Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Diary of a Blue State of Mind

INTRODUCTION: I know you’re evil, but what am I?

One of our favorite mindless political pastimes (and there are so many) is the game of Gotcha, where we indignantly quote each other as if to prove to some theoretical neutral observer how awful we all are. This is much more fun than listening to each other, especially since we’ve become so polarized that we barely speak the same language. The same words are used, but the words no longer refer to shared concepts. So a statement which is innocuous in one wing of the asylum is outrageous in another, without changing a syllable.

Not that we would agree with each other if we understood each other, but we might save a lot of time and choler if we went past the visceral provocations of words and looked at the mismatched concepts a little more closely. Which is what I undertake to do here, by taking a long look at somebody who speaks a language that is very alien to me.

“Grushka” (NOT his real name) is a longtime commenter and diarist at Daily Kos. The moniker is usually rendered lower-case in the e.e. cummings style that is so common on the internet; I capitalize it here. Grushka is a male American, born in Boston and currently living in New York City, where he works as some sort of professional. This biographical information comes from his own comments, and we needn’t ask for any more.

These are selections from Grushka’s Daily Kos diaries, from October 2004 to the present. The entire diaries are archived at Daily Kos, except for the last one (2/15/06) which has been deleted from the site. Besides the diary excerpts, a few of Grushka’s recent comments are included here. I generally give much less weight to a person’s comments than I do to their formal posts, because even the wisest of us get 2:00 AM foot-in-mouth disease. Still, when someone commits themselves to such a sweeping declaration as “American democracy is utterly dead”, I generally assume that it’s not just a bottle of Beefeater that’s doing the talking. Some sober cognitive process must have preceded such an outburst.

My intention here is not to vilify Grushka, or to ridicule him, either. Satire is a very low form of art – hell, I should know – and I am trying very hard to stay off the low roads here. My usual response to sentiments like Grushka’s is to make light of them, but I’m making an attempt to take Grushka seriously, so I resist any impulse to lampoon him. I’ll take a page from Spinoza: “… not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”

IT IS NOT MY INTENTION to claim that Grushka is representative of leftists, liberals, Democrats, or any associated flora or fauna. I won’t even claim that he represents Daily Kos. (In fact, as his last diary there was deleted, it’s obvious that someone at Daily Kos regarded at least that particular note as discordant - objecting either to its content or its expression.) So let’s start with the assumption that Grushka speaks only for himself. This is one “Kossack” and one “Blue State of Mind”, not all of them. People who want to can come into this shoe store and wear anything that fits.

Obviously none of Grushka’s broad political ideas are original, or even uncommon. Many reasonable people share these general opinions. They may also share Grushka’s view that their differences with their political enemies are intractable, without sharing his grim mindset. My interest is not in Grushka’s political opinions (all of which we have heard many times before) but in the personal conclusions he draws from them.

Finally, about the excerpts themselves: The usual objection to presentations like this one is that comments are being “cherry-picked” or taken out of context. Actually, I’ve sinned more in the opposite direction. A great portion of Grushka’s diaries from three periods over the past year are reproduced here, and most of what is left out is repetitive, irrelevant, or of momentary interest only. I certainly have not intentionally deleted any “context” that would change Grushka’s meaning, in an attempt to distort what he is saying. Grushka is given to making blunt statements, and to making it clear when he feels his statements require illumination to be understood (“PLEASE read this entire diary before bashing me. PLEASE.”) I can’t reproduce Grushka verbatim, but I’ve made every effort to let him speak for himself, and to explain himself. And of course, the entire diaries are archived at Daily Kos except for the last one.

ABOVE ALL: This is not about Daily Kos, and this is not about Grushka as a person. So long as he does no violence to others, Grushka’s soul is nobody’s business but his own. I wish him as much karmic happiness as he allows to others, whether he wants to be happy or not. Or I would, if there were such a thing as karma. There isn’t, really, but you know what I mean.

Part One: “I want to create a blue state of mind in my blue state.”

