Matt Taylor responds again. he is masochist
I have learned something! You are 36 years old. When we started off, I thought you were my age or younger, and this explained why you are such a silly twerp and aren’t so good at reading, but now I realize that you are a fully-grown-up twerp. I think you’re probably stuck with being that twerp for the rest of your life. Critical literacy, honest, ethics are things you still have a shot at, though the prospects aren’t good. Lesson is on. Pay attention.
Let’s start with the core of the first tutorial: the question of non-violence as a “principle” versus a tactic. You have asserted—but not defended—the binary of non-violence and violence. You have proven unable to defend or define violence or non-violence in such a way as to create a coherent binary. Your definitions have the tone and logical content of a little child writing about how much they love their puppy. We’re talking politics, the real world, and violence, which means people dying—distant from the shire over in Berkeley, but bear with me. Your inability to defend your dichotomous conception of violence and non-violence against a spectrum-or-melding-throughout approach renders a principled approach to actually practicing non-violence as a way of being, rather than a situational way of reacting to violence and oppression, literally incoherent. What does it mean to be principled practitioner of non-violence if that sort of principled non-violence likely will lead to mass death? Is it just an idea?
It doesn’t seem to be a very good idea. I took apart your definitions. BDS is coercive, people practice BDS coercively, there is no question about that and no amount of hemming or hawing about which category to slot it into, what “coercive” as opposed to “persuasive” means, will make you correct about it being non-coercive which is just an attempt to make it fit into this Procrustean bed that your rigid theory makes for you. I considered something—BDS—that people understand as a non-violent tactic against your definitions of non-violence and violence. BDS is anti-colonialist and overtly coercive. Plenty of those using it hate Israel, hate Israelis, but are willing to live in peace or want the Palestinians to live in peace with Israelis in a bi-national state. Intent matters for a certain sort of scribe scribbling away in the cloisters about non-violence, but vis-a-vis real world effects you have some convincing to do, and I suspect you’re not up for it. Not your fault. It’s going to be Sisyphean work. Your definitions are thoughtless non-sense, I am really sorry to say. Your definitions fell flat, on their own terms. You can’t blame anyone, you wrote them, you know that, so you hurtle along and write something fresh:
I can see why you’d conclude that, but after a lot of time questioning the line between coercion and persuasion, I think BDS can fall into something like “highly assertive persuasion” and “non-cooperation.” But it’s a fine point, and let’s not debate it here.
No shit you can “see why I’d conclude that.” It’s correct. No shit why you desire to “not debate it here.” You are wrong. Either defend your writing or get out of the ring.
Now, you can continue to misconstrue what I wrote initially—Phil titled the post—when as I have clarified, re-clarified, clarified again, and clarified yet again, my argument is that non-violence should be employed as a tactic, and shouldn’t be raised to the level of principle. That is a normative statement about what I believe. It’s true, and truism, that people think of non-violence as a principle, but I still do not know what this means, and your lengthy interventions have not clarified this issue for me. Consider another one of these dimwits you say, “Look! Read! I can’t synthesize and summarize their work But They Are Correct!” Here’s Weber:
There appear to be two approaches to nonviolence. They have been termed “principled,” where emphasis is on human harmony and a moral rejection of violence and coercion…
Consider this “principled” non-violence. It “morally rejects” violence, except not in absolutist terms—presumably in self-defense it allows for violence. Here again you show your obsession with direct confrontational forms of violence, e.g. sudden, overwhelming force is the “exception” to the “moral rejection” of violence which then allows for forceful self-defense and coercion. That is roughly the prevailing interpretation of Article 51 of the UN. But that article allows for violent resistance to colonialism, and colonialism explicitly is not “sudden and overwhelming” but often structural. Here’s the point. Self-defense is allowed against sudden and overwhelming force within the ambit of an ostensibly “principled” non-violence–this we agree on. But what is the moral or ethical difference between violence used to expel foreign invaders who will inevitably kill because that is what occupiers do and have done throughout history and violence used against the foreign invader running willy-nilly around with a scimitar? There’s no coherent defensible ethical or moral difference. The issue is consequentalist: how do we reduce human suffering. Right?
