INTERSECTIONALIST INTERNATIONAL

…that is the trend nowadays – people are no longer capable of staying on their own. They form into nonsensical groups.

Joseph Roth, The Emperor’s Tomb
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While my friend is in La Roche, where he is visiting me each year, we play chess and consider Life in General and The Being of it All. Somewhere in our conversations the word ‘intersectional’ drops from his mouth. I’ve never heard it before.

As that friend is well-read and far more versed and fluent in pondering the serious issues in life, I immediately take it to have a meaning. And it does have a meaning, so I note in my diary the following:

“Intersectional seems to be the new fad, a word for people who mix various off-side identities, for instance being a woman, a lesbian and black at the same time. For those who use the term, always applying it to their own condition, it is a kind of Geuzennaam.”

Not only was I wrong to put it like this, for the English reader an explanation of the utterly Dutch word Geuzennaam also seems to be in place. During our long war with the Spaniards, some Dutch minor aristocrats went to Brussels to hand in a petition. On their arrival, one of the Spanish bastards asked another Spanish bastard what these people could be. In French the answer was: “Don’t be afraid, Madam, ils sont que les gueux”. They but a bunch of beggars.

From then on the Dutch resistance movement against their southern oppressors called itself Geuzen, our bastard word for the French version. And ever since, any time someone adopts a contemptuous name given to them by some enemy, he will consider it a Geuzennaam. So much for that – it had to be done; there is, methinks, no word in the English language translating it properly.

Only a few weeks after I first heard it spoken, to my wild surprise I discovered that this strange word ‘intersectional’ already existed in 1939, as a term indicating something social. On page 51 of my edition of Fante’s novel Ask the Dust we read: He was sick after every intersectional football game that saw the east defeated… Can’t be true, is what I thought!

After the discussion with my friend – on this more further on – I first committed an anachronism, thinking that Fante meant teams of American Football with, say, White Negroes and Indian Whites in the line up. Of course, he only meant teams from the Western league playing teams from the Eastern part of the States. Nevertheless, there it was: intersectional. Might perhaps also be meaning something mathematical.

‘Intersectionality’, yes indeed, reification all around! It turns out to be “a term coined by an American feminist legal scholar, a critical race theorist and civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.” You got it! There is even more: These multiple intersecting identities “create a whole that is different from the component identities.” [Thus Wikipedia]

 

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So I asked my friend if this meant that we must await the formation of further ‘nonsensical groups’. Not awaiting, he said, they’re already there, claiming and demanding justice and special spaces to be in, separate from other types of in their eyes perhaps other, yet despicable intersectionalists. After all, there should finally come an end to all this oppressive intersectional injustice.

So then and there, in my little farmhouse in la France Profonde, I proposed the creation of a Fifth International. The I.I. or Intersectionalist International.

There once was a First International of Workingmen, dating all the way to 1864. There has been a Second Marxist one, which lasted till the First World War. Though pleading the complete union of all proletarians, it was still an undertaking of 1: men, 2: white men at that. Then we got some strife after the outbreak of that Great War and a Third International was created: The Communist International. After Stalin had ousted Trotsky from The Party, exiling him to Mexico, out there the Fourth or Trotskist International came alive – more or less. Yet, all of these Internationals were primarily sectionalist, alas.

So, why not do it and begin with the Fifth, the Intersectionalist International! By now it must have become clear to even the Kimberlé Williams Crenshaws of this world, that each single human being is in fact intersectional, victim of some of the multiple exclusions done to them by other intersectionalists – of course most of them unaware of their own misdeeds.

Do we need a new tune? We don’t. Anyone is nowadays signing the old International, we just keep the tune and compose a few new lines befitting the Intersectionalist International’s new social vista.

This then would be the Fifth International, but certainly the very first one to include the whole of mankind as well as all aliens who may arrive on earth from somewhere in outer space. Perhaps Kimberlé already came from out there. She may not yet be aware of it, but all of us are intersectionalist and this globe is our clubhouse. Let us not elevate what is common to us all into some new exclusionism.

Sierksma La Roche Autumn 2017

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POWER AND AUTHORITY IN FRANCE

Whenever you start screaming in France, shouting that this or that person is completely out of his mind, you’re wrong – at least, you may be wrong. That person might of course be an idiot, for sure, but where is it that one does not meet the  odd idiot? What is the real issue? This French society and its state. Both deserve one another thoroughly, and both are painstakingly mad.