October-December, 2004: Grushka confronts the election. He vows to break with all his “Bush friends” and to “opt out of America”. (Subsequent diaries indicate that these threats are not entirely carried out.) Thirty days after the Fall he questions the meaning of his life, and worries that his political commitment will get him into professional trouble.

What have you learned through this whole process?
by grushka
Sun Oct 24, 2004 at 07:05:33 AM PDT

… I have always been a liberal. But I was not a fighting liberal. Now I am, and I feel as though the world has shifted - in a tiny, yet cosmic way - because I have become an actor.

I have never been a 'joiner' in my life: I fancy myself a skeptical person and an individual. But I have truly gained so much by subsuming myself (to some degree) into a group with a larger purpose. We are all individuals, yet working for a common cause that is so... well, good.

The New Strategy: Strengthen Europe
by grushka
Fri Nov 05, 2004 at 10:29:47 AM PDT

so they can be a counterweight to an increasingly insane United States. I have NO idea how to win over these red states. I truly believe these people cannot be reached. religion ends all debate, all discussion. And that is why the power structures validate it so.

Time to Prune my Friend Lists
by grushka
Fri Nov 05, 2004 at 09:02:44 AM PDT

I'm going through email, going through the cell phone... and I'm junking my Bush "friends."

It's not a spite thing. It's more than that. I detect in these people something that repels me. A latent white male fascism that I had always laughed off or chalked up to maleness. I mean, I have an aggressive, obnoxious, pointlessly destructive male side, too. But I don't elevate it to the sphere of polics.

I don't validate my masculinity by cheering the slaughter of Iraqi civilians.

I want these people out of my life. I want to create a blue state of mind in my blue state. Travelling to the swing states during the election, I met the most amazing people - people whom I have missed out on over the years.

I think I can make it without moving abroad. I'm pretty sure I can.

Opt Out of America
by grushka
Mon Nov 08, 2004 at 07:47:13 AM PDT

I certainly am. Not a Sinclair-style targeted boycott, but a general opting out of the American.
No Hollywood movies. No cable. I don't drive, but if I did, it would be a very old used car. Very few new clothes - and none from chains. No eating at chain stores of any kind. As few household products from large companies as possible.

Only extremely progressive magazines - no mainstream newspapers, either. No more New York Times.
No medications. Of course, I'm young and have no prescriptions, but I'm increasingly skeptical of the pharma industry's products, across the board.

Any other suggestions? I want this election to mark a change, where a substantial portion of America said "no" in a fundamental way, in addition to the more specific forms of protest we will be developing over time.

What say ye, Kosites?

What is our obligation to our own lives?
by grushka
Thu Dec 09, 2004 at 05:39:15 PM PDT

… I'm simply agonizing over this question: what is my obligation to live, to improve myself, my career, my (potential-future) family?

American politics is no place for the weekend warrior any more. To accomplish anything, you need full attention. You also need a strong stomach for battle with the neo-fascist/authoritarian/corporatist/theocracy.

I fought that battle, like so many of us, during the presidential election. I feel pretty good about my contribution.

And yet, what am I to do these next four years? I'm the kind of person who takes this all very seriously. If I do not disengage from the struggle, I will not be able to vigorously pursue a career here in NYC, where one has to be on one's game. Because I WILL have an edge that comes from caring too much about this stuff, and I WILL get into trouble. Because all (nearly all) is political.

Part Two: “EVERYTHING is political.”

September-December 2005: From Grushka’s last terse observation that “all (nearly all) is political”, we take him up again almost a year later. Hurricane Katrina seems to have driven the nail all of the way into the wood: “It's time for all of us to realize we are facing a murderous enemy. One that lives in our own towns, right next door. I hate to say it - even in our own homes.”

Shoot Looters!
by grushka
Thu Sep 01, 2005 at 08:33:28 AM PDT

To careful observers, everything has always been political. But the ramping up of the right wing noise machine over the past 20 or so years has made it a lot more obvious. EVERYTHING is political. Even hurricanes …

… They've (fucking bastards) taken us to war and killed Americans and people from other lands to loot even more ...

