Monday, February 28, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
RATHER THAN WORRY ABOUT OFFENDING “MAJORITARIAN SENSIBILITIES,” the labor movement must make antiracism, antisexism, and anti-homophobia foundational. The absurd argument that minority aggressiveness is responsible for white male backlash at the tail end of the 1960s masks the fact that it has been white racism that has tragically inhibited the growth of most progressive movements in the U.S.
...Although identity politics sometimes act as a fetter on genuine multiracial/multicultural alliances, I believe it has also enriched our conception of class. Indeed, there are many serious scholars — I count myself among them — trying to understand how various forms of fellowship, racial solidarity, communion, the creation of sexual communities, and nationalism shape class politics and cross-racial alliances. We are grappling with how self-love and solidarity in a hostile context of white supremacy, the embrace of certain vernaculars, can be expressions of racial and class solidarity, and the way class and racial solidarity are gendered. Not to recognize this is to wonder why more West Indian workers participate in Carnival than in the Labor Day Parade, or why District 1199 had the foresight and vision to maintain an 1199 float and/or banner in the West Indian Day parade. Those who pine for the good old days before identity politics, when class struggle meant rough guys who understood that simply fighting the bosses united us, forget that Yiddish was a source of solidarity within the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, to the point where union leaders were offering courses in Yiddish for black and Puerto Rican workers in the late 1950s, to their dismay. Identity politics, in other words, has always been central to working class movements, from minstrelsy on up.
More important, a careful examination of the movements dismissed as particularistic are often “radical humanist” at their core and potentially emancipatory for all of us. We need to seriously re-think some of these movements, shifting our perspective from the margins to the center. We must look beyond wedge issues or “minority issues” and begin to pay attention to what these movements are advocating, imagining, building. After all, the analyses, theories, visions emerging from the black liberation movements, the Chicano and Asian American movements, the gay and lesbian movements, the women’s movements, may just free us all. We simply can’t afford to abandon the subway, with all of its multicultural messiness to jump on board the Enlightenment train of pure, simple, color- and gender-blind class struggle. Neither Locke nor Jefferson offer a truly emancipatory vision — not then and certainly not now. Attempts to “transcend” (read: outgrow) our race and sex does not make for a unified working class. What does is recognition of the multiplicity of experiences and perspectives and a willingness to struggle on all fronts — irrespective of what “the majority” thinks. Recognizing the importance of environmental justice for the inner city; the critical role of antiracism for white workers’ own survival; the necessity for men to fight for women’s rights and heterosexuals to raise their voices against homophobia. It’s in struggle that one learns about power and how it operates, and that one can imagine a different world. And it’s in struggle, not in the resurrection of ideas that have also provided the intellectual justification for modern racism, imperialism, and the traffic of human beings, that we must begin to develop a new vision.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Is effectively not the ultimate horizon of the postmodern “identity politics” Darwinian – defending the right of some particular species of the humankind within the panoply of their proliferating multitude (gays with AIDS, black single mothers…)? The very opposition between “conservative” and “progressive” politics can be conceived of in the terms of Darwinism: ultimately, conservatives defend the right of those with might (their very success proves that they won in the struggle for survival), while progressives advocate the protection of endangered human species, i.e., of those losing the struggle for survival.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
In his newest book, The Boddhisattva’s Embrace: Dispatches from Engaged Buddhism’s Front Lines, Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project cuts to the core of exploitative interdependence in the conclusion of a beautiful essay on the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh.
Karma simply means action, which calls forth result. In a world of action and result, denial is no refuge. If my eyes are open, I can see that the labors of shipbreakers, the labors of poor people around the world, are not freely offered. Not to us. Foremen, supervisors, bosses, corporations, ultimately you and I compel them. This is a kind of theft hiding behind the lies that we think of as economics or politics as usual. (108)
Setting aside some disagreement about who “ultimately . . . compels” exploited labor (I don’t think it’s helpful or accurate to say that it’s “you and I,” unless we’re part of the capitalist ruling class; but, you know, I’m feeling the point about complicity), I’m grateful for this strong, candid look at karma and interdependence. Interdependence can be, and often is, dysfunctional and oppressive.
