Sunday, March 1, 2015

Heartless: Arthur Silber and the Left's Crippled Future

As he's spent most of the last two years doing, Arthur Silber is begging for donations again. Send them if you will; what better use for your time and money than giving Paypal and Visa each their transaction fees, in order to shift the Federal Reserve ledger slightly in Arthur's favor, permitting him to purchase life-extension drugs and canned ash/tuna blends for aging, reproductively-mutilated domestic zoo exhibits.

Silber is something of a Forrest Gump, though without the noble spirit of Groom's character. Gump, if you haven't read the actual book, is the kind-hearted American idiot who personifies the latter half of the twentieth century. He's raised by a single mother, he goes to school, he goes to war, he goes to space, he goes to capitalism--he's like Homer Simpson, but without any of the badness. In the choices, struggles, and outcome of Gump's life, we see the major formal topics of 1950s-1990s U.S. history spelled out. In the process, we feel a little bit bad for Forrest, because he really was an idiot. He went to Vietnam, played pro football, and wasted his life pursuing Jenna, because he actually was too dim to understand what he was doing. As for the rest of us, who did those things without Forrest's handicap, well--so the worse for our own morals. Forrest's fate is to grow old the eternal optimist, watch Jenna die of AIDS, watch all his home's traditions melt into plastic hell, and then conclude that it was random, simply because he's too stupid to do otherwise. He's the penultimate American, or at least, the American we wish we were. Unlike Forrest, we had the processing power to know that murdering a few million southeast Asian villagers was morally wrong. Gary Sinise may be a genuinely evil man hooting at his third screening of American Sniper, but the actual character Forrest Gump can claim, in his defense, the plausible stupidity of the misled.

Like Gump, Arthur Silber has had a chance to live out a certain set of American ideals. His path was not so star-studded, but it comes with the veneer of rational choice--a choice generally unavailable to Gump. In it, we can see a number of the terrible contradictions and failures inherent in a certain set of American philosophies, along with their sad terminus, and their subsumption by their presumed worst enemies.

Arthur's Path

From Arthur's board, which is regularly highly personal, and which has been avowedly public for years and years, we observe the following architecture:

1) Arthur was an unusual child who quarreled with his parents, and who grew up to hate them always;

2) Arthur self-identified as gay to his parents at an early age, and when they sent him to therapy, he underwent electroshock therapy as a treatment;

3) At maturity, Arthur cast off on his own to be a concert pianist and have a lotta lotta unprotected sex with as many male partners as he could;

4) Arthur failed to be a concert pianist, and attempted to be a professional art appreciator and a professional social critic, activities at which he also failed;

5) Arthur got very sick and very poor;

6) Arthur applied for government disability benefits and moved into a small apartment in a State with a high cost of living;

7) Arthur purchased two domestic animals, had them surgically altered, and keeps them thoroughly fed and medicated;

8) Arthur started a blog angrily critiquing American society.

Arthur's Problems

Arthur's angry critiques of American society, like many (many, many, many~) such critiques, are often accurate, even pointed. Like the plurality of the world's public given access to the internet, Silber recognizes that there are problems with the world, and he can correctly depict and analyse several of them, often connecting them into patterns. Yes, it's sad that Arthur is poor and sick, like many people, but instead of letting his cats go and making do on State assistance meant for a single person, Arthur not only feeds, but medicates his very aged cats, in a land where twenty percent of young children go hungry--and asks for others to tithe the financial system in order to abet him in such acts.

The quandary of withdrawal finds its place here: if we're so noble and good that we withdraw from society, how do we survive? Well, simply put, we die. Enough of that righteous withdrawal would indeed stop the elite parasites. Begging, though, does not accomplish that. And certainly not non-frugal begging (e.g., begging in order to house animals which could survive on their own, if you weren't using them as companionship fetishes).

When we "withdraw" from society by refusing to contribute but being willing to extract, we've become little different than the crony capitalists. Arthur's late-life withdrawal is built on the back of those in all stages of life who haven't withdrawn. Arthur is such a noble slave that he refuses to work in the mines--but he subsists on charity taken from those who have bitten their tongues and continued to toil under the whip.

I Hate You, Mommy

Many other children in the world, for example--even in America--were angry with their parents. Many were beaten, mutilated, or emotionally tormented at various states of their development. Many suffered their entire childhoods away, constantly bullied by a sick society that didn't like anything about them. Their sexuality, their looks, their choices, their socioeconomic status--whatever. Many were subjected to cruel medical treatment without the capacity to refuse, or to respond to it as an adult.

And yet, they fought to survive. Many children grew up in worlds like this, and were able to move beyond it. Some of them were able to forgive their peers, and find friendships there. Others were able to forgive their parents, and find misguided humanity there. In so doing--in fostering networks among even people who hurt them for the longest time--they gained at least a modicum of society where there had been none before.