I have to say it: it's racism
by grushka
Thu Sep 01, 2005 at 07:32:07 PM PDT

It's a dark thought. But the subject has been broached: much of the New Orleans story has been race.

And I now believe it is race that has caused this entire situation. Which may lead to the deaths of many Americans. The reason the Administration has been so slow is not incompetence. It's pure racism.

It's too late. We have a huge fucking catastrophe on our hands. And one that shows a very, very dismal American face to the world. One that lets its black skinned citizens die.

Who set off this "explosion"?
by grushka
Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 10:09:40 AM PDT

[Earlier Friday, an explosion at a chemical depot rocked a wide area of New Orleans and jolted residents awake, lighting up the dark sky and sending a pillar of acrid gray smoke over a ruined city awash in perhaps thousands of corpses, under siege from looters, and seething with anger and resentment.]

Sorry, but this smacks too much of dirty tricks. It seems an incredibly convenient - and television-compelling - image of "complete chaos that hampers relief efforts."

It's also a not-to subtle visual analog of the LA riots. A strong cue for white America.

This shit is amazing. I won't even apologize for the seeming "conspiracy theory" nature of this assertion. It seems all to plausible to me.

I Turned Down US Open Tickets Today
by grushka
Mon Sep 05, 2005 at 03:46:10 PM PDT

A Wall Street friend from a top investment bank left a message this morning: he had an extra ticket to the US Open Tennis matches today. Fancy corporate pavillion, great food, champagne.
I never called him back.

I cannot bear to be with the American elite right now. I cannot abide their casual cruelty. If I heard one disparaging remark - and I know these Wall Streeters , it would've happened - about Katrina's victims I would not have been able to hold back.

I have always dreaded living in a society like this. Where lies and repression are the only means of maintaining order. Where cruelty is a sign of belonging and participation. Where crushing others is the essence of every social interaction. And yet it is here. This America in 2005. This is the Bush America.

American Stress. Why?
by grushka
Wed Sep 07, 2005 at 08:14:12 PM PDT

… everyday American life is fraught with a good measure of stress. Stress in the purest biolgical sense: the constriction of breathing, the release of adrenaline, the near constant fight-or-flight stance.

Does it make us more biological fearful - and thus easily divided by race and class? (I do realize that fear also keeps us in line politically).

I guess I want someone to tell me it's all worth it...

Bachelor Party in Montreal
by grushka
Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 01:01:32 PM PDT

First, getting there: the anger towards Americans was palpable at airport customs entering Canada. God, that was unpleasant. Even more annoying was having no one in my party understand when I said the surly behavior was because the world has had it with America.

And I realized something else: the republican/conservative type gets a kick out of degredation. They LIKE being served obsequiously, as close to plantation style as they can get. Lording over the masses is a thrill to them.

This hostility, love of degredation, status consciousness gone wild goes a great way to explaining phenomena our side seems baffled by. It's why you can't logic out the reasons for the Iraq War, or tax cuts, or drilling in ANWAR, or the reaction to Katrina.

I'm not sure how understanding this dynamic can help us. But I think it may somehow. I urge you to think about it, and how we can develop strategies for making the true face of conservatism apparent to Americans. A face which for me is perfectly summed up by Dick Cheney's gruesome sneer.

The Varied Brains of Kossacks
by grushka
Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 09:03:52 AM PDT

I'm interested in the ways people think. The ways different minds operate and apprehend the world. The sheer range of intellectual types is fascinating, with some people thinking in such different styles as to make them almost different species.

You can see this all over our beloved Daily Kos.

First, a bit about my own mind. I have always been drawn to theory: big ideas, connecting different systems, trying to tease out what makes the whole thing work. I interpret the world through metaphor; I'll recklessly apply Goedel's incompleteness theorem to epistemology, for example, or use the Big Bang to think about the start of the Cold War and the resulting solidification of the national emergency into bureacratic forms (like stars and planets forming after the Big Bang). I'm not so good with math so I've always used language as my primary intellectual tool - as with any way of thought, it has its benefits and drawbacks. I'm sure certain Kossacks would consider such a mind frustratingly sloppy at times.

