A Valentine’s Day poem: The heart of February

On Valentine’s we celebrate

the we instead of me.

We celebrate togetherness,

the making whole,

the splendour of the puzzle

humanity has asked us solve.

We celebrate an Other as a part of us,

as our day and night, our winter, summer.

The way that love is framing and gives meaning

Beelzebub’s lullaby

Next in the fallen angel series:

 

Sometimes when I dream I ask myself

what could have been, what would have been, what were I truly meant to be?

Yet, when awake I never doubt my greatest choice,

to be a fallen angel.

Why hesitate when blessed with all the love that only hatred brings,

when all the wild commotion, the killings and the passion,

is my most stunning work, the product of my deepest instincts.

No God without the Devil, that’s what they say,

but they are wrong, when things are well considered.

All that is ever needed

is me, is Beelzebub, is my resplendent soul.

My power is delight as well as sorrow,

a fallen angel carries light and shadow in his breast!

 

Beelzebub’s birthday

First in a fallen angel series:

You humans dream of good, but long for bad,

you make it much too easy.

Time gave you peace and property –

yet that was all too boring.

Like moths you seek my flame,

devour you, I shall, since that is what you wish.

My hope was, though, for greater gift,

for stiff resistance and at last surrender,

for valiance and need of all my cunning.

Where do I find a being

who is, if not my equal, then a noble challenge?

To win a human is the triumph of the easily impressed,

but I am Beelzebub, the conqueror of strongest hearts.

I merit better than such trifling, drooling human wreckage!

I want a Faust who does not seek my help, who spites me, not co-opts me,

who seeks the sacred moment and wagers all to win immortal soul.

Politics and state

The defining feature of our times is that everything has become politics. Although the state is much more than politics, we are being led to assume that politics is all-pervasive, and that the state, in all its functions, must be an expression of politics! This is wrong, of course.

For three hundred years most societies, and all democracies, have given effect to some form of division of powers. In this fine logic, the legislative is the domain of politics, but the executive and the judiciary are not. Admittedly, the executive power has always had a brush-stroke of politics, of law-making, since legislative proposals often come from the executive, and since ministers issue decrees that are frequently based on political considerations. The political function of the executive is only residing at the highest levels, however, and hence it would be good to talk about the ‘legislating executive’ as distinct from the executive that, true to its name, only executes. We mix up the two things at our peril.

The ultimate safeguard for citizens reside not in their voices being heard in politics, but in their voices not being heard in the execution of legislation and in the judgments of courts. When President Trump talks about the ‘deep state’ it is because he wants the whole state to belong to him. Although he is the head of a civil service that must execute, not legislate, he wants the civil service to bend to his will even when it is its calling not to do so.

The politisation of the judiciary that also erodes the rights of citizens is not a Trump invention, to be fair. It was always there in the United States because of the discretion the Constitution is understood to grant the courts. It took flight under FDR, and became a hardball political game with the nomination by Ronald Reagan of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, and the resulting rejection of the nomination. It is this politisation that is being perfected by President Trump and Mitch McConnell. Candidates for the judiciary are selected purely on their readiness to give effect to the political will of their patrons.

Those who do not fear this politisation of all state functions, those who do not recognise that the state brings immense benefits exactly because it is not always a knee-jerk expression of the politics of the day, are helping reopen the floodgates for autocracy and inhumanity. It should be obvious that the rule of law is a good of the highest order, and that the elimination of checks and balances is the path to perdition, to ‘might makes right’. Creating law is politics, yes, respect of law is not. Upholding the law is not a question of deep state, it is a question of state. May we not forget!

The gift of past and future

The resin smell of Christmas pine still teases our noses,

yet our warm embrace can’t stop the rushing year.

You served us well, you friend who steps into the past.

Your soul was jubilation,

though pain was also there.

We thank you and apologise –

we spent you not too well,

the pledge, as every year, to do much better hence.

So fare thee well dear months to which we bid adieu,

your treasure is enshrined.

Yet, on we move, that it is the season’s wish.

A new year to be loved and conquered

is born in winter’s dark.

Thanks time bygone and time that is unrolling!

 

The Spirit of the Time and Times

This is a sacred time;

we celebrate humanity,

the fragile child in our midst again.

We know that all is up to us –

that is its vital message.

A Paradise for us to enter,

if only we are willing.

To share and to be generous,

that is the price to pay.

 

We have so many gifts to give,

so many to receive.

And joy will only come

to humans of humanity.

The season is reminder, so very oft repeated,

of how the Other is an obligation most sincere –

the fight against the me and only me,

the icy times that reign – refused.

The key to undo innocence’s betrayal,

we have it all to hand.

Unlock, unlock, and bless whilst you are blessed!

 

Surplus Men

The groundbreaking work of Hannah Arendt, The Origin of Totalitarianism, should be on the reading (or rereading) list of every politically engaged citizen – no matter country. The book, written right after WW II, is deeply analytical, opinionated, too extreme – and fantastic! Tragically, it provides so much food for thought of relevance for our societies today.

There is one key observation that permeates all her analysis, and that we need to reflect on much more, and that is Arendt’s concept of ‘surplus men’ (which nowadays should be understood as ‘surplus people’, given the role of women in the employment market), and what such surpluses lead to.

Arendt explains in a most brutal fashion, but correctly, how the surplus of employable men drove imperialism, since those who could not find a foothold in their home countries turned into adventurers without morals abroad. They became buccaneers in the far-flung regions that they and imperialism made their own. The boys of Cecil Rhodes and the East India Company. The lesson is grosso modo that morals vanish in step with the marginalisation that flows from being ‘surplus men’.

Between the two World Wars there were evidently many surplus men, and they became the breeding ground for the extremism that ultimately led to the Nazi regime. If you doubt Arendt’s view then look at the SS: Himmler, an obvious failure in civil society; the circle around him, Wolff, Eicke, Heissmeyer, Wege, for whom the common glue was their previous failure! And Adolf himself was, of course, an unsuccessful postcard painter. Social class was, however, not the determinant for becoming a surplus man, the surplus cut across all classes – something we would be wise to remember today. The liberal elite likes to think that populism is a ‘no high school diploma’ thing but obviously that is wrong. Populism is a surplus thing.

The loss of morals that flows from being surplus, that flows from having to fight with all means to retain social status, is also not primarily an issue of material sufficiency – it is about not being surplus as a person!

Nowadays, the erosion of middle class status is a clear driver of the acceptance by its denizens of the maxim that fighting dirty is alright. The middle class was always the protector of the rule of law, but it now sees that the law no longer protects, because the middle class rather than being threatened in its privileges is itself increasingly becoming surplus. No good reason to adhere to ethics norms then is the logic. Inequality and eroding social status is internalised to mean that it is neither possible nor necessary to uphold moral standards. Where screwing the system used to be the preserve of the upper classes (and the absolutely destitute) it is now entirely salonfähig.

This should give us pause. In the future, we will all become surplus because AI and machines will eliminate the human being as a part of productive processes. When we have all landed there, social status will no longer be determined by profession. A new status system will have to be invented. On the way there, will we see an ever increasing abandonment of moral considerations in our individual decisions?

See also blog posts: ‘The Proletarisation of the Middle Class’ and ‘Capital in Any Century’