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A Reminder from Selective Service

selectiveservice

A Reminder from Selective Service.  Collage, paper and glue.  1984.

My earliest self-published work was seized and destroyed by a middle-school teacher in 1978-1979.  My self-published work between then and 1987, when I started publishing OVO, is not well preserved.  This is one of very few items that remain.

I registered with the Selective Service in 1984 when I turned 18 years old.  In the United States this is required of all men and not required of any woman.  The difference between what was required of men and women brought to mind earlier civilizations and their initiations to manhood, inspiring this collage.

Trevor Blake: Let’s All Share – You Go First

Marxism has a long and well-­known history of emerging from the working class, that group who through no fault of their own are impoverished and without political power. We start with Karl Marx (born to a wealthy family) and his comrade Friedrich Engles (born to a wealthy family). Their writing inspired Vladimir Lenin (born to a wealthy family), and Lenin’s success in creating the United Soviet Socialist Republic inspired Mao Zedong (born to a wealthy family) to communize China and Fidel Castro (born to a wealthy family) to communize Cuba. Just because Robert Owen, the man for whom the phrase socialism was coined, owned businesses doesn’t mean he too did not emerge from the working class.

All it takes to be a member of the working class is a lack of ownership of the means of production. That’s why the class interests of marginally-employed crank writers like myself are identical to those of Tiger Woods and Madonna. They, too, are ground up by capitalism because they are given only a portion of the profit of their own labor back from a capitalist class who contribute nothing. Their oppression and my oppression are one.

The re­distribution of wealth under socialism has had measurable effect. In China, land was collectivized and thus real estate worker Wang Jianlin is only a first among equals. Kim Jong­-un has only the interests of the North Korean people at heart, and that’s why his wife can sport a handbag worth a year’s salary to the average North Korean. Jérôme Cahuzac did his patriotic duty for France and the Socialist Party by maintaining an offshore bank account for twenty years. Hugo Chavez had a net worth of US$1 billion, which I’m sure he was just about to pass around to his compadres until death interrupted his final act of generosity.

Michael Moore does the heavy lifting by writing, directing and featuring in his own films. Film such as Capitalism: A Love Story, in which we learn that the fat cats who own several multi-­million dollar estates, who send their children to private schools, and who not only claim to be “filthy rich” but to consider that fact to be “pretty cool” are not the friend of the average auto worker. John Lennon imagined no possessions, and at present has none, but his estate is burdened with US$14 million due to the sale of his music. In 2012. Alone.

Marx and Engles identified the material conditions of history as the source of socialism. The internal contradictions of feudalism came to a head and gave rise to capitalism, and in the same way the internal contradictions of capitalism will come to a head and give rise to communism. Maybe they’re coming to a head right now! It’s inevitable, and as such Marx and Engles and the rest merely report on what they observe. They would be the first to say you don’t need Marx to have Marxism. These are ideas as discoverable and demonstrable by all as are ideas of gravity and biology. They don’t call it scientific socialism for nothing.

The works of Marx and Engles were written over a century ago. They have long passed into the public domain, a bold vanguard action for the common ownership of all property. Translations of the works of Marx and Engles, however, are bound in chains of gold. Communists and socialists hasten the birth of a world in which we may hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening and criticise after dinner. But in the mean time hunters gotta hunt, fishers gotta fish, ranchers gotta ranch and critics – well, there’s no such thing as a free dinner.

Lawrence and Wishart (L&W) of London has been a publishing firm since 1936. While formerly (via the Lawrence side of things) the official publisher of the Communist Party of Great Britain, L&W has long been an independent radical publisher. Starting in the 1970s, L&W undertook to translate and publish the complete works of Marx and Engles. The translations were paid for in part by the USSR. The result of this herculean effort by a small, ill­paid staff on a shoestring budget is Marx & Engles – Collected Works. I cannot comment on whether these workers were exploited. But perhaps they now feel that they were.

Nearly a decade ago, L&W allowed the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) to publish Marx & Engles online. Volumes One through Ten (of fifty!) have been added to the Marxist Internet Archive. But on 25 April 2014, L&W has asked that the MIA remove their copies of Marx & Engles. With great irony, this change was requested to occur by May 1st. While to this point the MIA publication of Marx & Engles was available to university libraries worldwide (and other universities, and non­-universities), thus having the effect of maintaining a public presence of the Works, L&W had entirely different plans:

We are currently negotiating an agreement with a distributor that will offer a digital version of the Collected Works to university libraries worldwide. This will have the effect of maintaining a public presence of the Works, in the public sphere of the academic library, paid for by public funds.

