Events, dear boy, events

Events, dear boy, events. That’s what Harold Macmillan is supposed to have said when he was asked what it was that a prime minister most feared. Like most of these famous statements, Macmillan probably never said it. But these days, events are, for me, something, on the whole, that I welcome rather than fear.

Our political conversations are so stuck, with people rehearsing the same lines of the same arguments; it doesn’t matter how bitter those arguments are, the familiarity of the lines are a comfort. It’s like a church hymnal.

But then something comes along—an Occupy, a Black Lives Matter, a Sanders, a BDS, and long before that, a Seattle—that no one who was not involved in the planning or organizing, expected, and the conversation is pushed out of that groove. Suddenly we’re talking about something else; suddenly, we think something else is possible, there is an alternative. Suddenly everything we thought we knew, we no longer know.

I know the counter to this: Trump. But Trump, however unexpected, hasn’t changed the conversation. He’s just intensified the conversation we’ve been having since the 1970s (the fear of the radical right, the sigh of the neoliberal settlement). Ironically, despite so many of us saying Trump couldn’t win, his election has simply confirmed everything we already knew.

So while everyone continues that conversation, reading from the same hymnal, arguing about the same things we always argue about (and the left has its own stuckness when it comes to these arguments), I remain watchful, hopeful, for that event. What other choice do I have?


  1. ronp April 22, 2017 at 10:24 pm | #

    Seems unclear what you are wishing for – impeachment? President Pence? Only thing I am hopeful for is the next round of national elections. Perhaps young people will vote in numbers to counter the older white voters who really give power to conservatives.

  2. Chris Morlock April 22, 2017 at 11:03 pm | #

    Hopefully it’s not WW3. At this rate the Russian hysteria is heading in this direction. Why not write about that instead of criticizing Bernie’s abortion stance?

    Tone-def to imply hoping for “events” during a time when both right and left are clamoring for nuclear Armageddon.

    • Michael Fiorillo April 23, 2017 at 10:54 pm | #

      Wait, since when is the Clinton/Obama/Schumer wing of the Democratic Party, and those taking their meme-al cues from it, the Left?

      I know longer know exactly what the Left is in this country anymore, or if it exists at all, but I know that ain’t it.

      • Chris Morlock April 25, 2017 at 12:20 am | #

        There is no meaning to the term “the Left” in American politics, just as Chompsky has elaborated on many times. When I say the ‘the Left” I mean the establishment left who are in power. That includes Schumer, Pelosi, etc. We should be shaming these people out of existence but apparently it’s more important to forget all introspective self criticism and join the “resistance” (made up of said establishment Dems) and get on the war mongering bandwagon.

        A more telling question is the ask who is the real “Left” in this country. Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard………having problems populating this list of those in power who I agree with.

  3. Bruce Wilder April 22, 2017 at 11:10 pm | #

    I do not think he is referring to a wishing or anything purely idiosyncratic.

    There is a general sense of expectancy pervading the common mood. Look at the financial press or commentary and reporting on foreign policy. The French elections. The British elections. It has become the strategist, this waiting for something to happen to break the hyper-normal pretence that the world is working.

    Both those dissatisfied with the course the world has taken and those most satisfied seem to be developing a common expectation that things cannot continue as they have been. Trump has given us that: by threatening disruption and delivering a normal incompetence, but it also about having played out the extension given financially and militarily in 2008.

    It has gone beyond the usual apocalyptic, the entertaining prospect of disaster, to become a mood almost desiring a turn away from false optimism toward some instance of collapse that might relieve us of responsibility for continuing to pretend and extend, at the moment when there can be no alternative to demolition work.

    • dougsly April 23, 2017 at 12:11 am | #

      By definition, a Black Swan cannot be waited on. But I think it’s true as Wilder says that there is a real sense of waiting without anticipation. Eric Pangdorn suggested in Angel’s Egg that Armageddon is the only battle of importance.

      • bob mcmanus April 24, 2017 at 7:55 am | #

        Edgar Pangborn

        • bob mcmanus April 24, 2017 at 8:33 am | #

          But Pangborn is a good ref, Mirror for Observers and Davy he has the pastoral humanist tone of Simak and Sturgeon combined with a kind of melancholic apocalypticism.

          I liked the OP, and Wilder’s comment. The current zeitgeist reminds me a little of the late 50s early sixties (nuclear war), but there was more optimism then. There really is no longer a socialist imaginary, a communist horizon. Enzi Traverso has written a good book, Left Wing Melancholy 2016. Walter Benjamin (trending!) Daniel Bensaid as Holy Fools.