For instance: colonialism.
The year I was born, Maria Mies published Patriarchy and Accumulation On A World Scale: Women In the International Division of Labour. In its first chapter, she stresses the importance of recognizing interdependence between the First and Third Worlds: “two sides of the same coin” of capital accumulation.
These relations are based on exploitation and oppression, as is the case with the man-woman relation. And similar to the latter, these relations are also dynamic ones in which a process of polarization takes place: one pole is getting ‘developed’ at the expense of the other pole, which in this process is getting ‘underdeveloped.’ (39)
Exploitation is always the fulcrum between imperialist powers and colonies. In our neo-imperialist times, it is a primary mechanism of interdependence in terms of global divisions of labor: the reasons why I’m sitting in Oakland typing words on a MacBook Air, and halfway across the world someone is toiling on an assembly line to produce more Apple gadgets. But often, even in cases of domestic exploitation right under our noses, it is difficult for us to remain aware of the fulcrum, and of the mechanisms. Why?
One reason, famous from Marx’s Capital, Vol. 1, is “commodity fetishism.” Frequently misinterpreted as “consumerism,” or putting too much stock in consumption and commodities, commodity fetishism actually refers to the ways that the objects that we buy and sell hide the human life and work that went into creating those objects.
The mysterious character of the commodity-form consists therefore simply in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of [people's] own labor as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves . . . Hence it also reflects the social relation of the producers to the sum total of labour as a social relation between objects, a relation which exists apart from and outside the producers. (164-165, emphasis mine)
And so, getting back to Alan’s point about hidden theft, one of the best hiding places for exploitation under capitalism is within commodities themselves. I buy a computer. I buy a pair of shoes from Zappos. I compare prices. I might even look for tags that say “Fair Trade,” but this tells me very little about the life conditions of the people producing the commodity, and even less about the systemic forces that push and pull “fair traders” according to the imperatives of capital (a.k.a. “the global economy”). Objects, commodities, compete in the market, while human competition, class struggle, is portrayed as a separate matter altogether.
So much is hidden, then, within interdependence! And so it’s our responsibility and calling, I think, to de-mystify and de-fetishize the systems of commodity production, the division of labor, and the worldwide processes of exploitation. As Alan puts it, “If shipbreaking is work we all depend on, can we see past ourselves, and look at each other eye to eye?” (109)
In our quest to “look at each other,” we need to be real about the differences and power dynamics that separate us. We can’t sugar-coat interdependence, pretending it’s all a glorious matter of Indra’s bejeweled net. Mies even raises this point (I loved that she brought it up!) about the dangers of Orientalist, superficial, New-Age perspectives ignoring the shadow side of interdependence:
An emphasis on these colonial divisions is also necessary from another point of view. Many feminists in the United States and Europe have, together with critical scientists and ecologists, begun to criticize the dualistic and destructive paradigm of Western science and technology. Drawing their inspiration from C. G. Jung’s psychology, humanistic psychology, non-dualistic ‘Eastern’ spirituality, particularly Taoism and other oriental philosophies, they propose a new holistic paradigm, the New Age paradigm (Fergusson, 1980; Capra, 1982; Bateson, 1972). This emphasis on the fact that in our world everything is connected with everything and influences everything is definitely an approach which goes along with much of the feminist rebellion and vision of a future society. However, if this desire ‘to become whole’ again, and build bridges across all the cleavages and segmentations White Man has created is not to be frustrated again, it is necessary that the New Age feminists, the eco-feminists and others open their eyes and minds to the real colonies whose exploitation also guarantees them the luxury of indulging in ‘Eastern spirituality’ and ‘therapy.’ In other words, if the holistic paradigm is nothing but an affair of a new spiritualism or consciousness, if it does not identify and fight against the global system of capitalist accumulation and exploitation, it will end up by becoming a pioneering movement of the legitimization of the next round of the destructive production of capitalism. This round will not focus on the production and marketing of such crude material commodities as cars and refrigerators, but on non-material commodities like religion, therapies, friendship, spirituality . . . (35)
Mies adds: "...non-material commodities like religion, therapies, friendship, spirituality, and also on violence and warfare, of course with the full use of the 'New Age' technologies."