It takes a nation to prop them up. Public funds are a pleasant way of describing taxes gathered by the threat of violence, and such is not without precedent in the history of communism. The health of the state is necessary for the promotion of the withering away of the state. Should a curious communist have limited access to academia, printed editions remain available. Marx & Engles would normally set you back UK£2,500. But for a limited time only L&W are offering all fifty volumes at a bourgeois­-busting forty percent off the cover price. Privately own yours today for a mere UK£1,500.

The Marxist Internet Archive has stated that while they would prefer to keep publishing Marx & Engles they will comply with the request of L&W, because it is “completely legal.” Such a respect for private property among the critics of private property! The MIA says that since L&W have recovered their costs “and then some” for what has been reprinted the MIA should be allowed to give it away for free. I don’t know if the MIA is objecting to workers being paid to the penny for their labor and no further, or if they support the notion of making a profit. Either outcome is a thoroughly modern form of socialism, one I am unfamiliar with. L&W reply that they have not recovered their costs but they “now do have an opportunity to recover some of the costs.” Supporters of L&W are surely wishing them every success until they and all businesses can go out of business together… but until then, let L&W be just a bit more profitable than before. How L&W intend to address the eleven years worth of archived duplicates of Marx & Engles located at other websites is unknown.

Man’s rationality is used not for the rational, but to rationalize. Men do what they are going to do, then offer reasons why it was the best for all that it turned out that way. Until the 1800s the clergy had a headlock on why it was natural to do as one is told. The world turned on its head in the late 1800s – early 1900s, with the advent of socialism, communism, anarchism, surrealism, fascism, psychology, and a good dozen other belief systems that promised for real and for sure, this time if you put your faith in the new boss he will be better than the old boss. I like a good ideology as much as the next guy. I like them as I like animals, or clouds, or a darling little cactus: just because I can see how it works doesn’t mean I want to mate with it. I read about religion every day but I’m no believer. “Believe me out of it!” as J. R. “Bob” Dobbs once told me.

I’ve been walking in that circle without center and circumference for some time now. I have little to say about what men should or shouldn’t do, including myself. But I do things, and so do other men, and having an accurate description of what men do helps me navigate. It keeps me from getting worked up every day about hypocrisy or deception or perpetration of error, knowing that is just something men do.  I don’t get worked up over it every day.  Only some days.

-­ Trevor Blake is the author of Confessions of a Failed Egoist.

The Easter Challenge 2014

Welcome to the Easter Challenge! Our panel of experts – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and our Mystery Guest – have two thousand years to give consistent answer to simple questions about the resurrection of Christ. No proof is required, only consistent answers. Our questions are prepared by Dan Baker, author of Losing Faith in Faith.

And now, let’s begin… The Easter Challenge!

from OVO 16 AntiChrist (January 2006).

Trevor Blake: Tu Ne Cede Malis

tunecedemalis

I offer my thanks to Mr. James E. Miller for his April 7th 2014 essay “On Natural Rights, the Egoists Have Nothing” which appeared at mises.ca. Thank you to Mr. Miller and thank you to mises.ca.

I have read Mr. Miller’s review of Nicholas James Pell’s review of my review of L. A. Rollin’s book The Myth of Natural Rights. I have also read L. A. Rollin’s book The Myth of Natural Rights, and I recommend reading the book in addition to reading a review of a review of the book. As a thoughtful writer once said, calling something fake without evidence is a poor man’s argument. Thus when George Walford led me to David McDougagh, who led me to David Steele, who led me to Ludwig von Mises – none of whom are egoists – who (LvM) had the lightning-flash insight into the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism, I read the source at every station. Do I mention with great favor Mises’ theories on page 37 of my book Confessions of a Failed Egoist? Those who have read it would know. Tu ne cede malis, indeed. Do not give in to evil… make it earn your company!

