Sunday, November 20, 2016

Elections After the End of the World

(from Caracas with love)
Quincy Saul, November 8, 2016

There is no alternative, only the election. Pig versus lizard. Racist clown versus sophisticated assassin. White supremacy versus world domination. Dirty old man versus heartless old woman. Lecher versus sadist. The Koch brothers and the police unions versus Soros and the Council on Foreign Relations. A proxy war in our hearts and minds between rival factions of finance capital. CLUMP 2016! Welcome to elections after the end of the world.

The world as we knew it is over, and these are the morbid symptoms of its aftermath. This is the only way to understand the colossal mindfuck called the 2016 presidential election.

Every four years the USA and the world at large consent to lower all levels of intelligence in order to discuss the presidential elections. Mere resistance is futile. Like a retrovirus, the machine assimilates all attempts to analyze it. The election inserts itself through our psycho-spiritual membrane to commandeer our consciousness and produce replicates of itself. To comment is to be complicit: every critique or condemnation, including this one, fuels the engine. Until there is no clarity, only constituency, no politics, only polls, no ideas, only the cuisinart of idiocy into which all noble and creative participation is fed.

All that is old news. But this time around, a qualitative leap has been taken into a new dimension of delirium and degeneracy. Trump makes Dubya look disciplined. Hillary makes her husband look humane. At some point each of us has paused and pondered, is this really taking place? We´re in free-fall. There´s no way out of this election, no exit strategy. The light at the end of the tunnel is a TV with endless channels and no choices.

The complaint that “the media is destroying the election” is redundant and becomes resentful. Its plaintiffs equivocate, swishing the bitter medicine around in their mouths, instead of swallowing it: the media didn’t destroy this election, they created it! How else would we even know it was happening? It’s all about publicity, and there is no such thing as bad publicity. “It may not be good for America, but its damn good for CBS.”

As the impossible contradictions of imperial democracy unravel, greater and greater advertising is needed to keep up consumer confidence. That’s why they had to start promoting this one years in advance. Just like all useless or dangerous commodities need extra advertising, so the cost of an election is inversely proportionate to its content. The media really pulled out all the stops on this one! They even risked putting the crumbs of socialism on the table in last-ditch effort to arouse the voters’ appetites. They are the high voltage pouring into the tortured corpse of democracy. The candidates are the monsters, and we are all cast together as Dr. Frankenstein.

Aside from this screenplay, there are some notable curiosities in the campaign cabinet, which deserve a spotlight.

(1) When all the celebrities, up to the President himself, have to go on TV to say “your vote counts,” you know subliminally that something is suspicious. Greg Palast has painstakingly chronicled the “lynching by laptop,” and other preferred methods of rigging “the best democracy money can buy.” This is the most important story about this election. If your vote counts, then for how much? And who counts it? And if you study this seriously, then you have to answer. Your vote counts an average of 6/7 unless you’re white, and it is counted by such trusted defenders of democracy as the Diebold corporation. 6/7 may be a step forward from 3/5, but the technical integrity of the electoral apparatus may have actually regressed since the days of Jim Crow.

(2) Over the course of the last few decades, elections became inseparable from television. Now they have become indistinguishable. It’s not only metaphor, but also concrete political economy. It’s one long infomercial for empire, alongside a sitcom about its indecent demise. At least since Bush and Survivor, the US election has been a reality TV show. So it is no surprise at all, and in retrospect it seems inevitable, that a reality TV show host would eventually contend to be commander in chief. This explains the ease with which Trump trounced his rivals for supremacy in the society of the spectacle. He is playing home field. They are pretending not to be charlatans, he only has to be himself. Trump is a rabid attack dog, whose leash the Clintons let loose to scare us into their neoliberal protection racket. It was a dangerous gamble and it has had uncontrollable consequences. He now has enough lead to turn on and maim his masters. He has mobilized centuries of racist heritage, whose primed constituency is the impoverished rust belt.

(3) Bernie Sanders rewrote the rhythm and the lyrics of the campaign trail, opening tactical and ideological windows, which had been long barred shut and believed forgotten. Predictably, he dropped the beat. With noble exceptions, his followers fell in lockstep with the Democratic Party drummer. His whole purpose has been reduced to promoting the Party and its platform. Unpredictably, the specter of socialism has been unleashed.

(4) We finally learned why the Democratic Party never contested the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004. Voter suppression works for them too! Their top leadership prefers a Republican president to a rupture in their machine. Fascism is safer than socialism as far as the financiers are concerned.


Only US citizens get a vote, but the whole world is watching. This election holds the planet captive with screens, ransomed with dollars backed by military bases. The outcome of this election is likely to affect those outside the borders of the US even more than those within them. So I’m writing from Caracas with love, to beg the people in the country of my birth to see this election from an international perspective.

Who should Palestinians prefer, who should Libyans like, where should Syrians stand? Who should Hondurans and Haitians hurrah? Who should China cheer, who should Russia revere, who should Brazilians beware, who has South Africa scared, and why does India care? The answers aren’t easy, they’re sleazy and greedy, and old and cold – just like the candidates, packaged and sold.

