You want it darker? We kill the flame

20 Nov

Georgia O'Keeffe


Stephen Bannon, chairman of the fascist platform Breitbart News, has been appointed chief strategist in President-Elect Donald Trump’s new administration.

In apparent response to fears that a darkness has fallen on the US since Trump’s election, Bannon countered: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

(Here’s a useful glimpse into the men Trump is considering as his most senior staff.)

The binaries dark and light, good and evil, have long dominated western political discourse. George W.Bush and his axis of evil; Tony Blair and his messianic conviction that the invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein was a just and holy intervention: the bright light of democracy beamed into the abyss of despotic darkness by the forces of good.

There’s no nuance in the narrative, no shades of grey, and the lack of hue hasn’t changed with the ascension of Trump, it has merely been reversed. Trump doesn’t pretend the light and the good are superior ideals to which we should aspire. Darkness is good. Evil is power. There’s no longer any need to mask the dark with false light, as did Blair, Bush and sycophant John Howard. Trump has dragged us from those layered duplicities into his unmitigated and unmediated darkness. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker? We kill the flame.

I’m quoting from Leonard Cohen’s final album, released just weeks before he died. As with all great work, it’s both intensely personal and universal. I’ve been listening to it for days, not just because he’s dead and I mourn his loss, but because the album seems to speak with uncanny prescience of our current transition into a Trumpian world.

At first blush the work is about Cohen’s approaching death, but it is also about the dying of our irresponsible innocence, our smug carelessness, our neglect, our wilful blindness to how the Blairs, the Bushes and the Howards led us inevitably to Trump and Bannon, leaders of the killers of the flame, leaders of those who want it darker.

Trump’s vision for the US (and necessarily the world) Fox News, 2014

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

Bannon, 2016 interview with the Daily Beast:

I’m a Leninist, Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin, he answered, wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

Meanwhile, at home, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia found it necessary to release a press statement expressing concern over inflammatory remarks made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the subject of various “cohorts” and “nationalities” welcomed to Australia by former PM Malcolm Fraser. These refugees, Dutton asserts, may well be responsible for producing “terrorist” children and grandchildren. Fraser should have been more careful, Dutton (no doubt emboldened by Trump’s success) claims.

And to top off an increasingly dark fortnight, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed the Saudi ambassador to oversee women’s rights world-wide. The Ambassador will have the right to vote on, participate in and influence the following:

Elimination of discrimination against women
Equal participation [of women] in political and public affairs
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women
The right to a nationality: women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice
Addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls
Annual full day debate on women’s rights
Annual half-day panel on the integration of a gender perspective

Saudi Arabia has among the worst, if not the worst, record on women’s rights in the world.

What I’m seeing in our new picture is even less nuance than we had before, which wasn’t all that much, we could have done with a bit more. Like an individual who decides to thoroughly trash his or her life as a means of effecting change, so Trump and Bannon see disaster and destruction on what could well be a global scale, as a legitimate method to correct perceived wrongs. We’re post fact, post truth, and post nuance.

You want it darker?










35 Responses to “You want it darker? We kill the flame”

  1. zerograv November 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    It still astonishes me that various magnifications of Grumpy Old Men can still wield such power in the world. The bipolar element is a direct function of the religiousity of Americans generally I think. I also think the USA will discover they have no more debt to leverage and China will keep them on the economic straight and narrow and they will find they wont have the funds to implement their plans. They are still looking at ways of clawing taxes to cover the Iran invasion that blew the budget out 20 years. The reality of government will slap them in the face and it will be a much weaker effort than their big thinking grand plans can possibly afford.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson November 20, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

      I hope that’s how it works out, zerograv

      Like you, I looked at Trump’s lineup and thought, there have to be younger people ready to take on governing if only the old men would get out of the way.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. diannaart November 20, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

    Old men were never going to relinquish power without leaving a scorched earth.

    On that cheery note – am having a sabbatical from posting – I can hear the cheers (and jeers) now.

    2016 – what can I say? 2011 was when my mother died that left me in a kind of free-fall and this is how I have been feeling as 2016 lumbered on.

    Excellent writing, Jennifer, and I agree about Leonard Cohen’s last album. I was such a gormless teen when I first listened to him, yet he stayed with me throughout the years – no matter who dissed him – he remains with me, with us, all those willing to listen.

    I thought I had entered a nightmare world with 9/11, it’s not going to stop is it?