Others are more like me: they see the actual manifestations of republican/conservative polices as trivial, and proceed from the overarching conviction that conservatism is a charade that masks a transfer of wealth to elites via and endless number of subterfuges. Each individual outrage is merely an outgrowth of this central truth.

IRRITATING: Gloating When the Right Attacks Bush
by grushka
Wed Nov 09, 2005 at 08:17:13 AM PDT

When it comes to fighting the hydra-headed conservative beast - Leninist in its willingness to throw away all rationality, reason, and logic to pursue its regressive agenda - I'm open to any strategy. What we're fighting is so extreme and so dangerous that we need to be deft and nimble and strategically sharp.

When we gleefully say Bush is "spending like a drunken sailor" and how the "fiscal conservatives" are angry about that, we shoot ourselves in the foot. Instead of selling the American people on tax hikes for the wealthy, we reinforce conservative dogma that government spending is "bad."

Why are we giving credence to right wing ideology? Why are we playing their game for them?

The right is using us for fools. When they paint Bush as a moderate who ignores their views, they are solidifying that insane notion: that Bush is a moderate because he hasn't ended income taxes or expelled Muslims from the country. And we play right into that, guarenteeing that the new "center" becomes Bush-style republicanism.

I'm all for anything that hurts conservative republicanis. Anything. I loathe these people with all my heart…

The Right is Our Enemy. Never Forget That.
By grushka
Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 02:10:22 PM PDT

This qualifies as a contentless diary. It is mere admonition, and a short one at that: I beg you to remember that the right wing in this country is your mortal enemy. At best, they do not care if you die. At worst, they want you dead.

What we've seen the past 5 years is mind-boggling. It is beyond belief. We've seen new low after new low. Katrina was bad enough to damn any Administration for all time. Add Iraq, 9/11, the Patriot Act, the manipulation of religious sentiment, the torture, the deficits, the detention camps, the endless lies...

It's time for all of us to realize we are facing a murderous enemy. One that lives in our own towns. right next door. I hate to say it - even in our own homes.

You have to figure out how you will deal with this enemy, but remember: it CAN happen here. IT absolutely can happen here.

It's time to hate.

Part Three: “I hate it so much it hurts.”

January and February, 2006: The first five entries are comments from various Daily Kos threads, in which Grushka renews his vows of alienation from the “cosmic evil” of conservatism, and all its works and pomps. His tone seems to range from wistful humor to genuine anguish. The final entry is his diary of two days ago, which was deleted from Daily Kos and is here reproduced in its entirety.

By the way, I neither praise nor blame Daily Kos for deleting the diary. Regardless of their reason for doing so, they have a perfect right to delete anything they please from their site, without explanation. I am not presenting it here in order to stick it in their faces. (Thanks to those who screen-captured it before it was deleted.)

I am 100% liberal

I believe in social justice, a social safety net, all of it.

That said, our backs are against the wall. I am NOT willing to go down fighting for gay marriage or affirmative action or even abortion. I deeply believe in all those things, I truly do.
But we don't have the luxury. We are in mortal peril right now, and we need as much sanity as possible from US leadership.

I am willing to jettison these "nice to haves" in order to quite literally save the world (if possible).

The right is killing America

by grushka on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:24:01 AM PDT

Civilization sucks

Humanity was better off in small, roving bands foraging for food.

I'd've been a million times happier as a native American, circa 1300 AD, living in the Pacific Northwest or California or New England or the Great Lakes region.

Damn that would've been great. Hunting, fishing, taking psychedelic substances before festivals, living free.

Seriously. Everything since then has sucked except for the Simpsons and "Exile on Main Street."

