Make ME a politics editor. I will write long posts in which I question the validity of the concept of the “political” as it is used in that tag and discuss political poetics, thereby providing a perspective that is sorely missing. I will make great jokes at the expense of New Atheists and Libertarians and make political theory jokes using popular music. Example: “Lana Del Rey is SOoOoOoOo LACANIAN AM I RIGHT!” I will be a hit, and amend the imbalances in the tag. Above all, I am actually interested in critiquing the state. I post Foucault quotes, like duh.
Let’s make this happen.
here’s Foukie and the Mises School (which included Known Marxist John Paul Sarter aka Pope John Paul XIII aka Pope Benedict XVI aka Kelsey Grammer over there to the side; h/t Pritch)
I’m only calling him Foukie from now on.
For example, when asked a question about welfare 2 days before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum replied “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” The problem is that the question didn’t mention blacks at all, and statistically far more whites receive low-income assistance than blacks. But somehow the word “welfare” has become coded as referring to blacks.
In addition to the quote in the comic, Newt Gingrich called Obama “the most successful food stamp president in American history.” I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sure sounds like someone tossing out red meat to the base.
UPDATE: Here’s some commentary from Jen Sorensen on her comic:
You’d think that decades in politics would knock the racist claptrap out of someone like Newt Gingrich, but, well, this is the GOP we’re talking about. Instead, he just substitutes polite-sounding phrases like “African-American community” and “demand paychecks” for “those lazy blacks.” How does one go about demanding a paycheck, anyway? I’d like to be able to do that, and have one show up. That would be cool.
The dialogue in the third panel refers to Ron Paul’s Paranoid Kook Reports, which contained the theory that the LA riots only came to a halt because everyone went to pick up welfare checks. And right-wing noise machine poopshoveler Brent Bozell said on Fox News that Obama looked like a “skinny ghetto crackhead.” Rick Santorum has also made similar comments to Newt’s.
For data on food stamp usage, I looked at this USDA report (big PDF, via the ThinkProgress article linked above; page 75 has the breakdown) and this, which documents disproportionate rural usage, largely by children.
“A recognized doctrine that the people are to be governed by some abstract power, apart from themselves, has not, even at this day in this country, lost its hold—nor that to any thing more than the government must the said people look for their well-doing and the prosperity of the state… this dogma is particularly inconvenient; because it makes a perpetual and fierce strife between those of opposing views, to get their notions and doctrines realized in the laws. … In plain truth, he wrote, “the people expect too much of the government.” Under a proper organization (and even to a great extent as things are), the wealth and happiness of the citizens could hardly be touched by the government—could neither be retarded nor advanced. Men must be “masters of themselves,” and not look to Presidents and legislative bodies for aid.”
Walt Whitman, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (July 26, 1847)
Good to see you like out-of-context quotes. Whitman’s politics are decidedly anti-libertarian, which is to say that while he doesn’t take a stance on capitalism (and doesn’t this vex any attempt to read him as a libertarian? he doesn’t care about the free market, his politics is distinctly closer to a humanism than anything else), he does take a stance on collectivism (“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Song of Myself”) and globalism (“Salut Au Monde”), his fundamental thesis being that everything is interconnected and therefore “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
Stop trying to turn artists into wacky libertarians.
The quote is not at all out of context. Read the whole article.
So if someone “doesn’t take a stance on capitalism,” they are “decidedly anti-libertarian”…? Strange assertion.
Whitman’s “politics” are unambiguously libertarian in their conclusions regarding government and law. This is not some new reading… see. e.g.
On the whole Whitman remains an old-fashioned libertarian, and the attempt to claim him for the world revolution will always be spurious.
R.V. Chase, Walt Whitman Reconsidered (1955) p.184
I would hardly want to claim Whitman for any sort of “revolution”; Breton rightly points out (I forget where and I don’t have my book with me) how foolish it is to emblazon revolutionary banners with the names of Rimbaud or Lautreamont. I’d suggest you take the time to read Whitman a little more carefully, however, because there is nothing “unambiguous” about anything he wrote, really. To assert as much is to have missed the point: what does one do with his extreme reverence for Abraham Lincoln as a leader (see “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”)? and what about the ways he simply volunteered to take care of other people as a nurse during the Civil War? What does one make of Whitman’s love poetry? The poems discovered after his death? Oh, and let’s not forget that Walt Whitman had a vested interest in the United States as a Union, with a central government. He was what most libertarians on Tumblr might call a “statist.”
More broadly, however, you miss two key points here (and in the rest of your post) that render most of what you say fairly irrelevant:
1. As is the case with philosophy, literary theory and criticism is full of varying opinions and constant development. It is difficult to take seriously the citation of a critic from 1955 as though his word is law when—as one surveys the field of Whitman scholarship—one does not find much to suggest that Chase’s opinion has set some sort of standard or become the benchmark to which all future scholars must respond.