I read your scholarly obituary on Sharp and Gandhi. Sharp agrees with me (in part), saying “It is not a question, is it morally right or morally wrong. It is not a question, is it justified or unjustified. Those are the ways it is usually argued among Palestinians. The question is, what are its consequences?” although he’s clearly morally retarded since the questions of consequences are basically moral ones, although there is nitpicking to be done, systems of morality conflict, are not axiomatic, etc, Sharp does seem to agree that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. Gandhi in this incisive rendition says consequences are unknowable. In other words according to your authority he has divorced himself in general terms from the world. Now I don’t give a fuck about Gandhi, but I will duly inform the Gazan organizers facing politicide about this revolutionary analysis and will report back their reactions. Take silence for contempt, and then be assured: I can predict the consequences of that idiotic foray and won’t carry it out.
There are those who claim to be “principled” practitioners of non-violence and for them we are supposed to accept that non-violence is a principle. But the only way to make it an ethical principle, and furthermore a principle that redounds to actually decreasing violence–the goal–is to riddle it with so many exceptions that it instead becomes really a strategy. Or, rather, the “principle” is that non-violence will always and inevitably be better than violence as a means to reducing societal violence. Is this provable? Of course it isn’t, it’s faith, it’s an atheistic religion.
On Gandhi, you insist on mis-reading even while you trip yourself so bumblingly on the words you’re leaving scattered around that you actually confirm my arguments. I said that Gandhi was not a principled practitioner or believer in non-violence in the vernacular sense stipulated in my reply to Bromwich. Vernacular is common. You then agree that the common misunderstanding of Gandhi was as an adherent to an exception-less principle of non-violence, while that was not in fact what Gandhi thought—as you write, this is a “a widespread misperception,” one whose consequences have spread into the fucking vernacular! Once again, once you have taken the time and effort to extricate your head from your ass, its usual resting spot, clearly, you in fact precisely confirm my argument.
On the question of the utility of Gandhi. You are unable to defend Gandhi’s historical failures, and so don’t want to discuss them: “Some would say part of the reason was the abandonment of Gandhi’s program. I’m guessing you’d disagree. The causes of India’s dysfunction are numerous. That’s a huge discussion, and one I’m not knowledgeable enough to get into, nor do I have the time or desire.” In other words, you don’t care that Gandhi’s programs failed, you don’t care why, you don’t care about the world or the consequences of actions but rather about this set of ideas. This is pure idealism as someone else pointed out, and the height of privileged non-sense. What you care about is a legacy of writing that he left behind. Now, any ditz can make the facile argument that non-violence could have worked. History is not a laboratory. Sure it “could have,” something different could always happen, just like maybe a million Lebanese fellah could have marched south from the Litani and wowed the children of Israel into abandoning the occupation of southern Lebanon. This is silly, since Israel wants land more than peace, which you don’t understand and refuse to understand, a refusal with no consequences for you, hence your mule-stubborn morally bankrupt refusal to see it. History doesn’t follow immutable laws but the workings of power are more predictable than the machinery of resistance. We know that Israel would prefer land to peace, this is embedded in its genetic code, which makes all of your verbiage about humanizing the oppressor a sort of dangerously naive non-sense that can literally end up killing people if anyone was listening to. Let us be clear again that they are not.
More on the utility of Gandhi: you claim I give a shit about Gandhi but I emphatically do not. You brought him up, you invoked him, and I said you misread the efficacy of his actions (you are totally unmoored from reality and think citing Toynbee that erudite historian of South Asia confirms your argument) and that is where we started off. Gandhi Gandhi Gandhi Gandhi Gandhi Gandhi you are like a fucking woodpecker Matthew. If Gandhi’s doctrine failed on its own terms, why take him seriously? You have a pretty good answer to that one:
Anyway, studying Gandhi is in fact a major component of my life’s work… That doesn’t change that I might possibly have something accurate to say about Gandhi and nonviolence…. I would be more than willing to have this question settled by an independent panel of Gandhian experts… I’d happily submit my analysis of Gandhi against yours to an independent panel of acknowledged and respected experts on Gandhi’s life and legacy and see what they have to say.