The right is killing America

by grushka on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 09:31:13 AM PDT

Look, this is a complex moral issue

Are American soldiers basically noble? I dunno. Perhaps they are as individuals. But what they did in Vietnam, Cambodia, and what they're doing in Iraq is REPREHENSIBLE. THey are at the service of a dark power structure with no moral decency at all. And nothing good can come of it.

The right is killing America

by grushka on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 06:57:08 PM PDT

American democracy is

utterly dead... the admin knows - rightly - that the American people are sleepwalking zombies. They've put up with everything over the past 5 years with nary a peep.

Pathetic, but the only threat to the permanent right wing oligarchy-junta may be from within the security services/military.

The right is killing America

by grushka on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 12:05:06 PM PDT

Someday these fascist pigs

may be doing this shit to you, or me, or my family or your family.

Not that it doesn't make me fuckin sick when it's done to Iraqis (or the other brown-skinned people we seem to have been perpetually bombing for 60 years now).

I don't really consider myself an American any more. I mean, I'm morally guilty for what this fascist country does because I live here and live fairly well on its rickety, imperialist-driven economy. I have no illusions about my inherent guilt.

But as for the flagrant, war-loving, motherfucking ACTIVE douchebaggery that infests 50% of this country - I deny it outright. I hate it so much it hurts.

I know this should be "our country, our flag, too." But come on. You know what they've done to this country. It's not even partly ours anymore, if it ever was.

A $ trillion down the drain. A world lit on fire. Thousands upon thousands dead. All thanks to the cosmic evil of conservatism, and its grinning death heads in the white house.

I spit in all their faces.

The right is killing America

by grushka on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 06:32:51 PM PDT

I Hope Cheney’s Shooting Victim Dies
by grushka
Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 08:12:09 AM PDT

PLEASE read this entire diary before bashing me. PLEASE.

I’m going to try to make a moral argument for why I hope Harry Whittington dies from his wounds. It is not a simple argument, and I fear I may not be able to articulate it as well as I have conceived it in my mind.

But I feel quite morally justified in hoping that Harry Whittington dies from his wounds. And here’s why.

The Immorality on Focusing on One Person

I believe it is impossible to have a compassionate response to the death of a single individual you don’t know in any way. In a world of 6.5 billion people, roiled by war and suffering every moment of every day, it is impossible to feel meaningful compassion for the death of an individual who has no direct connection to you. I believe to feel such compassion for an individual is morally vacuous, given the very real suffering of such vast swathes of humanity.

I find the propensity of human beings, or at least modern human beings, to focus on the deaths of individuals while ignoring mass suffering, incredibly distressing. And immoral. I believe it was Stalin’s dictum that “one death is a tragedy, a million are a statistic.” This propensity makes great crimes possible.

Note: there is a special case when feeling great sorrow at an individual death is morally justified: the tragic death of an admired figure (your JFKs, MLKs, RFKs, and so on).

To sum up: Harry Whittington does not exist for you or me. He is a media phantom, an abstraction, a symbol, a tool. He is nothing more than those things (and I mean that in a non-ideological, existential sense).

He Deserved It

OK, this is where I may seem more conventional in wishing for Harry Whittington’s death. But again, please bear me out. My argument may not seem as subtle as I wish it, but I think I have a point.

Do I flat out think that conservatives deserve to be shot? Of course not. That is not what this diary says or what I believe. Do I think a man who engineered the Texas GOP takeover – with its disastrous effects on the US as a whole – deserves to be shot? Again, no. Not in the sense of a jury trial and subsequent execution.

Now, do I think a man who was engaged in a quail massacre with the architect of the most despicable Administration in US history, at a time when Americans are dying and killing Iraqi civilians for a pointless war … a man (I’m referring to Harry Whittington now, not Cheney) who almost certainly supported the war, and who almost certainly would not send his own children to die in it (yes, I’m now assuming things. But I don’t care – I’m willing to bet $500 I’m right) deserves to be shot by the VP in a hunting accident?

Do I? The answer is an unequivocal YES. In such a cheap, idiotic, ironic, nauseating, appropriately feudal circumstance, a situation so far removed from the run of real existence as to make it refer to nothing else, the answer is YES. In this particular circumstance, with these particular players, normal human pity and compassion do not apply.