 

The French State is still suffering from its Sun King Complex, no revolution could change that. In the French language it is known as Complexe de Chef. Since that infamous end of the 18th century, about which Burke wrote so well, every Frenchman wants to be king, or for that matter a queen. This naturally turns this society into a nuthouse. “I am the Queen of France.” “No, Sir, it is I who am the Queen of France” et cetera. And out here, just you try participating in traffic…

 

 

Any Frenchman shits his pants when he meets a figure with power, whether it is a policeman in the street, an official in one of the many state offices or a politician. Watch French television – when confronting a politician interviewers become visibly horny; the politician then, obviously, is never really confronted.

 

This is an utterly formalistic and authoritarian society, and this fact spells the downfall of its economy in this, our Brave New World. Nobody here speaks anything but French – even if they think so themselves. Any decision here seems to be a French decision, so fuck the rest of the world. A bit Trump-like, perhaps. In postmodern capitalism, global and flexible as it is, there is no place for such syrupy French decision making and its daily social cowardice.

 

Someone having read my Shootist [some time ago in a series on this blog Sequences] may remember the globetrotting one is forced into, when merely trying to get some very simple information. Now, once again, I was treated like dirt. I would like to buy a piece of land of the community, a triangle of say at most 20 square meters. I am the only one in the small hamlet without a space to park my car…

 

Now before going any further, I must remind my reader that a Frenchman also gets horny when land is involved and discussed, the property of land that is. Or for that matter really mad.

 

To be sure what it is all about:

 

 

 

Madame le Maire, the mayor of the village, claims that this little yellow piece of land is part of the Chemin Rurale n. 8, which – so she also claims – not only encircles our little village, but at the same also makes a loop through it.

 

Now, it is already completely silly that this triangle is considered part of a little road inside the hamlet. It simply is off the road and never touched by the community workers, nor tarred like the little path itself is. Sillier it is to think that this little road – hardly to be seen on the hamlet’s map – is part of the ‘communal road no. 8’. At least the roadmap they use at the Mayor’s suggests differently.

 

 

 

Inside that blue circle is the hamlet of La Roche, with its little path; that inside path is not indicated with blue as is done with no. 8… “Sir, you disagree, go to the Service Cadastrale in Le Blanc!” is what the mayor said to me, which is what I did an hour ago.

 

Out there it took me half an hour to find the bloody building, which also houses the office which rakes in taxes and bills not paid in time. I never saw a functionary, but was kept prisoner at the desk by two women who printed out the exact same two maps I already had received in Ruffec, my village. And: “Sir, if you have comments, complaints or questions, go to the office of the Departement in Chateauroux.” Which is 70 km further on.

 

Nobody in this country dares to take decisions; there is always someone higher up with ‘The Responsibility’. Ask a shop-assistant something just outside his regular repertoire, and he stops servicing you and asks for his chef. Which, of course, in the case of state officials, makes the real top dog exercise true power, instead of wielding civil authority (thank you Max Weber).

 

The citizen, or someone like me who has been living here for the last 18 years, either lies low, or he enters a loony bin, or he goes berserk and then meets officials in another function… Or he decides to wage war. Anarchism, so French a political custom, can be explained from the above. It is contagious.

 

So, why am I still living here in this, Ma Douce France? Because of the gorgeous country side all around, in which there are living very, very few Frenchmen.

 

Sierksma 28.8/2017

LE PENNISM, ANARCHISM AND THE VOTE

 

Since his wife died – a socialist who still held him in check – my French neighbour and friend in our very small hamlet has refused to vote. In his eyes all politicians are robber barons and cheats.

 

Now that the battle for the French presidency between Macron and Le Pen is on, I listen to his same old song, this time with some cute different little lyrics: Choosing between these two – so he says – is ‘voting for either the pest or for the cholera’. The difference – my neighbour and friend then adds, this for my pleasure – is that the cholera at least has some antidote.

 

But voting he won’t.

 

When still in the Netherlands I pondered the same question, even though with us it is not the presidency which was at stake, but the size of political fractions in parliament and the possible participation of a party in a coalition government. A few months long I claimed not to go and vote. In the end I did.