    Last person to leave, turn out the lights.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson November 20, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

      Enjoy your sabbatical, diannart.
      see you when it’s over. 🙂


    • paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:22 am #

      Some cheers, some cheers. you often had some thing worthwhile to offer but the gender essentialism got quite tiresome in its fundamentalism based on incompletely thought through assumptions, a bit like the stuff of the Deep South Manichaeists,

      I hope when you come back it will be with a more considered, less judgemental and moralistic view of how human nature and affairs operate.


      • paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:23 am #

        Sorry, some jeers, some cheers. just, a bit less of the all men are evil, all women saints stuff.


  3. mish of the catlady ascendancy November 20, 2016 at 10:44 pm #

    Thanks for this, awful though it is. You may already follow Sarah Kendzior on Twitter, Jennifer, but if not she is well worth it. One of the many keeping tabs on Trump and friends. The list of “this is not normal” just keeps growing.
    I just bought You Want it Darker today and will have my first listen tomorrow when alone. I’m still recovering from Nick’s Skeleton Tree, which is kind of like accidentally walking in on someone who’s weeping their heart out. And then being unable to leave.


  4. paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:06 am #

    Like Jeff Sessions, he is of the wingnut Deep South Manichaeism, manifest in Evangelical Protestantism (and Opus Dei Catholicism) as defined through Sexual Guilt, Southern Baptist racial theories, Original Sin, the Calvinist doctrineof the Elect, Exceptionalism and the doctrine of the Rapture which demands the subject’s withdrawal from reality in expectation of an immanent and destructive visitation from a Puritan dark, angry god.

    Like Nazism, it is an ideal primer for people who cant cope with the notion of life as processive, that includes that includes personal adjustments to others and reality.

    These people see no point in developing personal traits of tolerance or helping the world deal with its problems for the betterment of all, because they have exclusive access to the “good oil” of certainty derived of misreadings of philosophy and religion, many of these misreadings quite deliberate as part of a religion-as-showbiz hoax to take in the gullible..

    You cant tell them to get “off” themselves and take part in the actualising processes of the here and now bridging into possibility and the future

    They will tell you you are going to hell, that you should join them as subordinates and hide yourself until God finishes smashing the joint.

    People like Bannon, Sessions, Pat Robertson and Myron Ebell of course are morbidly fascinated with guilt, evil, pain and punishment, but especially if they are the ones dishing it out, after all you can do this if you are a member of the pre-ordained Elect.

    But remember, we have also seen this pathology in Australia since the overthrow Labor followed by the likes of Abbott, Bernardi, Miranda Devine, Pell, Christiansen, Brandis, Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Hanson and Roberts, all deeply troubled souls also characterised through lack of self reflexivity and the inability to adjust to reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 21, 2016 at 5:47 am #

      Yes, agree, PW.
      Part of their dysfunction is the need to control anyone who thinks differently: any difference is a threat to their carefully constructed fantasies
      God knows where all this is going to take us. Nowhere pleasant, I fear.


      • paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm #


        Fear, kept ignorant, fearful…hung up. Part of the individuation process that keeps things as they are. The culture has done it to us all to a greater or lesser extent.

        One day they will laugh at us as we laugh at medieval peasants, but will they be any better, either?


  5. paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    Here is a really GOOD update from Paul McGeough from today’s Fairfax

    I’d add, not just blacks but latinos, in fact the entire working class, male and female, black white and brindle.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. myzania November 21, 2016 at 10:22 am #

    I rarely swear publicly, but your roll-call of dark absurdities made me say, “are you fucking kidding me?” 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. townsvilleblog November 21, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Nothing personal Jen, but I dislike the yanks immensely, especially these days when we Aussies are talking their language, and most of our important federal govt jobs seem to be taken by yanks, even Aunty is coming out with expressions like ” Oh my God” instead of the Aussie “bloody hell” and personally it gives me the shits, we have lost our national identity. I’ll pass on these ‘yank’ subjects thanks. Shaun.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    tb. they are like us, in fact right across the Western world. Polarisation There are people like us and there are the hard righties.

    Divide and conquer.


  9. allthumbs November 21, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    To paraphrase Kropotkin or Goldman never sure which, while waiting for human beings to be better than they are, it maybe best we destroy the very things which on clear evidence makes us worse.

    Who has a list?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

      As Cohen says *It’s written in the scriptures….*
      BTW he doesn’t necessarily mean Christian, just about any scriptures interested him.


    • paul walter. November 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      Check out queues in supermarkets.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    Just back from you posting here, also up at AIM after reading a comment that hit me like a lightning bolt in offering context for Stephen Bannon’s cynicism.

