Podcast #10–J.Q. Useless Guest Appearance on The Alembic Files: “Poetic Perplexities, Part 4”

English: September Massacres during the French...

English: September Massacres during the French Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Podcast #10 of Thoughts from a Useless Eater is another guest appearance by J.Q. on The Alembic Files, for Part 4 of the continuing series “Poetic Perplexities: Emerging Visions of Global Empire?” In this segment, J.Q. joins Al and Theo to continue the discussion of the poet Philip Freneau, zooming in on some of the historical highlights of the French Revolution. In examining this historical timeline, the intent is to gain more of a handle on the implications of a figure like Freneau being a supporter of the French Revolution (at least in its early stages), as “hooked in” as he was with highly influential members of the early Democratic Republicans—a single party that is in fact the root of the two-party system in the U.S. today.

As we delve into some of the more astonishing aspects of the French regime under the influence of Robespierre, such as the promotion of The Cult of Reason as a state-sanctioned, atheistic (but with strongly neo-pagan elements) “state religion” to replace Christianity, and the use of fears of terrorism as a justification for the increasing role of the Committee of Public Safety as the primary instrument of state control, are we seeing elements of a vision for the direction of American government and society among at least some of the Democratic Republicans? And are we, perhaps, seeing something almost “prophetic,” in terms of observing elements of a roadmap that in some sense may still be followed by factions within the American power structure today?


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The Many Ways to Get Whacked

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been in an unusually dark mood today, and I’ve been praying for the Lord to help me out of it.

But this is just one of those days in which the weight of the dark pall over society seems especially oppressive. There’s really no mystery as to why, with yesterday’s two notable deaths–Michael Hastings and James Gandolfini–casting tragic shadows over the 24-hour news cycle. And a Market plunge after Bernanke‘s latest remarks doesn’t help much either.

All that is quite clear, but there’s a significance to how it all seemed to fit together that hit me just now as I sat down and spilled a few drops on my shirt of the cup of coffee I grabbed to help me through the rest of the day. Just then two more puzzle pieces—the synopsis I read of the ambiguous ending of the last episode of the Sopranos, and Alex Jones‘ remarks earlier today about how the U.S.  government works like the Mafia—fit strangely together.

Although Jones (whom I seldom listen to anymore, by the way, and can only tolerate in small doses, and do not recommend to anyone) was overtly talking about Hastings and not at all about Gandolfini, I’m sure there was at least a subconscious link between the two that brought the Mafia comparison out. And just as the drops of black coffee hit me, it struck me that there is indeed an eerie synchronicity in the same-day deaths of Hastings and Gandolfini.

The knee-jerk reaction of so many to the Hastings death has been that he was, in some way, by some one, whacked. And just a few hours later we hear of the death of the actor whose most famous character, Tony Soprano, may well have been whacked as that infamous final scene smash-cut to black.

It’s dangerous to read too much into these things, but it’s hard to escape the ironic symbolism–which, I think, perhaps points to something further. One of the most significant cultural implications of The Sopranos is how easy it was to make the life of a mob captain resemble in so many ways the life of the stereotypical all-American TV family. Yes, it’s sad to say, but Tony was in many ways a sympathetic character that in certain respects, at least, wasn’t very difficult to identify with. So by extension the mob way of life begins to look ordinary.

And maybe that was one of the intended, latent social commentaries of The Sopranos. Maybe it really wasn’t about the mob, but about us–about how living for so long in a situation in which society passively accepts reprehensible behavior by the ruling elites eventually makes the reprehensible seem ordinary and acceptable.