          The word for the feeling may be dread. I have for a while believed that the AGW apocalypse will show up first in the collective unconscious, maybe in some crazed Millenarianisms. After that…the Lifeboat Wars.

      • Molly Cruz May 1, 2017 at 10:00 am | #

        Wilder (?) whoever he/she is is spot on. What we perceive from the front row is trivial melodrama, while we actually ready ourselves for the only enemy we ever really had: a large careening lump of something alien in every sense of the word. The racier the local story gets, the easier it is to forget our temporary leases here. Fortunately, a minimal but healthy contingent of us is working night and day on that little problem. Trouble is, only one in a million of us is capable of that level of thought. The rest wallow in the pig swill that is Trump and Co’s idea of leadership. It really makes little difference. Armageddon is still the only problem worth our time, the rest is entertainment.

  4. jonnybutter April 22, 2017 at 11:11 pm | #

    “Tone-def to imply hoping for “events” during a time when both right and left are clamoring for nuclear Armageddon.”

    What leftist is ‘clamoring’ for that? Even the religious Right isn’t exactly ‘clamoring’ – more like ‘give us Armageddon…but not yet’.

    • Chris Morlock April 22, 2017 at 11:35 pm | #

      Turn on the news. You get cable? Network?

      • Jonnybutter April 23, 2017 at 6:11 pm | #

        I would say tv is a really bad source for news. Or information. TV is mostly about itself.

      • herme April 26, 2017 at 11:05 am | #

        What leftists on cable are you talking about? Since CNN has never heard of Noam Chomsky I’ll just assume you have no idea what you are talking about. But I should try, what about the hawkish liberal interventionists you see on tv do you think is leftist?

  5. richard k bloom April 23, 2017 at 1:21 am | #

    Events are helpful, but slow-going. Walking home today I saw mothers and sons carrying “Science matters” posters and of course there had been science rallies all over the country. Can we really educate our kids and have a president who dont know nutttin abut science or why it matters? He is now trying to cram through a health care plan (minus the health care) and a tax reform bill (for the real estate industry) to make his first 100 days look noteworthy. They are noteworthy indeed. For the man has no desire to learn anything. We said of W. that he did not have a curious mind. He was way more curious than Trump. A rooster is. This is all very sad. Events. Tomorrow could be a disaster in the French election. France we saved you inWW2. Now save us and yourselves and Europe. Events, events…the night of the WH Correspondents Dinner, our President, who cannot laugh at himself or take a joke (because he is a joke) will have another one of his rallies. What a sad event!

  6. mark April 23, 2017 at 4:53 am | #

    ‘“Whatever is received,” say the schools, “is received in proportion to the recipient.” The power of a political treatise depends much upon the disposition of the people; the nation was then combustible, and a spark set it on fire.’

  7. GRH April 23, 2017 at 10:24 am | #

    I remember when GW Bush was just a few months into his first term…historically low approval numbers…everyone goofing on his inability to speak proper English (remember “Bushisms”?)…everyone saying he was not legitimate because of the whole Supreme Court Fiasco…his first 100 days was a bust (he couldn’t even pass his tax cut bill) …et cetera…. et cetera…. et cetera.

    And then – an Event.

  8. zenner41 April 23, 2017 at 1:26 pm | #

    Don’t sit around waiting for things to happen. I’m joining with Swing Left to try to influence the midterms. It’s true that it’s very sad that the best we can hope for is for Congress to go back to the damned Democrats, but revolution is not in the cards today, folks–very sorry.

  9. Chris Morlock April 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm | #

    Another “event” to write about would be the recent situation where the Trump admin, seemingly on the ropes, was saved by the establishment Democrats when he essentially indiscriminately bombed Afghanistan and Yemen. I thought the logical reaction when I say this display or stupidity that the media would finally stick the knife in Trump’s heart – headlines of “Trump stakes legitimacy on military action” and “Trump’s back against the wall turns to wild bombing”,

    Instead, we saw Brian Williams and ilk (including all major Democrats) literally orgasm with delight at MOAB and this silly, Putin like exercise of staking political legitimacy on military action. The feeling of sickness that swept over me at the establishment Left’s war mongering spirit eclipse it’s anti-Trump hatred. What a joke.

  10. troutsky April 23, 2017 at 7:36 pm | #

    “Revolution is not in the cards today…” talk about your church hymnal- or received wisdom. A fine example of just how thoroughly the left has absorbed the prohibition against wanting what one truly desires.

  11. Howard B April 24, 2017 at 9:19 pm | #

    Volcanoes are events. They fertilize the soil, do they not? Trump’s power is lilting precariously- but America is vulnerable and sick- any event now would be an emergency and would really exercise the body politic

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