    It is to do with the $trillion dollar legalised scam that was the Meltown of 8 years ago from the poster jimhaz,involving an interview with Bannon awhile back on a’priori bank fund/debt leveraging, sovereign risk and subsequent bailouts for the “too big to fail” banks.

    If I am right, the breathtaking, cold blooded audacity of the banks and stupidity of government begins to make Bannon’s subsequent cynicism begin to become explicable.

    Reading Stiglitz, Bush already stands condemned, but Obama was stupid enough at best to allow Citibank to select his economics advisers for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 21, 2016 at 9:15 pm #

      Yes, PW, Bannon isn’t alone in his cynicism. It isn’t difficult to see where he’s coming from.
      I see why both he and Trump hold such appeal in one sense: bit like us, both major parties have failed in many important respects, people looking for another way. Here we seems to be attempting to make change through electing minor parties, & independents, unsuccessfully so far.
      Trump & Bannon though, use scapegoats, like Hanson & now LNP, to carry the can for economic woes that capitalism is responsible for.


      • paul walter. November 21, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

        It seems so back to Hobbes’ jungle..Kill the other guy before he or she gets you first. I have just come from FB where someone has a posting up with Blair calling Corbyn mad, but I think Blair is the deranged one. Here is a man who knew he was being had by Bush and went long with the Iraq war anyway, out of lack of guts and also knows neollberism is a categorical failure, having been tried for a generation, with its “trust me/ trickle down” rubbish.

        Anyway, I digress.

        it is so easy to see where cynicism comes from when the people you should be able to look up to set such monumentally criminal examples. Yet neither the likes of the Clintons or the Blairites, or Labor locally show they have finally understood the problem from the ordinary person’s viewpoint.

        As for conservatives, don’t even bother.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson November 22, 2016 at 6:28 am #

          Blair is a religious nut with a messianic complex. He honestly thought he was invading Iraq for the christian god. He’s right up there amongst the public figures most capable of self deceit. He’s as deranged as they come and unhinged to boot.
          (Also, I don’t like him very much)


          • paul walter. November 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

            It is not only surprising that Xtians so miss an easy enough message, but the extent and intensity of the misunderstanding.

            Liked by 1 person

          • allthumbs November 24, 2016 at 8:42 am #

            You may have had a strange bedfellow Jennifer, reading this:

            “THE question now isn’t whether Donald Trump is just a moron or an outright menace who could blow up the world. It’s why a braggart, buffoon, liar, narcissist and sexist with almost no political principles came so close to becoming president of the world’s greatest power.”

            Andrew Bolt October 12th 2016

            But Bolt has no principles or values he is a weening sycophant and self promoter, and on the face of it a supporter of an outright world endangering menace.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson November 24, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

              Ahahaha, allthumbs, I had no idea of Bolt’s perspective on Trump as I avoid reading & listening to the snivelling …,well, everything he called Trump, really.
              *Came so close to being president?* Hasn’t Andrew caught up yet?


              • allthumbs November 25, 2016 at 7:43 am #

                Nah, that was Andrew Bolt on October 12th, which only goes to show how far he was from the mark of understanding what he claims to be his own constituency, the US voting process and a total understimation of the popular vote.

                It shows he has no insider knowledge and was totally unaware of Bannon as a force behind the orange haired one.

                In my fetid imagination, Trump is my Manchurian candidate that I have sent forth from my subterranean headquarters on a small island in the Caribbean to wreak havoc upon the post industrial Capitalist world.

                I stroke the Persian cat in my lap while I order khaki overalls for my big haired, big breasted and long legged body guards, some of whom are women.


  11. paul walter. November 24, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

    I thought to write a post on it because it is one of so many odd things going down in society aimed at surveillance, censorship and amputating of access to information. The example of NSW Premier Baird trying to sack the ICAC commissioner there is another example. Also, the dumbing down of ABC Radio National.

    Thing that worries or “bugs” me if it its the right term ,is that if China can can can get FB to do this, how likely is it that the same surveillance mechanism is in place in other countries including the USA itself, or here. Wasn’t FB supposed to be private?

    I wonder how dangerous it becomes in a Post Truth Trumpian/Brandis age.

    Sorry Jennifer. I know you left your email up for posters who wanted to investigate a given issue further á month or two ago, but cant seem to hunt it down, in the meantime I’ll post this here, because I go depression and this sort of news just inflames that the more.


    • paul walter. November 24, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

      I should add, there re a number of FB friends of mine who I find it harder to communicate with due to a seeming system failure and by a strange coincidence these are all politica l progressives.

      Curious, eh?


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