And so, I do indeed hope Harry Whittington dies from this particular circumstance. The conservative revolution he played a part in spreading has brought misery, destruction and death to untold thousands of Americans. As he romped like a feudal lord with his dark masters, he got what he indeed deserved. I hope this plays at least some small part in waking Americans up. In that way, Harry Whittington’s death might atone somewhat for everything else he has wrought.

AFTERWORD: What kind of people are we, anyway?

I think most of us who engage in political discourse on the internet (or in any medium) assume that some of the people who listen will agree with us, and praise us for our insights. We also probably assume that some people who don’t agree with us will experience some sort of negative reaction, though what that negative reaction is supposed to accomplish is not always clear. Sometimes we chum the waters with red meat and sometimes we fish with flame bait. And sometimes we actually try to persuade the fish to jump up on the dock, which is much harder to do.

But all of us think that we’re talking to somebody. And the voice we speak with is not necessarily our real voice. Those of us who are not public persons can adopt cyber-personalities that behave differently than our real selves do back in “meat space”. All writers have a literary existence that is different from actual space-time existence, and God help the writer who gets them mixed up (see DICK, PHILIP K.). It would take a clinical psychologist with a doctor-patient relationship to know for sure which of us are crazy and which of us are faking it, and he could not possibly know that by analyzing the semi-fantastic creatures that we are in cyberspace.

Since our real selves are a matter of guesswork – maybe even to ourselves – we must adopt a paraphrase of Vonnegut’s moral from Mother Night: On the internet, you are what you pretend to be – so be careful what you pretend to be.

So we don’t need to worry about whether the real-time meat-space person who wrote these diaries is a genius or a sociopath. We only have to deal with “Grushka”, his ethereal manifestation, and we are free to judge that entity by its words, without assuming anything else.

So here is what I observe about Grushka:

1. Grushka is a “politicist”.

For Grushka, everything is political, and not just because he explicitly states, “EVERYTHING is political”. We don’t have to take only his word for it - his belief is reflected in his black-and-white dogmatism and his wish to be free of all politically objectionable associations and friendships. Only “extremely progressive” environments are acceptable, because he assumes that anyone who is not with him is against him. He goes so far as to doubt that prescription medications really work, because they’re made by evil pharmaceutical corporations. He probably isn’t kidding.
In all its forms, [politicism] defines human beings as exclusively political animals, based on characteristics which are largely or entirely beyond human control: ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class. It claims universal relevance, and so divides the entire human race into heroes and enemies. To be on the correct side of this equation is considered full moral justification in and of itself, while no courtesy or concession can be afforded to those on the other.
That definition fits Grushka very well. His entire self-image is defined by politics. Because his reality is immersed in politics, he cannot escape from it into the private refuge of friends, or into non-political pursuits. Those private spheres barely exist for him, or at least bring him very little happiness. Because his identity is wholly political, he can’t afford a sense of humor or self-irony. Because the contrast between his political identity and the political identity of “those people” is so stark, he can’t afford any compromise or self-criticism.

And because politics is in everything he sees, he can’t get any critical distance from it. His attempts to reason about it in cold blood – as in the “Whittington had it coming” essay - are extremely painful (he repeatedly begs the reader to follow him down the excruciating path) and the results are self-contradictory and grotesque.

Like any good politicist, Grushka is prone to conspiracy theory, because no event can be neutral or incidental.

2. Grushka’s reality is ruled by Evil.

Nietzsche contrasted two types of ethics, which he called “master morality” and “slave morality”. (These are not intended to represent all moral systems; in fact, both are deeply flawed.)

Master morality begins with a definition of good, which the moralist generally applies to himself: “All people like me are good.” People who do not meet the criteria of “good” are not necessarily evil, but insofar as they fall short they are not good, either, and are regarded with condescension, pity, or indifference.