2. To say that anything in poetry is “unambiguous” is unambiguously stupid, not least of all because poetry’s medium is language. And in the case of this particular poet, one need only look at his love poetry to find out that there is a whole mess of contradiction, indeterminacy, and—for all his talk of clarity and directness—obfuscation going on. Taking Whitman at face value—taking anything at face value, especially in poetry—is problematic (I would distinguish between “face value” and “surface” here just because the latter refers, at least as i would use it in a conversation about poetry, to the materiality of the language, whereas the former has more to do with the crudity of your reading).
Quasi-transcendentalist notions about an ontological collective humanity are not at all in opposition to libertarianism (and Whitman was still quite individualist), which you seem to be confusing with methodological atomism or Randian ethical egoism. Libertarianism is only necessarily opposed to collectivism as a legitimating ideology for inter-individual coercion by purported agents of said collective. And libertarianism is not about “capitalism”—certain conclusions regarding, among many other things, the permissibility/desirability/likelihood of particular “free market” conceptions of “capitalism” follow from libertarian principles and consequentialist arguments. And Polanyite or Marxist classifications of “capitalism” are not what libertarians (or most English speakers for that matter) mean when employing the term.
Reading Whitman might help clarify some of the problems you’re having understanding his philosophy. Terminological debates aside (I do not care about nor find relevant the quibbling about subsets of libertarianism, and indeed find these asides to be divagations from the question at hand in this instance), my premise is simple: Walt Whitman was not a libertarian, and to read him as such is to read him incorrectly—that is to say, it is to read him without regard for contexts historical, social, textual, etc. You have not addressed this premise. You have addressed presumptions that could—but don’t—follow from that premise. But you most certainly have not addressed or mentioned the text(s) in question other than telling me to read an article which predates by 8 years the first printing of Leaves of Grass and which here you are using as a synecdoche for Whitman’s entire oeuvre, which itself is not so uncomplicated as a series of discrete literary utterances since most of it happened in revisions of the same text over time. It is as if you are more interested in statements of libertarianism
It’s not clear that Whitman doesn’t take a position on it anyway (e.g. “In plain truth, he wrote, “the people expect too much of the government.” Under a proper organization (and even to a great extent as things are), the wealth and happiness of the citizens could hardly be touched by the government—could neither be retarded nor advanced.)”
Whitman also repeats the noble savage trope in some of his poems and arguably was a racist (there’s a stanza in “Salut Au Monde” where he basically offers “encouragement” to African countries, telling them, “hey one day you won’t be shitty and will be cool like us.”) Point being, I’m not saying Whitman agrees with me about everything. I’m also not trying to rip him out of his social and historical milieu—which your use of the above quote suggests you are doing, since that means something very different today than it would have back then.
EE Cummings, another big thematic libertarian btw. Byron and Heine too, really. Also Shakespeare of course. Emerson, Thoreau, Charles Olson. We are reappropriating your icons; be warned, I guess.
Please, take Cummings: I want nothing to do with that swine.
It’s laughable that you would try to read Byron’s individualism outside the context of his philosophical Romanticism. Surely you don’t think that Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Coleridge were libertarians too? And while we’re at it better throw Baudelaire in there, since his idea of the flaneur is like TOTALLY individualistic! And thus we can see how all the Surrealists were libertarians and that Walter Benjamin’s whole reading of Baudelaire is libertarian. Give me a break.
Haven’t read Heine much outside of the poems for Dichterleibe, so can’t comment.
I responded elsewhere to the idea that Shakespeare was a libertarian. In his case more so than Whitman’s, such a designation does not make sense.
You can have Emerson and Thoreau.
Olson’s ideas about individualism are kind of complicated. They’re best read in relation to his two great literary forebears: Ezra Pound (from whom his poetic approach to history comes) and Herman Melville (if you read Olson’s book on Melville, in fact, I think he discusses it).
This whole ordeal is ridiculous, though. Why do various ideas need lists of names to lend credence to their veracity/excellence/authenticity/whatever? It’s like libertarianism is that toothpaste that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend or something, and that’s fine, you can brush your teeth with it, but my main complaint is not that I can’t bear to think of Whitman as a libertarian for reasons of ideological purity, but rather that I think it’s an unfounded reading of him lacking in careful textual analysis.
Imagine if we couldn’t read Dante because we disagreed with him on religion! Jeez.
TIL you don’t challenge Pritch on poetry unless you know your shit.
This is the hero of people like Eric Cantor, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, etc.
should be the fucking headline for every news source, ever, tomorrow.