Some of them even looked upon their lives as a precious gift, and wanted to pass it on to others. Others whom, incidentally, are now leaving their families at home and working their asses off to pay Arthur's monthly SSI checks, so that Arthur can use the internet and listen to opera and make sure his cats have the latest feline pills.

Is it ironic, I wonder? All of the queers who shut the fuck up and did what they were "supposed to" might now be enjoying the company of their parents, instead of being left penniless outcasts from the family. (The family might be a bunch of jerks, but so is the USG, so from whom are you willing to accept charity?) They might be sharing in an inheritance in their elder years, or living with children who are able to care for them in the twilight of their lives. How many of those people are out there, right now? People who had Arthur's artistic and/or homosexual tendencies, and/or who rebelled against their parents in youth, but who were able to become adults who put aside their own pleasures for the sake of not being a burden? For the sake of thanking their parents for giving them life, even an abused one, or in order to pass on the gift to others without the abuse; for the sake of being able to offer others shelter, instead of only to take it; for the sake of the past and the future: many people made these choices, and we will never hear about them, because they are understood by those who make the choices, rather than trumpeted in great detail by those who did not.

All of the fun Arthur had during his party years was denied to those people. Sure, they got beaten down and humiliated, too, but they also didn't get to cruise the Bay Area for fifteen years, swapping blowjobs. They were busy settling for something less than an ideal; they were busy thinking about lives to come after theirs; they were busy thinking about what they could do to make things better for others, instead of how to grab as many positive sensations as they could for themselves before the end. Silber's life is an intensely-concentrated doomsday fantasy, where you rush to have another margarita before the asteroid strikes.

This isn't being written exclusively for Arthur's benefit, or to critique him--he can and will do whatever the hell he wants. Rather, we're looking at his path for purposes of comparison to isolationist philosophies. Arthur chose to blaze the hypocritical, rather than the honest, trail--he rejected society while demanding to extract from it all he could. He fantasized over imperial opera, and the sellout scions of a certain subset of pop culture, while decrying all modern sellouts for their ties to big business (you kids get off my grass!). He slept around the corporate clubs and Hilton hostels of California, enjoying all the culture of being a middle-class young white gay runaway, until the credit ran out and it was time to consider living as others had been.

And all of a sudden, it was doubly unfair. All of the queers who'd bitten the bullet, gotten jobs, and made lives for themselves, were doing better than he was. They had places to go home to. They sighed and wondered what it would've been like to have more sex when they were younger. To hell with them, Silber says--now give me some pet cremation money, you conformist bastards!

No woodsman, he; no seasteader attempting to grow an organic garden using mulch he got from Iceland in exchange for golden trinkets. Silber prefers to dwell in the heart of the concrete jungle, hating it while begging it to care for him. More power to him--that's what we're all doing, too--but the black pit into which he's long since fallen is an instructive one.

More importantly, and far more instructive, is the unspoken suffering of all of those whom Silber tumbled across on his race to the bottom. Silber isn't a survivalist, but neither is he a revolutionary. The same with all of us hypocrites, but then, we're all slaving away at survival, here. Silber rejects everything we do to survive, calling it ignoble and wrong, yet he wants us to do it for him, so that he can enjoy the Empire's vile fruits. Timothy McVeigh can claim the mantle of an internally-consistent moral code, but not any of us left here.

I Refuse To Work For Big Money!

Surviving in this hell is a burden, to be sure. We can't hate Silber for hating it, or being broken on it. The problem with Silber lies in his veneration by much of the non-mainstream political community that has arisen in these early years of the network. By building up this crumbling wreck of a selfish hypocrite to be an icon of social criticism, the American "left" (or progressive-ness, or radical-ness, or anarchistic, or whatever you want to think of whatever "it" is) is building on as shoddy a foundation as Washington. This is how well-meaning narratives go bad: by idealizing people like Silber. Silber had a few good things to say, but really, he's mildly famous now only because he had a larger vocabulary, and a more pro-homosexual attitude, than other people willing to use the f-word about politicians at the time of his ascendance.

Silber takes Paypal. He's too honorable to put ads on his site, or to condescend to work for Walmart, but he'll take Paypal, funneling Visa funds from the Federal Reserve, and deposit it into his American financial account, to spend at corporate food & drug branches? Yes, that's the same Paypal that joined in on the war on Wikileaks, and the same JP Morgan Chase offshoot that's spent over a century financing imperial war, and the same Federal Reserve that--yada yada. And what do you think about the property management company that owns his apartment? The government agency that cuts him his monthly check?

