Because sometimes I don’t have anything cohesive, here’s a few decaying leaves from a leaf pile of thoughts. I like to imagine that posting them clears out detritus for something more enduring to grow. Surely there’s ground beneath this pile in which I might plant a few seeds that will have the chance to flourish.
Without further ado, some remains of the last few days:
White America is Lex Luthor. (There is no Superman.) See: relation to land.
Cliches have truth in a psychological framework where they already have truth, so they reflect self-fulfilling prophecy more than any objective reality. They don’t communicate wisdom – insofar as wisdom is sustained in understanding, which itself is sustained by floating between the void and so-called knowledge – as much as a contingently useful heuristic.
An admission of my gross ignorance:
A while back, prior to his election, The Atlantic ran a psychological profile of Trump, situating him within the context of American presidents. At the time, I remember being comforted by the analysis. The fact that there was historical precedent in our nation’s leadership somehow mitigated the chaos surrounding his potential rule. I guess I thought, “well, at least he’s not new,” finding solace in some stupid shit like “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” If Trump’s a devil, at least he’s one we’ve dealt with before. Except my use of “we” and “dealt with” here are horribly misinformed. There is no united “we” in the United States that “dealt with” any president. The comfort I sought in the article was given to me in advance, by virtue of inheriting the right combination of social markers, e.g. white and male.
Worse than the pursuit of comfort I didn’t need was the particular relief I carried away from the piece: Donald Trump lines up most closely with Andrew Jackson. Not fully understanding the threat of such a comparison, I echoed it to friends as if it exonerated Trump. I didn’t know, nor did I care enough to clarify, what Andrew Jackson was responsible for. Now, after having just finished An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, I see the terrifying truth of a Trump-Jackson kinship. Jackson was genocidal, particularly against Indigenous populations. He grew up an Indian killer, and he solidified that personal history as public policy. Murder made him a mythological hero and facilitated his ascent to the presidency. Trump reached the same seat of power through violent promise; he has Jackson’s potential, and paired with the momentum of newly emboldened segments of the population (eerily similar to “rangers” and other subsets in Jackson’s day), there’s no reason to suspect that promise won’t become practice.
In other words, I was a fool, and while I don’t want to give into easy mythologizing of Trump (feeding his Ego with exactly what it’s pursuing), he is a very real terror to human beings in this country. Forget his threats to “America.” Those aren’t real. He’s a boon to “America.” That concept is meant for people like him; it was built by and for his ilk. To make “America” great again as he understands the idea isn’t unreasonable, but it is unnecessary; Trump’s “America” has always been great. It can’t be anything but great, by definition of the rich white assholes defining it (and by the common citizen asshole who’s buying into the idea and feeding it through their complicity, e.g. through their ignorance of their country’s history and their reliance on the security that enables them to read an article and think they’re okay because they were already okay).
I’m sorry for being so stupid and cowardly.
Saying animals are territorial…is that a way of separating ourselves from our animal heritage? Is it justification for our fundamental territoriality (when we work from the premise that we’re animals)? Is it an illusion of how “fundamental” that territoriality is, i.e. is it actually an emergent property that’s useful – hell, maybe it’s actually the fundamental part of the thing – in a narrative we want to believe but can’t ever verify?
What I mean to find here is whether we’re truly territorial. Is fighting for territory natural? Yes, we observe it in nature, but through what lens? Are we confirming a bias that supports human history, or are we able to use it as a lens to understand that human history? Does territoriality inform our story, or does our story salvage the emergent, otherwise untenable nature of that behavior? (As Jay-Z said, referencing the Euthyphro dilemma, “Is pious pious cause God loves pious?”)
Do I want to own bodies (of people, land, water, whatever) because that’s just a part of who we are (we as a convenient displacement of “I,” an eschewal of personal responsibility in favor of species biology) or because that’s a thing that grows in me as a result of far more complex systems but then I cover up that complexity with a simple “it is what it is” animal-instinct rationalization? Put simply, is territoriality bullshit?
Listen, I know I want to own, but is ownership a condition of the particular society that’s emerged historically and surrounds me presently? Or is ownership the foundation of society? If we examine pre-colonial society, we see examples that betray “ownership” as fundamental to human nature. Or were they somehow transcendent exceptions to what remains a base truth about our being? If so, that’s not just a gross romantic distortion of Native Americans, convenient to our reductive protean mythology of them, but a necessary regression for which we should strive. That’s an ought I’m comfortable deriving from a purported is. Which, that’s something perplexing as well. We say you can’t derive ought from is, but we take for granted whatever the hell it is we’re deriving “is” from in the first place (if anything; the universe doesn’t care about our understanding). Bill Clinton may have been flippant in asking, “what is is?,” but contained within that silly self-defense strategy is a sincerely deep existential concern (one that was the basis for Heidegger’s whole schtick). Anyway, but so we have to wonder (or I’m simply choosing to wonder) what ownership is. Why? Because it’s informed (and is informing) so much of the reality of globalization. The advent of private property may be the watershed moment in human history. Is real estate our destiny? Is it something encoded in our very being, ineradicable? Or is it an emergent property that, if questioned intently enough, can be altered? If it’s something we’ve designed, not “designed” in us, well then we can redesign, right? But if the house we’re in can’t be remodeled, if we can’t have “Extreme Makeover: Humanity Edition,” then what do we do with that infinite jest? Either way, it’s a weird joke and/or game we’re playing, or that’s being played on us. I’m not sure if I prefer the cosmic indifference to the game, that we’re just here as observers to one iteration of how life could be designed, or the reality in which we have to own our shit, except that within that reality ownership is such a dubious concept that owning our shit loses meaning and we surrender responsibility via the peak irony we’ve been aiming at all along anyway.