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
In this section - two - she speaks about Chavez, comparing him to Lenin, and the arrogance of UK leftists regarding him; she also discusses corporations' genocidal activities:
[Global Women's Strike demands] food security for breast-feeding mothers, paid maternity leave and maternity breaks. It's a great struggle against multinationals to keep breastfeeding...the things that they're doing are unspeakable. We saw them first hand when we went to this breastfeeding conference in Tanzania. And they're really genocidal. And I think not only the result is genocidal, but the purpose is genocidal. In other words they set out to kill babies. They do. What they do is, you know, the multinationals want to sell milk. And they also want to kill a lot of children in third world countries. They do. So what they do is they give you free formula. And you give it to the baby and very likely the baby will thrive on it, although not all babies will. But then your own milk dries up and they say now it will cost you. But you can't reorganise - it's very hard to renew breastfeeding.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
An interesting problem regarding this impact of Schmittian/cocaculture attraction to overcome reasoned critique with essentially emotional appeals that feel intellectual, that fool you into thinking you smell something real when you only see an odorless image of it, becomes enlighteningly clear after an engagement with Joel Olson's compelling examinations of fanaticism.
He began this work before 9/11 and as a result of extended engagement with the Garrisonian abolitionists during the writing of a Duboisian study of race and US democracy. By the Rethinking Marxism conference in 2005 his case about extremism had assumed its present shape (the paper was called "Fanaticism and Communism"). As an anarchist who shows more inspiration from Schmitt than Marx (though some of both), Olson developed it seems a focus on the white abolitionist fanatics as the movers of abolition in the US in a way that marginalises the non-fanatical structural enemies of slavery, the enslaved themselves, who can be considered intransigent opponents of the institution of slavery without being definable as "abolitionist fanatics" (or locked into the prioritizing of a rigid friend/enemy distinction) in any meaningful sense. (It is even possible that Turner was some kind of mystic provided by his spiritual beliefs with grandiosity and assurance of divine aid/destiny that emboldens, but even if that were the case one would not call his opposition to slavery itself "fanatical". Nothing can be more reasonable than the enlightened self-interest of a class/caste of slaves' - or an individual's - abolitionism.) Olson's justified fascination with the committed, voluntary white accessories of black rebellion leads him to overemphasise their impact until the abolition of slavery seems to be principally their cause the way the settlement of Hebron is the cause of radical right Zionists. The Garrisonians were important, absolutely - perhaps more important than the more widespread abhorrence and sympathy of basically all of humanity excluding those with direct benefits from slavery - but they were secondary to the non-fanatical, much broader based resistance of the enslaved.
This focus on the committed volunteer warriors already justifies itself as a glamourisation, that is, as a pleasure for the reader or listener, the pleasure of a kind of narrative made possible by the exaggeration of the primacy of Brown, Phillips, Garrison, Foster (truly heroic men all) in the abolition of the peculiar institution in the US.
Once this role for the heroic white volunteer abolitionists is secured, Olson goes on to group their activites with others, dispersed in time and place, that seem to be of the same type on a number of counts. In one notable essay, he forefronts Randall Terry and Operation Rescue. Looking beyond the US one could add radical ultraZionist Israeli settlers and the Taleban. But what should become apparent to Olson is overlooked - that because the Garrisonian abolitionists were joining an existing popular movement of the structural antagonists of what was opposed, they differ enormously from these other movements that seem to be driven solely by voluntarism and zeal. (Fetuses put up no resistance to abortion; there is no population of unwilling women upon whom abortion is forced for Operation Rescue to join in struggle). Olson speaks of the importance to these fanatical movements of building a constituency - he excludes from his definition violent zealots who may inspire some copycats but don't seek to, and cannot, change "common sense" - but one cannot really deem the enslaved in the US a "constituency" of white abolitionists won over to abolitionism by The Liberator and the boldness and righteous fearlessness of the white volunteers. With this implication he seems to make a common anarchist error when he moves to taking the Garrisonians as models for the kinds of fanatics - devoted revolutionists - who will be required for revolutionary change today in the US: he seems to marginalise the class struggle and the variously intensified and relaxed but never-lapsing resistance of the structural antagonists (not volunteers who need special personalities but just ordinary people of varying degrees of consciousness and zeal in a determined position) to stage a more glamorous vision and more appealing narrative of social transformation which seems to hold out something of an answer to the question of how one sparks a significant potentially revolutionary upheaval.