We are not the world. It’s a big world after all. This land isn’t my land, it isn’t your land, and it wasn’t made for you and me. So I’d like to share a true story from South America, and the country from which I’m writing. We have something important to learn about elections from Venezuela.

In what seems like ancient history here, but which ended only a few decades ago, the ruling political parties in Venezuela made an agreement. Their leaders signed a pact in a fancy building called Punto Fijo, agreeing that they would share power by rotating rulers alternatively every election cycle. They would provide a pretense of participation and rivalry, and promise each other a common purpose of corruption and control. This went on for decades. Sound familiar?

In 1999, Hugo Chavez ran for president on a radical platform: he wanted to call a constituent assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. He was elected in a landslide. The Pact of Punto Fijo and the two-party system bit the dust. Chavez went on to win over a dozen elections before his death. Since then, in less than twenty years, the Venezuelan state has been transformed via the ballot box.

Of course, a full-scale media war has been unleashed to make you fear and/or hate the names of Chavez and the Bolivarian government. Obama has decreed Venezuela to be a threat to national security. You better wonder why. But don’t believe me: read and review the data on health, education, housing and poverty in Venezuela over the last twenty years, from the United Nations, the FAO, or even the World Bank. Listen to what Jimmy Carter says about their electoral system. Read the corrections section of the New York Times. Think outside the box that sold you the bailout and the war on terror.

Venezuela is so demonized by Democrats and Republicans precisely because it is a democracy and a republic – not the bogeyman of communist conspiracy, but the precarious promise of a peaceful revolution. John F Kennedy insisted that those who make this revolution impossible, make another one inevitable.

This election is a global bait and switch to immobilize us, to keep us guessing and away from grasping. Our only consolation is that it’s over at last. The only thing truly at stake is finding the stake that we need to drive through the heart of this two headed monster. “Its after the end of the world,” Sun Ra sang, “don’t you know that yet?” We are witness and warden to the birth of a new world. It’s time for a constituent assembly and a constitutional convention.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


by QMS, Miami Beach on a 12-hour layover en route to Caracas, October 2016

Marvelous Miami! Miami is better at night, mostly because you can't see as well in the dark. It is a city built for nighttime. The lights disguise the prevailing shabbiness.

Seen from the air its truth is revealed. It is a city of squares. It is a flat city. Even its skyscrapers are flat. Even its voluptuous sexuality is flat and square, in the sense that it is designed and destined for billboards and screens, made in the image of the image.

Miserable Miami, stumbling towards oblivion in the reckless pursuit of happiness. When I mention my final destination, my taxi driver bemoans the terrible things that the socialist government is doing to people in Cuba. To challenge his attitude would be as useless as explaining how much the music sucks in the clubs on the beachfront. Culture is concrete. The conservative politics of this place are as solidly entrenched as its physical infrastructure. To speak to this working class man about inequality or imperialism would be like trying to talk to its commercial real estate developers about climate change. Both the attitude and the infrastructure are invincible, centimeters above sea level.

Hard to overstate or underestimate just how sketchy the motherfuckers who run this town must be. The hardworking women redeem it every day, but they are no match for the storm surge.

From the air the city already looks half underwater. When the tide comes in the attitude and the politics, along with the sexy parties, will flounder helplessly and pitifully and desperately. The revenge of the everglades will be silent and soaking. It seems only seconds away.

Of all the cities which climate change will wipe off the map, Miami will be among the least mourned, and its disappearance will be among the most geopolitically progressive.

But in the meantime it reigns supreme. Far too many beautiful women to refute with mere reason. Far too much money pouring in to think about alternatives.

Murderous Miami, what does it know about the Seminoles? What memory remains after centuries of bad architecture and music and politics, of the ancestors who gave their lives to prevent this kind of nightmare? Forget the Seminoles, what does Miami know about its homeless, chewing each other's faces off under the highway overpass?

This corpulent calm conceals corpses. I sip my Panama water and swallow my oversized paella, and wonder what I or anyone is supposed to do.

Magnificent Miami; multicultural and toned, having fun and seeming so free, even if it is so expensive. But this paella is making me sick, and my churning stomach reminds me that I am surrounded by water and a wasteland of flat squares and flashing neon. The marvelous has never been so miserable. Death has never disguised itself as something so alive. The execrably expensive has never been so cheap.

What I'd like to explain to the taxi driver, and to the infrastructure, and to the pretty hostesses, and to the whole culture, impossibly, is that it's not too late for humanity and history.

Here at the extremity of the American dream, the pursuit of happiness attains a seductive and protracted climax. You can walk away, though. If you can recognize how miserable this place is, then you are in on a secret about the whole modern world. You can invest your your busqueda, your buildings, and your beauty in a place with more memory and less mendacity, more depth and fewer squares, farther from the shore line and closer to the heart of all things.

The light of the world isn't neon. The cup of life isn't frosted.

Let Will Smith keep on going to Miami. Let's go to Caracas.