In other words, you are very concerned with consequences—consequences for yourself, and for your career path. Listen. Drop Gandhi. One, we agree that within an idealist realm, where only ideas matter and where history does not, it is true that I would “agree [that] “Gandhi subscribed to nonviolence as a non-absolutist principle,” [so that] we’d have finally found some common ground on Gandhi, after all these words spilt.” Walla. Fucking Amazing. But the question—my question, not yours, to be fair—is if Gandhi’s doctrine had the ultimate effect of reducing the net social violence that afflicted the South Asian continent and my feeling is that the real, physical, historical answer is that the answer is no. Which makes the notion of “principle” difficult to comprehend or conceptualize. If I subscribe to “non-absolutist principled non-violence” as a route to reducing net human suffering but it can be shown persuasively enough that it in fact increases net human suffering induced by violence, what does this principle mean? What could it possibly mean? Is the point personal purity, a life-style choice? Do you think the 18-year-old Hamas or Islamic Jihad martyrs pick up the guns because they get to wear slick bandannas? Are you possibly so detached from the world?
A quick bit of advice, then onwards: you write, “You can read his writings and draw reasonable inferences, as I and others have done, Norman Finkelstein among them, Gandhi’s grandson too.” But in fact if Gandhi was alive now he would have seen 60 years of history and colonial occupation go by and would have changed his mind as human beings are wont to do. We cannot draw reasonable inferences, it’s simply an invalid historical and philosophical procedure and incoherent and irrelevant and scriptural and fundamentalist. You cannot say that Gandhi would have approved of Palestinian violence because you have not the slightest idea what he would say since history is path-dependent and you cannot simply extract and re-implant Gandhi. It has no intellectual value whatsoever.
On your misreadings. They are deeply dishonest. I understand that confusion will suffuse your mind because you’re so confused perpetually that clearly the world, texts, logic and the rest simply send you into a cognitive tailspin when you try to engage with them. When you have petulant whinny asides, like when I dismissed the literature you’ve been marinating in for the last few years, and you write, “There’s really no basis for us to have a discussion if you aren’t willing to read those who disagree with you,” you are being willfully mendacious, because I read you even though I disagree with you, I read enough of the literature to not want to bother anymore with it, I read Weber just now and lost some time from my life. If you are representing this literature, if Nagler produces this literature, the logical conclusion is that it, kind of like your life, is worthless. Then you issue this mealy-mouthed blabber about how you “haven’t read the Weber piece in about 5 years, but my recollection is its contents would be very informative in your arguments about whether nonviolence is/can be a principle, Gandhi’s attitude toward nonviolence as a principle, and so on.” Ah it would be helpful but you can’t synthesize it, remember it, or defend barely a one of your positions—you just urge me to Go Read Daddy Scholar He’s Convincing shit Matt you sound like a kid in a playground claiming that your daddy is going to come and beat me up.
You write, “There’s just no common ground to have the debate as we’re operating with different sets of information. It’s like you’re saying ‘just because it’s from academia, automatically it’s fraudulent and I’m not interested.'” You dummy, I am in academia. Go look at my “About” section, if you’ll be so troubled, then look at who I am citing, who I am glossing. They are academics. I like academia! Academia Is Good! What I don’t like is non-sense, and when that’s all you have to offer, and when you say read this or read that but can’t actually make an argument what am I supposed to do?
Well, who cares, you know exactly what your next step is: you can just misunderstand the next sentence, too. When I wrote, “Frankly, we have no evidence that non-violence or non-violence can ‘work,’ least of all for leftists,” that was quite clearly a comment directed at leftists. We don’t know how to bring about socialism, and we may fail. You are not only convinced that a better world is inevitably on the horizon, but that non-violence as pure principle is the best way to bring it about. This infinite horizon makes it easier to shrug: yes the American Indians nearly died out wholly but they can keep breeding, they’ll bounce back! Maybe there is no infinite horizon, so we must fight for justice in the here-and-now.
When I write, “principled non-violence is an ideology in the classic sense of the word…a misunderstanding of the actual world, because you are responsible for violence,” and you quote with the sentence broken in half where there is the ellipsis, it’s no wonder you are befuddled. You write re: above that
How was Gandhi’s embrace of nonviolence as a (non-absolute) principle (see Weber), or for that matter King’s subscription to nonviolence as a principle, a “misunderstand[ing] of the actual world].” What violence was Gandhi or King responsible for?
They were responsible for the violence that occurred that was avoidable if their doctrines had been different. (Again I did not bring up King). Now, this is not a question of re-writing history or running lab experiments Matthew but understanding something Chomsky has been insisting on for a very long time. The privileged are infinitely responsible. You are infinitely responsible. There are people screaming and dying and you could do more to stop them and you are not and this makes you infinitely responsible. You. Right now, you are responsible for a Palestinian child dying in Rafah and you insipid dimwit so am I! They are screaming NOW. On Gandhi, he stopped certain industrial strikes; this led to violence when battles that could have taken place on class lines took place on communal lines. I think this led to more violence than would have been the case otherwise. Others agree. I laid out my arguments in the previous rebuttal, but you don’t care.