 

Abstentionism, if I may coin that word, always favours the wrong guys. The Brexit Referendum is a perfect example. So many young people whose interest it is to stay in Europe did not put their fiches into the urns. Also the cheating of those into voting wrongly will be sourly remembered. In the Netherlands it is that silly man with his platinum-whitened hair who seduces the fools, together with some other nationalist intellectuals.

 

 

 

Now, the interesting thing about France this Sunday is the still great contrast between La France Profonde – farmers’ territory – and the towns. France has always known a strong anarcho-syndicalist movement. And anarchism in whatever shade tends to be against parliamentarism.

 

Enzensberger – in his fine book on Spanish anarchism The Short Summer of Anarchy – argues convincingly that this anarchism is the result of the existence of a vast labour force that is or not all too long ago has been made up of agricultural workers. Anarchists always splinter and by not voting they let right-wing forces come into governmental power.

 

Such traditions have a long life and extent into  the present. This tradition holds that power should be ‘with the people’, that no hierarchy or parties should be organized. Action now and here is their motto.

 

So, with this anarchist mood in Deep France still very much present, one may expect that Le Pen gets more votes than might first be expected from the results in the first round. Many of those in the campagne who voted for left-wingers the first time, will now follow their root instinct and probably abstain.

 

One does not choose between the pest and the cholera – their alibi.

 

6.5/2017 La Roche

 

 

 

 

THE TRUMP SPLIT

Any serious visitor to the latest USA President finds himself in a real dilemma if not in a pragmatic paradox: Knowing that you are sitting at the table with a clown, though having to act as if you’re talking to the director of the circus.

Observe, if you can, the pictures of Pokerface Shinzo Abe during that open discussion of the Korean missile test at the dinner table in one of Trump’s vulgar restaurants…

[In parentheses: I wrote ‘the latest USA President…’; you’ve got to be fast, because The Trump may be out of office before you even bought tickets to his show.]

 

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At the same time The Donald himself is in a quandary. He is but a puppet on a string. Worse: A puppet on multiple strings, pulled by different marionette players. In the White House, at least according to insiders, different parties are trying to tow this doll in different directions.

Because Trump himself is ultra stupid –so at least it seems – unavoidably he has become the slave of his advisers. Slave to more masters – the Bannons and the Millers and the Priebussen and (until recently) the infamous Flynns.

Such a jam does make of one a slave torn. In case you are also a thoroughbred narcissist, it’s is bad eating cherries with one’s other self.

Moreover, Trump has all but the right figure to be a true marionette. Kleist once sang the praise of the finger-puppet as being man’s ideal state: Slim, lightly floating, a head full of beautiful and higher ideas, feet never really touching this planet.

Even suspended from so many strings Walrus Trump constantly bangs into the ground.

We are waiting for his final fall.

Sierksma 16/02/17

SWASTIKA OVER TIME

Snow on the ground! In The Netherlands by now something of a spectacle – lately, winters haven’t been good to us.

So out there and enjoying the fairy tale of a dirty world covered in a bridal gown. As if all woman are virgins, whatever their age, and as if metamorphosis is not reserved for butterflies.

 

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Even what already in mid-summer was enchanting acquires that extra touch of the improbable and, why not, of the sublime. What is normally the dome of a bandstand in Haarlem Wood, a look-through perspex roof, has now become opaque, however not loosing its charm but adding to it.

 

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Even big chunks of rotting wood are covered in this white powdered shroud. They become vital and vibrant again, loosing their normal tinge of death which they normally exude. Like a gathering of friends, ready to party.

When young, and thus infantile, I refused to wear my glasses, spectacles which I needed badly to survive the then already threatening traffic. After all, myopia of minus 10 is something to be, what!

I repeatedly told my mother that in this way I was allowed to enjoy the world without its dirt and its squalor. What’s more: Not having to look at the faces of all those other people whom I experienced as rather frightening.

My world without spectacles was a wintery world, kind of glaucoma in early life. My world was a world of books and vague views. I was a young man gazing, certainly not observing and watching

Now, this wintery miracle all around takes me back in time. This time it is sheer make belief, as by now I have plastic lenses implanted in the middle of my irises. The snow however is a good kind of swindle.

I’ve also grown up – more or less. So I have come to know what shock is. I know by now what it is to have your ideals bang, time and again, onto the dirt of reality. Yet, this was indeed a shock, late last night suddenly face to face with the windscreen of the car parked in front of our house.