What about the children of all the other 1970s faggots who kept their sexuality hidden from disapproving parents, worked hard for soul-crushing corporations, and raised their own children differently--maybe nurturing independent sexuality in people who, down Silber's bloodline, will never exist? Well, those kids, as they struggle to raise their own children, are now financing Silber's retirement after twenty years of cocktails and cocksucking. Not that twenty years of cocktails and cocksucking is bad, but there just seems to be something a little unfair about it, doesn't it?

It's all part of the system, baby. Who do you think you're fooling, asking me to carry your load? Of course, we need to distinguish between charity toward those who need it, and giving presents to those who want them. How many kittens in Kansas could live long and productive (snark) lives for what it costs Silber in pharmaceuticals to keep a couple diseased, geriatric cats straggling on for another few months? Considering that cats can survive outdoors on their own when they're not moved to hot climates, surgically sterilized, and stuffed inside a little apartment to please a desperately needy master, probably hundreds of them. You could also feed some human children, but forget that. Think about the kittens. For the price of keeping Silbers' aged eunuchs alive, you could prevent hundreds of other cats from being killed to free up shelter space, and allow them to have some time on this planet. It's rather eerie, vis-à-vis both cats and people, how loathe Silber is to consider the benefits of family over self.

16 comments:

  1. Well I've never liked him, but I should mention that even just 150 years ago, one still had the option to withdraw from society. It meant suffering and hardship, but it did not mean certain death and humiliation, which it does now.
    Besides, those actually working and "contributing" pursue goals not that different - to attain some level of security, so that they could insulate themselves at least a bit and not have to be dependent on bureaucrat/corporate assholes at all times. A dream to be sure, but keeps many people going (myself included).

    Working in corporate hell is also almost exactly the same as what Silbert is doing - hating it, with the clear awareness of how stupid and pointless the work is, yet nevertheless accepting the paychecks stolen from those that actually man the machines and the fields. Yay, meritocracy.


    I know exactly one person - a true christian - who works himself to death within the system, in order to find jobs for the homeless. So there's that - if my life experiences are representative, that's like what, 1 in a thousand?

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    1. When he was young and busy having fun as an Anglo middle class out Cali party boy, Silber's options would've been much broader than they are now. What colors his story in its own unique tones is that he took all of those years of health and potential, and threw them away on parties and poppers. Ironically, his parents were the ones trying to save him from the hell of his life--if he'd listened to them, partied a little less, and been a little more responsible, he might be living with his son and daughter-in-law right now, playing with his grandchildren instead of his cats, and not so hateful toward everyone who doesn't give him money and adulation.

      There are older people (albeit in better health) who go "off the grid" in the sense that they bounce between homeless shelters and clinics. Of course, they're relying on the same sellout producers as Silber. I wonder, if America's homeless formed an army and marched on Washington, would they be able to impose a guaranteed minimum income?

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    2. That would be 4-5 million people, so potentially yes, though they would be the target of a lot of hostility, even though only a small % are the infamous "homeless by choice".

      The same guy i mentioned above semi-voluntarily became homeless for 4 years in order to understand the situation and says that he never actually felt particularly deprived during that time, and eve that this period was the freest he had felt in his life.

      But now he is fighting, with some success, one of the main dirty secrets of the system dealing with the homeless - which is that it cannot, and does NOT want to to help them become independent and contributing members of society - it is only interested in "administering" and "managing" them in a more efficient manner. If that was not the case, they would be busy finding them good jobs, rather than inventing more and more umiliating conditions to receive the basics. (In my city, this includes a requirement to spend a month in an open air shelter, before becoming eligible to enter the real shelter - a massive public-private monstrocity that destroyed and put out of business a good network of old private charities

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    3. I'm late to the party but you are using the internet and typing on a computer that these corporate assholes created so that you could live an easier life, along with your electricity, clean running water, your car and the gas and oil to run it. Count your blessings instead of scratching your ass and showing us your finger.

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    4. (Me, or the Anonymous right above you?)

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    5. Arthur Sieber is a beggar, all he does is beg.
      Sadly people still send him money.

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    6. We all send him money. Silber survives on the labor of taxpayers he hates. He's getting food and housing and medical assistance. The reason he wants extra money is so he can feed and house his cats on top of that...which is bad enough in itself, but he also wants to medicate them and have surgeries performed on them. Please send him some crypto ASAP so a geriatric cat can sleep away another few drugged months before requiring replacement.

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  2. Arthur Sieber is simply the bourgeois socialist condemned in the "Communist Manifesto", without the think-tank job:

    "A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redreessing social grievances in order to secure the
    continued existence of bourgeois society.
    To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of
    the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to
    animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of
    socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.
    We may cite Proudhon’s
    Philosophie de la Misère
    as an example of this form.
    The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantage
    es of modern social conditions without the
    struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom.

