All Politics is Dominance Politics

mans look magazine

In grad school in International Relations Realists and Marxists always got along, especially at the expense of the Postmodernists and the Liberals. Even right-realists, though in my experience as time moves on into an era of neoliberal dominance realists as a whole move left to adjust to such euphoric theorizing. This is because both groups understand the reality and necessity of power.

The New Republic, like The Washington Post, is largely famous these days for being an old anachronism that largely rest on past laurels, and for championing every ill conceived war it could. Unlike the WaPo, however, TNR doesn’t really do on the ground reporting or even footwork to among the elites to rumormonger. It merely editorializes.

Its newest little number, by Jeet Heer is something I have been expected for awhile. Chapo Trap House is the only non-horror fiction podcast I like. I am hardly a good example of its average fan, being from a decidedly realist rather than solidly left position, but its intelligence combined with ruthless humor fits me perfectly. It also, like myself, despises the ‘acceptable’ political positions of mainstream liberals, centrists and conservatives alike as terribly obfuscating and self-delusional, especially when such people claim to have an objective view which is, if anything, based in their lack of ability to critically appraise the very system they live in and whose proclamations they automatically take for granted. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before someone like Heer noticed and reacted in a bit of pique. Such op-ed columnists are either of a class of clueless ‘common sense’ prognosticators or (more likely and proportionally) an impoverished and desperate group of sycophants who one day wish they could pull a Brooks or Freidman and be payed six figure salaries by joining said class in order to be fashionable and wrong all the time.

In affect, his entire take on a single phrase accurately stating that the mainstream of the Democratic Party is utterly lost, confused, and obsolete and should take guidance from its strategic betters is to tone police. The Lanyard class, which is related to and among its older members probably directly spawned the vampire castle dwelling tumblrwokes, is all about form over substance. Tone policing is the favorite way of such people to make an argument. ‘Check your privilege’ replaces any actual substantive critique of the point made on Chapo. Not to mention that no actual human being talks in the right and proper homilies of the Neocalvinist wing of evangelical liberals and that insisting everyone speak as such just turns most people away. Humor is a weapon. If the author can accurately state that Chapo is a runaway Patreon success, does it not speak volumes about their approach versus, oh I don’t know, the Democratic Party?

Heer criticizes what he labels as ‘dominance politics.’ How dare someone seek to project their will onto others? But this is politics. Stripped of niceties it is no exaggeration to say that all of politics from the dawn of the human race through now is deciding which form of power projection benefits some over others, and how the alliances fall when trying to figure that out. Literally, (a word liberals are fond of using incorrectly) politics is dominance, always and forever. In order to enact change or refuse to change a regime must be in power. A regime is a government by monopolizing the use of force within its core territory for large periods of time. If you want to make policy over a territorial entity you must have the ability to disproportionately coerce (what power really is), and to do that you must have an in-group and an out-group. Alliance building is impossible without enemies and unstable without an internal hierarchy. Someone, often many someones, must always bend the knee for an order to exist. To deny this is to deny all of human history.

The fact that Chapo Trap House, a comedic entertainment podcast, recognizes this while a writer for a ‘respectable’ publication such as TNR does not is an overt condemnation of how ahistorical back patting has replaced actual deep historical analysis. No government in history has ever seized and held power by nice and equitable methods. The American Revolution itself, often held up as an ideal by technocratic SensibleSerious™ types , was extremely contrarian and very, very brutal. It was justifiably so, as was the later French one. The treatment of the British Loyalists after the war was a necessary measure to ensure some domestic stability in a war ravaged land, and we all know that Brooks and Will and the Clintons would have been Tories had they been there then.

I have long had a theory that the pet causes of pearl-clutchers in politics are often the bugbears of their personal sexual pathologies. Last decade when the GOP was trying to keep its relevance by being ‘The Anti-Gay Party’ it seemed not  a week could go by without another virulently homophobic conservative being outed as massively queer. Reckers, Haggard, Craig, Pence (OK not yet on that last one but you know its coming) basically created the idea that public homophobia=suppressed attractions. With the liberals and centrists (who are increasingly indistinguishable) harping constantly on being made uncomfortable by understanding power dynamics or the ruthless nature of politics rooted in power and applying fears of sexual-based domination onto anything they criticize I have to wonder…are all wokes secret bondage addicted Gorean LARPers? There is some legit Larry Craig toe-tapping in the bathroom stall going on with these hot takes and I just have to wonder if self-flaggelation at the hands of the ghost of Joe McCarthy is whats dancing in the heads of these people now. ‘Other me! Objectify me! Make me your exotic Oriental!’

But if that is the way it goes then here is an analogy to stick: left or right, authoritarian or libertarian, top or bottom, dom or sub, no matter how you take your own ideals, you will never enact them without power. And that is one of the few universal rules of politics. And I don’t care if thats ‘problematic’, because you were born a human, and human life and consciousness is by its nature ‘problematic’, so get over yourselves.