 

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I am quite convinced this ugly writing in de snow was done by some adolescent kids. I do not of a sudden expect real fascist thugs around the corner of my street. But Christ – what a blow this was.

It is also a shock as far as historical consciousness is concerned. These stupid kids are living in a world of the Kadhafi’s, the Trumps, the Father Le Pens and others – so what’s a Hitler more or less? At most perhaps a figure of fun to, an icon to be used as provocation.

Over time history fades. It is not surprising when your children won’t participate in the May memorial gathering, remembering the Dead of World War II. I understand that. A little history education, though, seems advisable…

Youth, generally speaking, does not want to be reminded that what they do has already been done before, that what is happening now often looks very much like what has happened earlier – that they have parents and a past. Naturally youth considers itself the beginning, youth wants to be the origin of THE NEW. The clock starts running NOW!

Chance has it that in the middle of beautiful Haarlem Wood there is a statue of Nicolaas Beets alias Hildebrand, the man who wrote a fairy tale book on the first half of the Dutch 19th century. It is called Camera Obscura.

 

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So, good for you, Hildebrand, this magic snow on your high head and shoulders

 

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The Camera Obscura was written in 1839, just before notions of ethnic differences really turned nasty and became transformed in outright racism. What for instance in Beet’s time was still ‘anti-Judaism’ – chiefly inspired by Roman-Catholicism and the Middle Age myth of the Jews killing Christ and murdering Christian children for ritual purpose – by 1850 had become the racism and anti-Semitism advocated by the likes of Gobineau.

That man wrote his essay on the inequality of races, published in the year 1853 as Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines. One may date the beginning of that awful and also weird wave of anti-Semitism as racism in this year.

Snow all over The Netherlands… It has covered this dirty world. I can imagine myself for a wile not wearing spectacles. For a day one may bathe in the illusion of the pursuit of happiness and the reign of equality, wiling away all nastiness. So one thinks.

Then stepping out of the house at night and saying good bye to the family who came to enjoy your anniversary, there it is: An ugly swastika celebrating that ugly man’s Christian name.

Sierksma 2.2.17

BLACK BLOOD

The plebeian Trump truly reinforced his reputation when entering the inaugurational pulpit on Capitol Hill. Right throughout history authoritarian leaders have excelled in the falsification of history. Trump was merely trumping his colleagues.

He was appealing to the ‘American People’ – that spurious entity – embracing a prized saying among soldiers: “Whether you’re black, yellow or white, you’re all bleeding red.”

Well then – this is either a knockdown, even in the literal sense of the word, or it is a historical lie. Coming from Trump it is a lie plus ideological claptrap.

In the great conflicts after the Second World War – Vietnam and Iraq – much more American blacks were axed than white folks. Bush the Younger is the example of the rich whity who managed to get out of military service. He was registered as a ‘soldier’ but had a sinecure somewhere in the far north, within the borders of the States.

In these wars there flowed much more black blood than white blood, the poor bleeding much more richly than the rich.

America First! That is: First Trump; then American capital investments; then nothing else for a long time. And perhaps, a few years later, his followers may speed with 100 miles/hour over the improved roads of the country. Only though, if they can afford an expensive car.

Spooky acceptance speech it was, out there in the drizzle of Washington.

Sierksma 22/01/17

DESERT TRIAL [2]

My mother was not obedient to history, so she was punished.

Tatiana, in John le Carré’s Smiley’s People

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Only the Israeli managed to ‘tame the desert’, not however on an all too large scale and basically for politico-economic reasons. All over the world where the desert is gaining terrain – from Spain to the Chinese Gobi – man has given up, knowing all too well that he is confronted with powers that should not meddled with. Covering the Moroccan desert with hundreds of thousands sun panels for tapping energy is of course the mere use of that desert, precisely for the very reason that makes its actual taming impossible: solar heat.

 

So Paustovsky and his friend Yablonski, discussing ‘the taming of the desert’, were a bit befuddled by Soviet technocratic ideology which dominated the first decades of that system. Perhaps that writer should have listened more to the ‘natives’ and not, ironically so, criticize them for their lack of semantic knowledge. I quote again from The Restless Years, a passage in which Paustovsky describes his travels in an old bus through deserty areas, driven by a chauffeur who, so he was told, ‘knows everything’:

 

– ‘Is this a mirage?’ I asked the driver.