Moreover - and this is most important - these other movements with which Olson wishes to categorise abolitionism (which is nothing but the class struggle of slaves) are, fanatical as the rank and file may be, the pawns and tools of a cynical, and indeed a liberal, ruling class.
There is a superficial similarity to be noted between the passionate commitment of some Garrisonian abolitionists - noticeable because it could not be attributed to self-interest in any proximate sense - and the passion with which Israeli settlers staking out "illegal" outposts in "Judea and Samaria" express themselves and conduct their project. But what makes these right wing puppet movements fanatical - and white American abolitionism is the only example of a "fanatical" movement in modernity that is not right wing - is not the passion for the content of their conviction, but the facing of opposition and the willingness to obliterate it. There is a social element - the element of structural conflict - the centrality of which to his own definition (fanaticism as "the political mobilzation of the refusal to compromise" depends on certain conditions) Olson gives insufficient importance in order to fulfill the Schmittian requirement for political storytelling which demands a central caricature of "liberalism" (as formlessness, amalgam, deriving from the paradoxical figure of money as every and no commodity, all-absorbing capital and universally alien Jew) as villain.
It is unsurprising then that in his talk, Olson pictures the enemy of anarchists today as people who "own yachts" and who might reprehensibly encourage others to acquire them - a description which occults the essential exploitative relation which subjects labour to capitalists by staging in a showy, immediately recogniseable way the resulting inequality, an object of moral opprobrium and a display of unfairness within a bourgeois framework, with confused hints about how it comes about and no consideration of the real relations of power which might permit the transformation of the situation. In this vacuum of material reality, the powers of decadent insatiable luxury on the one hand, and of righteousness and conviction on the other, seem to have no rivals and no obstacles to action but the lethargy and apathy of the majority of humanity.
If you don’t understand race, you know nothing about the United States. The catastrophes that descend on Black America must be seen “as a violent result of an ideology which results in economic and social policies predetermined to this effect.” Even the best off African Americans can’t save themselves. “The nation’s richest Black community, Prince George’s County, Maryland, is also home to the highest Black foreclosure rate.”
...George Taylor once described the work of Critical Race Theorists as recognizing how this society sees “Whiteness as a property right” which is “an essential element of American [that is White] social stability.” Whiteness as a property right. The point has been made many times but in this particular phrasing and in this particular time it seems even more appropriate. If we see Whiteness as property we also see its necessary opposite, the absence of access, or the absence of Black opportunity for ownership. And if property, be it Whiteness or any other form is essential to social stability, it also means that Black access to property is anathema to the social order.
This is one perfect example of a piece designed to communicate offensive and aggressive content in an unmistakeable way while permitting defensive misinterpretation, but requiring that misinterpretation to be ostentatiously stupid, to refuse, for example, to know there are two images, not one, that are "not feminism"; to refuse to acknowledge chronology and the implication of consequence in sequence; to refuse to see the images not only in a fixed sequence but simultaneously, as juxtapositions and comparisons in such features as the contextualising of the figures and the celebrity of the women. (Kahlo's image, labelled "pre-feminism", associated with an era before feminism and a female life untouched by feminism, is her own renowned artistic product; she pictures herself in a context of nature, flora and fauna; the image itself is of great beauty and enormous value, etc.. Greer is a celebrity whose angry recognisable face crowds the frame blotting out all context and thus expressing egotism as well as aggression; her image is bereft of value as image; she is envisioned, in contrast to the others, as not silent and not in the act of submitting herself to a gaze for the pleasure of the gazer. The porn image of a minor or non-celebrity is a reproducible commodity image; it is taken looking down at the subject in contrast to Greer whose photographer looks up; in contrast to the others it is signifying an immediate past that is more important than the captured moment and indispensible for understanding the present portrayed...).