Mr. Miller and I are in agreement that egoism is a subject rightfully discussed under the tags given to it at mises.ca, philosophy and law. We are also in agreement that egoism has some deep and possibly critical flaws in its ability to be a philosophy or law. I had so much to say about the flaws of egoism that the main and first essay of my book on egoism is called “Confessions of a Failed Egoist.” That’s the title of my book as well: Confessions of a Failed Egoist. Should the rest of my book offer the best arguments in support of egoism, well, let’s call it allowing the reader to make informed choices. Mr. Miller writes that natural rights do not prevent any harm, something L. A. Rollins (and I) agree upon. Mr. Miller and I agree on some matters. But there is a limit to what we may learn from each other by agreement. Commenting further on Mr. Miller’s comments on Nicholas Pell’s comments on my comments on Mr. Rollins’ book would be possible but I propose I speak instead for myself. That seems suitable to an egoist, eh? Here then are some criticisms of Mr. Miller’s essay straight from my heart of hearts.

Mr. Miller wrote: “Claiming that natural rights demand you take an inordinate amount of interest in the desires of others is foolish.” I am unsure then what he meant by also writing in the same essay about “universal goodness.” This appears to be a contradiction, as any universal goodness would be an inordinate amount of interest in the desires of others. I suggest that advocates of natural rights only sometimes have an interest in the desires of others. Usually it is the supposed natural right of the advocate of natural right to do as they desire that guides them, no matter the desire of others. I note a revealing careful word choice of ‘right’ when talking about one’s self but ‘desire’ when talking about other people. Mr. Miller has a right to defend himself but an accosting bum on the street has only a desire. ‘Defense’ and ‘accosting,’ other careful word choices. ‘He hit me first’ makes might right. Mr. Miller gives all the evidence there is for his careful word choices in his defense of natural rights.

Mr. Miller wrote the strongest defense of natural rights that he could write, the strongest defense that has ever been written, and the strongest defense that could ever be written: “[natural] rights exist regardless of what others say.” Ex nihilo, presto chango, natural rights exist because shut up. To define a natural right is magically for natural rights to exist, a lovely cruise to Gaunilo’s Perfect Island. One may base one’s governing theory of life on any number of sandy beaches, but (1) the tide comes in for us all (2) it is the individual, the ego, with a theory of life each and every time. What good or utility there might be in a right that does nothing, why a nothing-right is a firm foundation for a legal right or a moral right, Mr. Miller may explain elsewhere but not here.

I address the contradictions of egoism in my book (titled, by the way, Confessions of a Failed Egoist). I also specifically discredit the idea that might is right. With all due respect to Mr. Ragnar Redbeard, author of Might is Right and other bracing reads, it is clear that to say the mighty ought to prevail is to set the ideology of who ought to prevail outside of myself, above and superior to myself. That I ought to act in my own self-interest is also an introduction of phantoms to the wheelhouse. Crazy talk, no? The question is not who is fit to rule over me, or who I am I fit to rule, but instead the question is who is doing all this ruling and fitting? Why, that would be me. Extracting what might still be of vital value (or a good laugh) out of egoism is why I wrote my book Confessions of a Failed Egoist.

I am as clear as most that the state exists. While I am thankful unto tears for the roads and libraries and even the sometimes-crummy schools I could do without the winnerless wars, the bloated bureaucracy and the sparkly spectacle (or as the kids call it today, the Cathedral). The state exists, with its laws and police and prisons. To say the state exists is not to say it is my preference that the state exists. Nor is it to say that some states are not more preferable to others. I would rather live a single life in Canada than a hundred in any Muslim nation. I don’t think might makes right. I don’t think the state is always right. I do think might makes the state. If Mr. Miller thinks civil agreements among well-informed free agents can resolve all conflicts, I suggest he needs to get out more often. And while doubters of the existence of natural rights such as myself, L. A. Rollins, Max Stirner, Dora Marsden, Malfew Seklew, Anton LaVey and others write books (oh my, what amoral villains, writing books!) I challenge Mr. Miller to name one tyrant who did not claim natural rights were his. Hitler had his GOTT MIT UNS, Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot had their historical materialism, the Muslims have their Jihad… whaaa, now look what it was natural for me to do!

Mr. Miller is in fine company as a critic of egoism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were friends with Max Stirner, author of The Ego and Its Own. Until, that is, they had their own brand to promote. Then they peed all over themselves in the lengthy posthumous anti-egoist temper tantrum The German Ideology. Of course in this essay it wouldn’t be playing fair to use guilt by association, comparing Mr. Miller with communists or myself with fascists. Like the natural rights that Mr. Miller has enough to claim but not enough to give evidence of or apply, I’ll leave such a naughty slur out of this essay (while sneakily not leaving it out at all). He hit me first!