There is a corollary. Through these arguments, we are also responsible. We are responsible for what we choose to say and what we choose not to say. I know you think you are issuing non-sensical babble and hence by definition can’t be held accountable for what you are saying. I have some sympathy for that position, but not enough to drop the charge.
Some more misreading. I refuse to condemn Palestinian violence for ethical reasons that I very carefully laid out. That Abbas condemns it is not evidence for anything. He is a collaborator-scoundrel. That Palestinians condemn it is a different story. Their ethical positioning is different from yours. This is so damnably difficult for you to wrap your head around Matt but you are not Palestinian. You are a privileged white Jewish guy infinitely responsible for awesome suffering and your job is to end that suffering.
Next. Refusal to condemn Palestinian violence is different from approval. “Countenance” was too ambiguous and was used incorrectly. That, I retract while reiterating that I absolutely and categorically refuse to condemn Palestinian violence. You perched with the rest of the woodpeckers now have a new rat-tat of a rhythm: GoldstoneUNGoldstoneUNGoldstoneUNGoldstoneUNGoldstoneUNGoldstoneUN: “Is the UN Goldstone Report, which condemned the Hamas War Crimes, racist and illegitimate?” Yes, it is, although not wholly. Look into who Goldstone is. International law is a set of norms. Wisely, perhaps, it does not implement itself. People implement it, and for the same reason that there is jury nullification, when jurors can vote not to convict despite the weight of evidence favoring conviction, because they can act on their own moral conscience in exceptional cases, people should implement international law in an ethical manner, which means demanding that those with power hew to it before demanding that those suffering from the violence inflicted by power follow it, a fortiori when we are responsible for one form of violence rather directly. You “stand by your blanket condemnation” and you are welcome to slam brown people with no other option but you are wrong to do so. Or, rather, others who I respect are wrong to do so. You are a little worse than just “wrong.”
Matt: international law is a set of norms that applies to a radically unjust world. It’s a Utopia, or should be, but we need to map its texts, norms, documents, the institutions they establish, over the real world, this capitalistic imperialistic Earth with its class struggles and misery and hope, this world you hate, that you must hate because you so sedulously and steadfastly refuse to engage with its gritty, grubby empirics. The UN and the ICC reflect colonial power dynamics as well as represent grasping, halting tries at codifying the terms of a radical, rights-based Utopia. There is an enormous tension there. The question: how to arrive at that Utopia? First step: Condemn those who create hell. Second step: Make them stop creating hell. Third step: There is none, because hell produces acts that resemble it. Palestinian rocketry is an overt symptom of occupation. Stop hiding behind the UN and the ICC and turn on your heart and your brain. You will find that it is a novel experience but not totally unpleasant. You may even get to like it after a while and cease to be such an unpleasant person, and that’d be cool, too. As for your comment about the UN and violent resistance, you might look into the issue slightly more deeply. You may even learn something.
When I wrote,
You not only do not understand this and the way the point generalizes, but work your hardest to create pieces of writing whose effect, whose only possible effect, is to create a framing that makes Palestinian violence illegitimate when that violence is part-and-parcel of Israeli violence… Words matter. They matter for their effects. Your words literally will have no positive effect on the Palestinian struggle, because Palestinians in Palestine are generally (a) agreed on the utility of non-violence at the present moment (b) are not quite so eager to give up their right to self-defense and (c) probably not reading this exchange. Your words could have a negative effect. They could convince people that condemning Palestinian violence, no less by the people who pay for it, who live in states with borders protected by violence, is OK. It is not.
You ignored those words and proceeded apace. That you don’t care is indicative of something. It’s indicative of your thoughtlessness and precisely that very absence of thought and of reflection, that careerism—and Matthew, you do want that career in Peace and Conflict Studies, you want it badly—leads to evil. You are free to not give a fuck, but seriously: what are you doing posting here then? Why is Phil tolerating you? What do you aim with your life? To be another cog in the machine? Thus far you fit well. And don’t get it confused: that machine kills Palestinians. You can choose to be a wrench, too, and that fits also in its way into the machine. A wrench fits into the space in the machine that destines it for destruction. Your life and your call Matt. Think about it.
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