Slave morality, on the other hand, begins with a definition of evil. The slave moralist regards himself as “good” simply because he does not meet the definition of evil; he needs no moral justification other than the fact that he does not belong to the evil class of persons. The bigger the evil, the more evil the evil, the better he is – regardless of his own character or actions. It is therefore in his interest to exaggerate evil as much as possible. His entire moral world is determined by evil, and he is more or less at its mercy (powerlessness is a great virtue in slave morality).

An old teacher of mine (himself a leftist) described Nietzsche’s idea of slave morality this way: “In the relationship between good and evil, evil wears the pants.”

Evil definitely wears the pants in Grushka’s world. Boy, does it ever. He describes his world as “a world of 6.5 billion people, roiled by war and suffering every moment of every day.” All human progress has been in vain: “Civilization sucks. Humanity was better off in small, roving bands foraging for food.”

Because evil is stronger than good in Grushka’s world, hatred is stronger than love. Hatred operates by a special logic of its own, and only more hatred can match it. Note that in the Whittington essay, he declares that it is impossible (even immoral!) to feel compassion for an unrelated individual, but then goes on to justify feelings of lethal hatred for that same individual.

3. Grushka is a fatalist.

Some people are attracted to political ideologies that offer the possibility of heroic action – not necessarily action of their own, but at least a sort of voyeuristic gratification. Leftist politics are notoriously loaded with such possibilities. Unfortunately, Grushka has chosen a “progressive” strain that seems to deny the possibility of any progressive action, and he is locked into a posture of impotence and frustration.

In his post just prior to the election, Grushka says he has (lately) become an actor “by subsuming myself (to some degree) into a group with a larger purpose.” The problem with subsuming yourself into a larger purpose – over which you actually have little or no control – is that if the larger purpose fails, so do you. By setting standards of success or failure that are far outside of your own abilities, purposeful action and just reward become disassociated. When the dissociation becomes serious enough, the “life is meaningless” syndrome sets in.

If Grushka’s “larger purpose” had succeeded, he could at least enjoy (mostly undeserved) feelings of efficacy. But it failed, so he must suffer equally undeserved feelings of helplessness. His tone thereafter is relentlessly pessimistic. His reaction to the reality that has over-awed him is to hide from every possible part of it, jettisoning friends and reaffirming his total emotional rejection of the hated regime again and again.

In short, nothing makes Grushka really happy except a mass political triumph. Belonging to a sect that rarely if ever triumphs, though, means he is doomed to frustration. He seems to be quite aware of this, and even hostile to any idea that this situation might change: “I truly believe these people cannot be reached.”

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Grushka wants to be alienated and unhappy, or at least believes that he is morally obligated to be unhappy because reality is so intractably evil.

4. Grushka is a collectivist.

Politicism generally implies collectivism, but it’s worth taking a closer look at Grushka’s collectivist aspect.

The Whittington essay is a fine example of collectivism’s awkward moral reasoning, in which the existence of evils (real and imagined) in the “big picture” negates the moral value of the individual. It’s the warped view of Stalinism, pure and simple: “I believe to feel such compassion for an individual is morally vacuous, given the very real suffering of such vast swathes of humanity.” This reminded me of a movie about an uptight girl’s school, where someone said, “I don’t know how we can even talk about having a school dance when there’s so much hunger in the world.”

The conclusion of all such logic is that nothing less than a universal utopia is required for morality (or happiness) to exist at all. “Scientific socialists” of the past recognized that, and claimed that, indeed, morality does not exist.

It is the dilemma of contemporary collectivism that it is deprived of the historical determinism of Marxism, which promised a good result at some point in the future. At the same time, they are burdened by notions of morality, guilt, and the significance of individual action, all of which Marx would sneer away as “bourgeois”.

They are stuck with the prejudices and complaints of Marxism, without the utopian faith and the cold-blooded amorality of Marxism. Marxism was a miserable failure, and Marxism with half the pages missing can’t be much better.

