Saturday, November 22, 2014

"A Sort of Song" by William Carlos Williams

Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
-- through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

The first half of this poem seems to be about words themselves -- that is "the writing," explained metaphorically with the snake. Williams is expressing his desire to see a new sort of language emerge in poetry, a language that is just as accurate and effective ("sharp to strike"), as well as determined ("quiet to wait, / sleepless") as a serpent hunting its prey.

But furthermore, especially in the second stanza, Williams seems to be referring to a sort of lingual existentialism. "No ideas but in things" is the most famous line from this poem for a reason. With this simple phrase, Williams beautifully reiterates the entire basis of existentialism: there is no essence without there first being existence (that is, there are no ideas of things without the things themselves existing first). This is why "the people and the stones" must be "reconciled" -- not humans reconciled with stones, but humans reconciled with humans, stones reconciled with stones, selves reconciled with selves. Not only the philosophy, but the language of our times as well, has apparently been corrupted by the illusion of an essence. According to Williams, a person can never be just "a person" -- instead, he will always be himself, a singularity, an existence who will always prove more beautiful than the idea of "a person" (that is, any person). Interestingly, Williams understands literature as a way of expressing singularity, a way of illustrating existence itself (by no means a simple "individuality," which always expresses itself in the form of lonely predicates, or in other words the very "ideas" to which Williams refers*), hence his poems' frequent use of detailed of imagery.

The final line is a metaphor that concludes the poem perfectly: his vibrant saxifrage, that is his gorgeous imagery, will subvert and "split" all of the supposed concreteness and coldness of modern language.

*Everything in these parentheses is extremely unclear, but I can clear this up eventually

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Refusal to Vote

There are few things more sickening than the condescending demand to “get out and vote.” To expect any sort of real representation in the current political system is purely delusional. Raising or lowering the income tax by five percent, passing an “overhaul” of the healthcare system, or investing in alternative energy all change nothing in reality. There will still exist the most humiliating poverty -- now, more social than economic. There will still remain the most brutal racism. There will still linger the most vicious wars. For everyone, there will still remain the crushing monotony of work.

Nothing remains in the realm of classical politics besides a desire to sustain the status quo, an inclination to reinforce the current mode of production. Once conservatives are pressed, they eventually admit that all the life-support machines deployed by the welfare state are the only things keeping riots from breaking out at each and every moment. Once progressives are scrutinized, they all eventually begin telling about the wonders of the free market and of capitalism -- albeit a “regulated” capitalism. We cannot help but suspect that the supposed conflict between Left and Right is a false dichotomy: even the state-controlled economies of Leninist states, once analyzed from the correct perspective, begin to look eerily similar to the most unregulated markets of the West. For this reason, everything that has been presented to us thus far -- within the realm of classical politics -- must be considered capitalism. The Right and the Left represent different approaches, each with its own benefits, but no real difference in principle. It is surprising that two sides of the same coin have created enemies out of each other for so long.

The shift to the Left that occurred in the 20th century after the world witnessed the horrors of completely unregulated capitalism does not represent a victory for the working class in any sort of way. Leninist states in the East and the more moderate welfare states of the West always served as mere methods of keeping capitalism alive. If these welfare-based reforms had not taken place, society would not have been able to function at all. People would not have been able to live in such severe poverty and inequality without erupting into violence. And here we find the only question with which we are faced in classical politics today, the question that sparks so many banal debates between conservatives and progressives: “To what degree should we regulate capitalism?”

Of course this question comes along with the assumption that capitalism must survive at all costs. This is why we reject classical politics. This is why we find ourselves unable to be represented. We are not concerned with the degree at which the government should regulate this mode of production. We are instead concerned with destroying this mode of production. We are solely interested in abolishing capitalism.

Radicalism aside, we must all agree, at the very least, that it is simply impossible for an individual to represent hundreds of thousands of people, or that a legislative body made up of a few hundred could represent hundreds of millions. From the perspective of pure liberty, we ask that people refuse to vote in order to delegitimize the elections, in order to demonstrate that there is no longer any faith in this ridiculous idea of “representation.”

Finally, we come to Ferguson, where a “democratically elected” apparatus decides to violently suppress peaceful protesters -- the same protesters who supposedly voted for this government in the first place. As usual, the election itself gave the government the legitimacy to use violence. Democracy, everywhere, looks like Ferguson. It is not enough to retroactively analyze the polls for racial turnouts or for a specific political climate: we must denounce the polls themselves.

From this angle, it becomes clear why so many citizens in the West describe their vote as “a choice between two evils.” When presented with such a predicament, we understand that the only real choice that remains is the refusal to vote. This is why we say do not vote. We have too much dignity to willingly vote for a lesser of two evils, to willingly sign over our personal liberty to someone else. From now on, our ballot will be our absence. Our representatives will come from the streets.