    – He looked puzzled. He did not, I discovered, know the word ‘mirage’.

    – ‘No’ he said. ‘It’s just the steppe showing you tricks. This is nothing!’

 

Reading this it sang through my head: ‘Let the desert play her tricks which make us dream; let the icy poles in peace, exuding their incredible silences. Why tame them, when already so much of nature is ruined!’

 

Anyway, this was not the manner of thinking in those soviet decades. The period was infused with a ‘will to tame’, the socialist version of Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

 

As incidentally was the ideology of the United States. The first half of the 20th century was dominated by a technocratic belief in almighty man. And if a pious Yank considered this a little too blasphemous, he added to his technocratism a pinch of Creationist salt – an attack on Darwinism. Even if man is all powerful, master of the earth only because God created him to be so, he does not rule the universe. The paradox of those Destined to be Free Americans.

 

In the Soviet Union a different version of anti-Darwinism came in ideological fashion. Darwin’s theory of natural selection of what is ‘best’ was considered anathema. After all, such ‘bourgeois science’ only sanctioned the bourgeoisie as the ‘ruling class’, of necessity superior to the workers. By contrast, Trofim Lyssenko and other biologists created a ‘proletarian science’, based on Lamarck’s conviction that not only genetic feature but also acquired traits are hereditary. The felicitous idea was blessed by Pope Stalin himself.

 

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Trofim Lyssenko 

Lyssenko also wanted to tame that other Soviet desert – the tundra’s in the North, most of the year an icy universe covered with permafrost. A disgrace, so to say – after all ‘a country cannot afford to have deserts…’ as Paustovsky pointedly noted.

 

Lyssenko’s solution was rather unique. Betraying Darwin, he decided to have millions of forest trees shoots planted out there, this in bunches, ‘nested’ as it were, a practice based on the ‘theory’ that in this manner quite a few trees would survive the stern Siberian winters, simply because they would be ‘group-wise protected by one another’. And why not call this The Socialism of Life…

 

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Althusser wrote a preface to Dominique Lecourt’s 1979 book Lyssenko.  According to him that ludicrous socio-biological theory and its disastrous practice are not our primary interest. What should be analysed first of all is the manner in which an authoritarian system handles its errors. In short: The cocktail of Stalinism en Lyssenkoïsm.

 

Ideology is ‘lived reality’. The Soviet scientists lived the reality in which they could but think that they were true scientists, many of whom in fact were not. However they were not cheating, they were simply ‘there’ and believed in what they were doing… Why not call this Political Pseudologia Fantastica.

 

If real scientists would have handled such ‘experiments’, these would have been terminated pretty fast. A scientific experiment after all is theory-informed, intended to be defeated – it concerns trial and error, though hedged by former findings and their theory. Science is not a matter of Wild west tryouts.

 

When, however, the Soviet State is the motor behind such costly and foolish experiments – thus Althusser – it tends to be silent about failures and this for a very long time, thus prolonging and intensifying these errors. The famous soviet couple ‘Criticism and Self-criticism’, at the time practiced in every communist party in the world, functioned in fact only to criticise the critics of the regime.

 

So, even a great writer like Paustovsky was but a child of his times. He praised the soviet leaders as he praised Soviet Russia. However, in what superb language!

 

I cannot suppress my urge to add a personal note to all this. Your chronicler of lyricism and disaster was once and a long time ago, this for more than five years, a member of the Dutch Communist Party now defunct. Terrible years.

 

Just one anecdote to indicate the predicament of the critical intellectual who joins a club like that from idealistic, though very befuddled motives. At my very first meeting of the ‘cell’ I intended not to say a word, something difficult for one who loves conversation and debate.

 

At the end of the session the chairman, being polite methinks, asked the newcomer whether he would like to contribute something to the evening. Before going there I had read my evening paper, at the time the best journal in The Netherlands. So I said, using the phraseology of the party:

 

‘What does The Party think of the strikes of Rumanian miners which we are now witnessing?’

 

‘Which strikes? You must be mistaken. There is nó such thing happening in Rumania!’

 

‘But only an hour ago I read this in the NRC…’

 

‘And you believe what this outright bourgeois journal is telling you? You must be kidding! Read in our own newspaper the truth.’

 

Which is, quite significantly, also the name of that paper: De WaarheidThe Truth. Now also defunct.

 

Sierksma, 11.11/2016