In "defence" of the picture, one "feminist" interpreter wrote:
I don’t particularly like this man’s work, but I don’t think he was saying that taking a load is a punishment for being a feminist – I think he was saying that it is the inevitable result of NOT being one...
It is a comment remarkable for the unembarrassed obtuseness and superficiality of the engagement with the piece that requires so little interpretive sensitivity it is a labour to supply less than is wanted, and also for the careful addition of an assertion of independent and free thought ("I don't particularly care for..."). Though this text does not have a great deal to it, "Bebe" has to cut one third of it off entirely - the idyllic pre-feminist image of and by the pre-feminist artist - and obliterate most of the picture's content (chronology and implied consequentiality, comparison by juxtaposition) in order to suppress the portion of the obvious she wishes to deny. This response is made possible by the crudeness of the work itself but also by doctrinal liberalism which validates her interpretation, however idiosyncratic, nonsensical and groundless, as personal and "an opinion" to which she has "a right". (In several respects this response recalls the standard liberal Kauffmanite readings of Nietzsche.)
Spectacular violence against women is increasingly accompanied by these kinds of reception accessories.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
If we divide issues up - these are feminist issues, these are racial issues, these are war and peace issues over here, these are bread and butter issues over here - if we do that, which is what a certain kind of neoliberal politics encourages us to do, then we will be self-defeating.
The biggest successes will lie in our ability to connect our struggles to the struggles of people in Palestine, to the struggle of people in Iraq, to the struggles of people working in unsafe working conditions, all of these contexts are deeply connected to me.
It's not just about gender equality anymore because we're asking - equal to what? equal to dominate? Equal to exploit? Equal to oppress? No I think we're talking fundamentally about social transformation so that people can live in a free and just and safe world.
We spent twenty years talking about how interests that look as if they are divided are connected. That questions of gender and sexuality and questions of economics look as if they are divided, and that they actually are connected in various ways. But we also have to look at the ways in which people have interests that do seperate them, and how are we going to overcome those. And take seriously - conflict.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
I'm sure we were all happy to hear the few bars of his almost forgotten "Vague Hague" psyop, like that snippet of Figaro at Don Giovanni's dinner, played right in the middle of the inane Guardian stuff on Egypt (in which he managed also to stuff the assertion that "hostility to Israel"=antisemitism. Just like he's not sure he's coming back to the Guardian, he was so upset they wouldn't publish his paen to Aryanism last month, now he's grabbing while the grabbing is good, like your wino uncle stuffing the bread rolls, spoons, shot glasses and salt shakers from the restaurant you are not taking him back to ever, so vilely did he treat eveyone, into his coat pockets.)
But the Vague Hague* is last season's bullshit - lately Zizz has been devoting himself to historical revisionism about Afghanistan. His rewriting of history is confined to the chronology - he wishes to disseminate as the official left, "Marxist" historical knowledge - which he represents - a tale from an alternative universe wherein the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan provoked the US to hire Bin Laden and import foreign fighters trained in terrorism to back the Mujahadin. He packages this bullshit into the kind of sacharine lefty candy coating that has for years proven irresistible to his addicted audiences:
Look, Afghanistan, I’m sorry to tell you, I’m old enough to remember, forty years ago, Afghanistan was arguably the most tolerant Middle East Muslim country, with a pro-Western technocratic king, with a very strong local communist party and so on. And then, we know what happened. Communist party tried to took power. They did. When they started to fail, Soviet Union intervened. Then Americans backed the Muslim fundamentalists. - DemocracyNow
I'm old enough to remember 40 years ago, Afghanistan was a very open, secularized country with a pro-Western, democratic model, strong local Communist Party. Then we know the story: Communists made the coup d'etat, Soviet Union intervened, America intervenes against..Al Jazeera
Afghanistan became fundamentalist when it was drawn into global politics (first through the Soviet intervention).