I am going hazard that Mr. Miller claims that natural rights exist outside of him. Even if this were true, it is Mr. Miller who has decided that natural rights are suitable to him. This puts Mr. Miller as the one making his own moral choices. Morality is choice. To be forced to be charitable is not to be charitable, and to be forced to be cruel is not to be cruel. It is Mr. Miller, the individual – the egoist – who is making his choices. I make mine as well.

- Trevor Blake

PS: one last thing, my book is called Confessions of a Failed Egoist and can be purchased at tinyurl.com/theuniqueone. You can hear me go on about it in person at the first live reading from Confessions of a Failed Egoist at 5pm PST May 1st 2014 (Mother Foucault Books, 523 SE Morrison Portland, Oregon 97214 USA).

Confessions of a Failed Egoist

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Buy Confessions of a Failed Egoist by Trevor Blake.

http://tinyurl.com/theuniqueone

$9.95 plus postage
Underworld Amusements, Publisher
Available 1 April 2014
Paperback
140 pages
8″ x 5.2″
ISBN 978-0988553651

TREVOR BLAKE… IS… DENSE
“Trevor Blake hails and assails the ‘ism’ closest to His heart in a Mencken-like step-right-up, soapbox style that is smart, dense and fun to read. Blake is a meticulous thinker, and this book is bound to delight and challenge individualists, egoists, and people who would dramatically object to the idea of egoism – but then do and say exactly what they want to anyway.” – Jack Donovan.

A THROWBACK… BORING
“Somewhere at the crossroads between Anton LaVey and Robert Anton Wilson lies Trevor Blake. Confessions of a Failed Egoist is equal parts The Satanic Bible and Prometheus Rising. Everything you know is wrong, but don’t worry: It’s just the punchline to the great epistemic joke. Blake’s book is a throwback to the days of H. L. Mencken mercilessly skewering sacred cows on the left and right, while firmly rooted in our present day victimology industry conundrums. Blake’s book provides inspiration for thought. Bring it up at your next boring work party and scare your colleagues.” – Nicholas Pell.

A DIFFICULT BOOK
Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays is a difficult book, not because it’s hard to understand, but because it gives no leeway to anyone. With surgical wit and wisdom, Trevor deconstructs every pretty lie of modern America, even the pretty lies that he himself is susceptible to. Organized religion and atheism, feminism and patriarchy, anarchism and statism; nothing is off-limits.” – Matt Forney.

CLEAR AND IMPORTANT CLAIMS
“I read and then skimmed your book, but couldn’t relate to it. I prefer clear and important claims to be analyzed, while you mostly seemed to ramble and free associate. Sorry, just not my style at all.” – Robin Hanson.

IMPRESSED
“I was not impressed. Trevor Blake fancies himself an egoist. As far as I can tell, egoism is a combination of solipsism and existentialism, with a good dose of arrogance thrown in. The ideology seeks to do nothing more than slaughter sacred cows for amusement. The only thing that matters is self, and all ends must lead back to the ever-needy ME. In sum, it’s the adult rationalization for a child’s worldview.” – James Miller.

PRESS
Nicholas James Pell: Satire Is Dead. Long Live Satire! [archive] (24 July 2014).
Apio Ludd: Successfully Amusing. My Own Number 13 (May 2014).
Kevin Slaughter: Flyer for 1 May 2014 Reading. (1 May 2014).
Willamette Week: Reading. [cover] [page 45] (Volume 40 Number 26.  30 April 2014).
Matt Forney: Review of Confessions of a Failed Egoist. [archive] (30 April 2014).
Matt Forney: Matt Forney’s Podcast Extravaganza, Episode 33: In Defense of Mutants. [archive pdf] [archive mp3] (29 April 2014).
Jack Donovan: Start The World Podcast Episode #4, “If A Tree Falls In The Forest, Does it Have Natural Rights?” with Trevor Blake. [archive post] [archive mp3] (23 April 2014).
Matt Forney: Matt Forney’s Podcast Extravaganza Episode 31, The Ghost in Your Ghost in the Machine. [archive post] [archive mp3] (15 April 2014).
Mises Canada: On Natural Rights, the Egoists Have Nothing. [archive] (7 April 2014).
Church of Satan: Review. [archive] (4 April 2014).
Nicholas James Pell: The Un-manual to Unman all Manuals: Trevor Blake. [archive] (1 April 2014).