (we must work together!), but as doctrines they fail to ensure the enlightenment of their own members let alone society at large, and “therefore” one must induct that as worldviews they are not necessarily wrong, but they are certainly lacking. My opinion is that they all lack much the same thing—a sufficient comprehension of relationship and its role in the creative process (that is, in its creation of the future).

And writes...
Anarchists simply refuse to acknowledge the dynamic expansive essence of human nature—they fall back onto small fragmented self-contained worlds (two hippies in a tent on an allotment); the Situationists fell into the pomo Sargasso of 'going with the flow', everything is permissible and utopia will build itself out of nothing at all; the Marxists developed dialectics—but only to the size of a blastocyst, then stopped. All those libraries of paper, all those pyramids of ponderings on what should be done in Somalia, Timbuktu, Peking when the truth is that their members couldn’t collectively make a chicken casserole out of a casserole and a chicken.

And writes...
Inevitably therefore, the basis of action, or of any cultural or political system which is its objective, must be individualism. In order for other people to be what you want them to be (whether you imagine this to be "sharing", "obedient", "enlightened", "beautiful" or whatever) you must create the conditions for them to make this of themselves. A world held in the shape you want it to be only by your own expenditure of energy is a world in which you suffer eternal hunger, toil, conflict, frustration and boredom. In other words, it's a paradox.

And writes...
This is the world we live in (reality on the ground, as Gabriel puts it).

And writes...
Even the desire to control others "for their own good" leads to a contempt for others which does not desire "their own good" any longer—THEY must instead be punished for being the projected object of YOUR own dissatisfaction.

This Inconvenient Reality

Originally published on June 20, 1999
[by a member of the anachronistic SWORG metabolism]

Well, I've been trying to throw in my lot with some kind of standard group or other for longer than I can remember, for the simple reason that I felt it necessary to organize and coordinate in order to have a benign effect upon a hostile social order. But the trouble with all these groups is simply that they're all fucking wrong. This is not to say that I disagree with situationism (I want to live in situations!), anarchism (I want to be free!) or marxism (we must work together!), but as doctrines they fail to ensure the enlightenment of their own members, let alone society at large, and “therefore” one must induct that as worldviews they are not necessarily wrong, but they are certainly lacking.

My opinion is that they all lack much the same thing—a sufficient comprehension of relationship and its role in the creative process (that is, in its creation of the future). Anarchists simply refuse to acknowledge the dynamic expansive essence of human nature—they fall back onto small fragmented self-contained worlds (two hippies in a tent on an allotment); the situationists fell into the pomo Sargasso of 'going with the flow', everything is permissible and utopia will build itself out of nothing at all ; the marxists developed dialectics—but only to the size of a blastocyst, then stopped. All those libraries of paper, all those pyramids of ponderings on what should be done in Somalia, Timbuktu, Peking when the truth is that their members couldn’t collectively make a chicken casserole out of a casserole and a chicken.

Kubhlai