5. Grushka is anti-democratic and anti-rational.

The two characteristics go together, so closely that they are almost the same thing. Grushka, at best, embraces the tragic Leninist idea of “democracy”: the total submission of collective humanity to a narrow political ideal.

Grushka does not see, or seriously look for, rational ways out of his dilemma. He wallows in emotional denial instead. He certainly does not see the power of democratic debate and persuasion – like so many on the left, he is not interested in challenging the right intellectually, and instead seeks to isolate himself from any possible intellectual contact with them.

Grushka’s views the democratic masses the way Charles Foster Kane did: as a bunch of people who think what they’re told to think. He angrily assumes that the other side is doing a better job of straw-bossing the peasants than his side is – their propaganda is better, or at least louder.

This idea, incidentally, is why the left has become such a mess in the mass media, notably on talk radio. They refuse to accept that many among the masses have ideas and values of their own, and that they look for public figures that reflect their ideas and values – not for demagogues who dictate new ones to them.

6. Grushka’s beliefs lead him to psychopathic conclusions.

I won’t say that his beliefs logically imply psychopathic conclusions, because Grushka’s logic isn’t that good. Others could hold the same beliefs without taking them to the disturbing lengths that he does.

That doesn’t mean Grushka is crazy. As I noted before, we have no way to make that diagnosis. The human mind contains infinite possibilities, and it is possible for a perfectly sane, healthy mind to embrace psychopathic concepts, especially when political ideology is involved. The mind is also prone to insincerity and exaggeration, but Grushka is in dead earnest and he obviously does not engage in hyperbole for mere effect.

What do I mean by psychopathic? I’m not a doctor and my use of the word is not clinical or strictly scientific. I call it “psychopathic” when the mind deliberately withdraws from reality in order to justify a specially edited version of reality. It is psychopathic to deliberately associate individuals, groups, or events with things that they have no relation to, in order to justify your own negative feelings. (If you see a group of teenagers horsing around on a street corner, and you feel angry towards them because somebody stole your car battery three weeks ago, this is not exactly psychopathic thinking – it’s just all-too-human emotionalism. It’s the sort of thinking that you should admonish yourself for, not the sort of thinking you should rationalize and embrace.) Irrational feelings of hatred or rage towards individuals, groups, or things are not necessarily psychopathic, but building a conscious rationalization for those feelings is.

This tendency stands out most clearly in the Whittington essay. It is bad enough to hate another individual for ideological reasons, worse yet to wish them harm, but worst of all is to convince yourself that the individual has no meaningful existence at all. Likewise, treating people as if they are mere symbols of something you despise is not healthy or moral. (You couldn’t blame a 19th century Russian Jew for hating Cossacks, or for feeling distaste at the very sight of a Cossack. Even if such hatred is totally unconstructive, it has a rational basis in experience. Extending that hatred to a Russian you just saw walking down the street in New York, on the other hand, is just bigotry.)

That said, I think it’s also obvious that Grushka is not a dangerous cyber-person. His feelings of hatred mostly cause him to withdraw into unhappy isolation, so the real victim is himself. A good example of this is his description of his trip to Canada. The inconvenience of going through customs is blown up into a metaphysical indictment of the United States. The failure of Grushka’s companions to understand this makes Grushka a lonely boy. Impotence, inaction, and a feeling of being the cat-toy of omnipotent forces is Grushka’s thing, not murderous rage.

CONCLUSION: How do you get along with people like Grushka?

Again, we don’t need to make assumptions about how representative Grushka is. One Grushka would be bad enough, if you happen to know him. If you should happen, for instance, to invite him to a Superbowl Party, not realizing that he seethes with silent rage at your very existence.

I don’t know the answer. I certainly don’t delude myself into thinking that Grushka could be reconciled with people like me by love, or reason. His alienation is a self-reinforcing dynamic, and he is not only closed to reasoning from the other side, he regards such attempts as hostile.

Albert Camus wrote that a man would rather die than become the thing he hates most. That’s probably true of most of us, not just Grushka. That’s why you should be very careful about what you hate, and why.