For now, lets (maybe) do Heer a disservice and assume this article is largely representative of what the cast of Chapo would call ‘Lanyards’ or ‘Lanyard Ghouls.’ This is a loose term to describe people who are overly committed to policy wonkery who often let their worship of a system that usually exploits them cloud their judgement on that actual cost/benefits of said system. You know, people who think the whole world can and should function like its portrayed on ‘The West Wing.’ I work in an official capacity myself, and thus wear a lanyard, so I admit to more than normal levels of familiarity with this class-but the difference is that I never wear mine on the *inside*.

If one was going to do a liberal-style ‘discourse analysis’ here of this class one would be forced into the following conclusion–that the people who have the most socially acceptable (and thus often least critical) views on the political system think its impolite to disagree with them and question the elevation of their ideals. Why, its simply uncivilized. The reason they think this, of course, is because they sit atop a vast pile of economic, military, and other systemic forces that monopolize their power so much they do not even have to reckon with the fact that they reflect a power wielding class. They are simply ‘reasonable people’ who can win any debate in good faith with ‘the right means tested facts.’ But, by virtue of being atop that pyramid of socially acceptable ideological privilege, they are utterly unable to see that people outside of these socially accepted norms of polite uncritical discourse obviously do not benefit from engaging with their assumptions…and so why should those others bother? New dynasties are not built by wandering the dust between long deceased Pharaohs.

In short, we have spent the last few decades bowing the knee to these people and they are so used to it they didn’t even notice. Considering their many, many failures I think its only natural the time should come that they bend the knee to us.

Otherwise its just like listening to more of this, period adjusted, for every damn era.

Confederation in Anarchy: The International Relations of Redwall

Well, I promised a lighter post more like my earlier entries, did I not? So let’s talk about  80s/90s children’s book series Redwall.

redwall-party

Redwall Fanart by the extremely talented chichapie, who also did many of the illustrations for the great possibly somewhat Redwall-inspired game ‘Armello’)

Redwall came into my life around third age 7 and remained (tied with Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’) the top tier reading material for me until I found Lovecraft at age 15. Even after its demotion I still kept up with the series until I went to college, making Taggerung the last entry I ever read. Still, as part of the inoculation in my childhood making me immune to the culture homogenizing adverb abusing virus that was ‘Harry Potter’it will always remain a part of my life. The best entry in the series, ‘Mossflower’, I even re-read only a few years ago to see if I still got the same kick out of it. I did.

Seemingly unrelated, in recent months I have also gotten into the Chapo Trap House podcast. Because being the opposition to all mess makers who got us where we are now requires not tone policing and pedantry but a crass sense of humor and disdain for the pundit class that positively drips. Clearly, fellow travelers to Geotrickster. Anyway, episode 82 was an interview with an American volunteer fighting with the YPG in Rojava in Syria, who corrected some inaccuracies in his more well known coverage in a Rolling Stone article. Most notably, he mentioned how what often is internationally defined as anarchism is really a functioning pseudo-state in Rojava, with portraits of its imprisoned founder everywhere and a fair amount of group discipline along with the egalitarianism.

You know what that reminds me of? Redwall Abbey. But since I talk about Syria and Iraq enough on this blog, while that may have been the spark that led to this post initially, it is not the real world comparison I am going to end up using. But first, a series primer.

Redwall, the name of the first (published, not chronological) book in series and also the name of the Abbey where most of the stories take place in, was the creation of the now deceased Brian Jacques. They consist of stories of woodland creatures, the majority of which are endemic to his native Britain. The woodlands (mice, moles, hares, badgers, otters, squirrels, etc), who try to live lives of peace and equality in a chaotic and unstable low fantasy world which seems to be around the technology level of the early Dark Ages. Their frequent enemies, roving bands of vermin (rats, stoats, foxes, weasels, etc), are also sentient and bipedal but their lives are governed by near constant conflict and territorial pissing matches. Some vermin command from daunting fortresses while others rove as nomadic bands, looking for loot or a fixed place of their own to take (usually Redwall).

Martin the Warrior, an escaped slave who liberated an entire pirate plantation and crushed the slavers drifted from far away into Mossflower Country after the tragic death of his love and his many friends in their war for freedom. To make a long series of stories short, he ended up falling with a guerrilla resistance who fought some local tyrants in the region, and after gaining allies and a new meteorite forged sword helped the locals drive out the occupiers and claim their former stronghold. Most books after this event take place in Redwall Abbey, the woodlander’s own structure built atop the site of their former enemies castle. After Martin’s death, he would go down as the patron protector and symbol of the egalitarian and consensus driven society he helped make possible by defeating the militaristic occupation of the Wildcats and their henchmen. Redwall and the surrounding woods filled with other woodlander factions seems like a type of anarchist expression. But it is not the political theory of anarchy with which they most traffic with, but rather the International Relations (IR) definition of a world with no overall governing structure, which we also call anarchy, with each political unit an autonomous entity onto itself. Besides, the closer one looks at Redwall Abbey, the more apparent it becomes that this is indeed, a cohesive political entity with the territorial demarcations, division of labor, and iconography of a state.