    They desire the existing state of society,
    minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a
    proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best;
    and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete
    systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out
    such a system, and thereby to march straightway
    into the social New Jerusalem, it
    but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within
    the bounds of existing society, but should cast
    away all its hateful ideas concerning the
    bourgeoisie.
    A second, and more practical, but less systematic
    , form of this Socialism sought to depreciate
    every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political
    reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could
    be of any advantage to them. By changes in the
    material conditions of existence, this form of
    Socialism, however, by no means
    understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production,
    an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the
    continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations
    between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen
    the cost, and simplify the administrative work,
    of bourgeois government. "

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    1. Great application of Marx. That enunciates a lot of what's wrong about the Silber-worship developed by so many progressives.

      What makes Silber truly mad is that, unlike Glenn Greenwald, he was unable to turn his social criticism into a source of free market revenue generation. To whit, no one ever gave him a job just for being a crank.

      And it is unfair, because Greenwald is just a less-insightful version of Silber. If anyone should be raping Intercept readers for dollars, it's Silber, not Greenwald. (While we're at it, I'd like a job, too.)

      You can't have your cake and eat it, too, though. Greenwald made himself a hypocrite by turning his criticism into a neutered part of the system, and Silber is desirous of doing exactly that to his own writing. In fact, since he already generates revenue off "donations," he already is a Greenwald--just a less-successful one.

      "But for the grace of a billionaire, there I go," we all might think, when we look upon Silber's now-rare screeds.

      Those who reject the path might be noble, and those who suffer through it are possibly a little-bit noble, but those who want to ride the boat without having to share the oars...?

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  3. Wait a second, we all reject society by definition --> if social interactions are stripped of any actual "social" content (kinship, family etc. other forms of mutual obligation) as they are, then agreeing to continue to participate still does not mean that we have somehow have decided to endure passing the torch of civilization. It simply means that we are too chickenshit to change it more drastically.

    In this context, Arthur's only failing is failing to disappear quietly, instead of begging for help while still keeping the disdain.

    But, i still find his disdain for the rest of us marginally more honest than the permanent disdain of the bourgeois to other people - based on the fact that he knows that he doesn't care for them, but he also knows that he needs them. Yeah, some of us do manage to convince themselves that they actually care. LOL.

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    1. Arthur isn't the (most) problematic one here. The largest component of this sickness is expressed in the way so many other people want to take up his cause--to idolize his hypocritical, utterly selfish begging, and to hold him up as an example of proper behavior.

      Arthur is just an opportunist. He's a shill for himself; he's bitter, hateful wreck trying to spew so much bile that someone gives him money. Like Obama, he's looking out for what he views as Number One.

      It is those people who have built a fandom around Arthur because of this behavior that exemplify the problem. Arthur's behavior, while pitiable and understandable, is not something to which we should aspire. It's not something that should be supported. Even if he (now rarely) critiques politics in a way with which we agree, we should not encourage him in his feline mutilation, his private zoo-enclosure fetish, or the horrible wreck that has become of his life.

      Think of the Emperor's New Clothes. The Emperor, and the naive boy, are not the stupidest characters in the story. Rather, the alternatingly exultant and angry mob is. The Emperor's own sad idiocy only serves as a parable to show that the hooting mob's mistake is the greatest of all.

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    2. The guy can't walk, but he can write, and he can see what is neo-____ (crap), so let him have cats! Humanity needs true liberals. These times are tough, possibly the extinction called 6X. The solution is not amputation, always.

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  4. Since the subject of today's essay is someone who holds an online identity under the initials AS and who, under that identity, invited reader correspondence, it might be something like an interesting factoid to hear/read that when he was contacted quite a few moons ago via the email address he provides, AS advised that he was not a failed pianist or art critic, and in fact never mentioned playing any instruments or criticizing any art, but instead said he spent decades as a corporate lawyer and even named the firm where he spent most of his time. Once upon a time, he was other than what he says, twice upon a time he was yet another, thrice upon a time he's on the verge of going seis piedes abajo. Somewhere in the ethereal world of zeroes and ones sits a person and a keyboard and a narrow imagination, narrow enough to change the narrative depending on the inquiring party or the situation's curiosities. I believe I will attempt to send him some monopoly money.

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    1. If he were a good con man, he'd post more often--so any changes in his narrative are probably ones that he believes by the time he makes them.

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    2. Your Arthur bio doesn't seem to match up too well with him. Isn't he a lawyer, for instance? Hasn't his health crashed? The article itself seems pretty good and interesting in spite of some possible fictions. In any case, he hasn't posted anything for four months and might be dead for all we know.

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    3. Yeah, his non-begging articles are pretty good, except when he slips into female supremacy or why his parents were evil for wanting him to not get HIV in some bathhouse and end up dying poor and alone.

      Someone who read him once told me that he was a concert pianist, even though Arthur said himself he was never good enough.

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