Despite being called an ‘Abbey’, there is no apparent religion in this crew but their own civic model of local forest and farming communally acting as a guiding virtue. An abbot or abbess really comes across as a chief mediator or town mayor who can be from almost any animal type, with the various species representing different functions such as engineering for the moles, scouting for the squirrels, farming for the mice, etc. There is no ethnic hierarchy, despite the seemingly strict workplace divisions on ‘ethnicity’, and all share resources equally and are liable, if adults, to serve as militia in times of defense. Redwall has local alliances with otters and shrews, some of whom also live within the abbey, and when it needs to it, it can project its militias offensively or an behalf of its allies on expedition. Many critics, my teenage self included, tend to see the good/bad species split as a kind of creepy fantastic racism, but I actually now view the animals as different personality and professional types. When you realize Redwall and many (but not all) of the warlord villain groups seem to not really have any type of stable or absolute species hierarchy, it becomes obvious that this not really a racial divide we are seeing here but rather a professional and cultural one.

Importantly, perhaps critically for this society to exist, it is not alone. Neither next door nor too far away is the highly militarized society of Salamandastron, a hollow extinct volcano lorded over by hereditary badger lords served by a highly trained caste of warrior hares. Redwall and Salamandastron, who Martin once brought together before the building of the Abbey itself, stand together as allies, one a power, the other a resource based enterprise. You could say Redwall is Canada to Salamandastron’s America, but perhaps more critically in the same continent, that they are strongly allied tribes who are domestically autonomous in a politically uncertain and dangerous world, but utterly unified towards any exterior threat. In this way, the real way to explain the IR of the Redwall series with a real life example is to look at the native confederacies of the Great Lakes regions. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the Wyandot (Huron), and the Anishinaabeg (Three Fires) confederacies were groupings of tribes who came together for mutual defense. The first two formed as common Iroquoian fronts against surrounding Algonquian peoples, the Three Fires, in turn, coalesced more westerly Algonquians due to the expanding power of the Iroquois after they became the hegemonic power in the eastern North American interior in the late 17th Century following their defeat of the Huron.

For the sake of simplicity, let us focus on the Iroquois. Also, they were the subject of my capstone thesis paper for my undergraduate degree in history. Briefly, the Iroquois were an alliance of squabbling tribes in upstate New York who were brought together by the teaching of Hiawatha, himself inspired by the prophet Denangawida, who traveled the 5 tribes, eventually with many allies, winning over an alliance of the Mohawk, Seneca, Onandaga, Cayuga, and Oneida. Each tribe had an assigned task, such as the Mohawk being the guardians of the eastern door, or the Onandaga being the keepers of the council hire, or seat of governance. The tribes were basically governed as semi-autonomous pseudo-matriarchies by the elders in times of peace, but the league appointed temporary military leaders and diplomats in times of negotiation and peace. With their strong bedrock of support at home and their fighting skills, they grew, and outlasted several conflicts with Algonquian and various European enemies until different tribes of the alliance split over who to support in the American Revolution and the system collapsed. But for centuries, the league stood, navigating the tempestuous waters of Native and European politics alike on a continent upended into chaos by mass spreading of Eurasian disease and economic reorientation.

One wonders if in the ancient history of the Redwall world something happened to introduce mass depopulation and migration. Given the plethora of ruins found in the stories, the many roving and rapacious bands, and the somewhat stagnant technology level of a book series taking place over many, many generations, one cannot help but wonder from what prehistory the scribes of Redwall Abbey’s ancestors descend from. ‘Martin the Warrior’, chronologically second, implies all or most woodlanders were either enslaved or quite primitive to how they would be later. The recovery is clearly taking place though, as in later books it seems that Redwall and Salamandastron also have much stronger advantages against vermin than before when they were very clearly the underdogs. With the epic and bloody battle (for all sides) that closed out ‘Salamandastron’ (the book) as the first big unified fight with the two in one place, it seems that since then the allies have forged a better world for their, dare I say, socialist vision? Like the Iroquois, this is a confederation of pseudostates into a state-like alliance. A necessary coming together in the face of constant anarchic adversity, invasion, and danger whose longevity turns the alliance into a de facto national entity of its own with time. Ironically, the policies that make these societies sucessfull and brotherly are the very same ones that make them such a tempting target for the many vermin hordes, who seek their riches and security of place. Perhaps it is for the best then after all, without the common vermin threat someone more cynical than the target kid audience might assume that these two lights of the woodlands would then, like the Iroquois and Huron, or the late term tribes of the Iroquois themselves, inevitably turn on each other.

In times of great upheaval and rapaciousness we should remember the woodlanders of Redwall, who could carve out their own little place in the sun despite all the uncertainty around them with group solidarity and geographic awareness.