And there are many many more instances, all the same, like a cold caller's pitch, delivering the disinfo in this sharp, confident, bullet points way - we know, we all agree, it's uncontroversial, first Soviet invasion, then US response. Every repeat now sees this sequence preceded and succeeded and bundled this same way, introduced with the claim that he is remembering the history first hand - very reliable then, not like his youthful audience who have to derive their information from books and old newspapers - and paying off with the self-congratulation for worldiness and honesty and bigness-enough-to-acknowledge-they-weren't-always-this-diabolical and We the Politically Correct Multiculturalist Liberals, We the Vile Hypocritical Left, We the West, We Aryans are! We are! (to blame) and lessons in who we are he knows his audience never tires of hearing.
Why is this revisionism suddenly so important to Zizney? We can understand why his Haiti revisionism was useful to US imperial rulers, and of course why he put so much energy into the "Hague" ICTY=ICC propaganda, and why his Enron revisionism would have been welcome as well to the ruling class even though it was so silly, just as it's always appreciated when he promotes infantile blockbusters to elite audiences that still avoid a lot of those ads.
But this is odd, since nobody in the US establishment really ever denies what Brzezinski famously explained to all, that the US hired Bin Laden to recruit from the Gulf states and run terrorist paras in Afghanistan against a civilian population in order to provoke the Soviet invasion. But it seems a matter of immense importance and even urgency to Zizek to convince his dazed and credulous "left" followers - young and ignorant to be sure - that the Bin Laden operation was created in response to the prior Soviet invasion. It appears that even his first celebratory article about Egypt in the Guardian included this little meme, caught however by the Guardian editors and excised.
Why is this little imperialist apology disinfo campaign so important now that Zizz manages to work it into every television and radio appearance?
*US representatives simultaneously demanded of the Serbian government that it deliver suspected war criminals to the International Criminal Court at the Hague (in accordance with the logic of the global Empire which demands a trans-state global judicial institution) and that it sign a bilateral treaty with the USA prohibiting Serbia from ever delivering to any international institution (that is, to the same Hague court) any US citizen suspected of war crimes or other crimes against humanity (in accordance with nation-state logic). - Zizek, Iraq, the Borrowed Kettle. (Zizek is always a bit bolder with the lies and the racism etc in books; in the newspaper versions of this text, as below, he's more careful to be ambiguous, to get past fact checkers and editors one supposes. In the newspaper, he states that the US demands Serbia hand criminals to "the Hague Tribunal" - a phrase which could describe both the ICTY and the ICC. Then one sentence later he is again referring "the Hague Tribunal" as the subject of remarks by Timothy Garton Ash, as if they were the same tribunal, when the US demands Serbia hand suspects to the ICTY, and Timothy Garton Ash's quote referred to the ICC.)
FINALLY GOT THE NEWS
They give you little bullshit amounts of money in exchange for your working – wages and so forth – and then they steal all that shit back from you in terms of the way they got this other thing set up – his whole credit gimmick society man, consumer credit, buy shit buy shit on credit, he give you a little bit of shit to cool your ass out and then steal all that shit back with interest – the price of money. Motherfuckers in non-existent, non-producing…motherfuckers who deal with paper. There’s a cat, he’s “in mining”, and he sits in an office man on the hundred and ninety ninth floor in some motherfucking building on Wall Street, and he’s “in mining” and he has paper, certificates, which are embroidered and shit you know, stocks, bonds, debentures, obligations, you know, “he’s in mining”, and he’s sitting up in Wall Street and his fingernails ain’t been dirty in his motherfucking life; he went to Phillips Andover or Exeter, he went to Harvard, he went to Yale, he went to the Wharton School of Business, and he’s in mining? The motherfuckers who deal with intangibles are the motherfuckers who are rewarded in this society. The more abstract and intangible your shit is, come on stocks? What is stock? Stock certificates is evidence of ownership in something that’s real. Ownership. He owns and controls and therefore receives you know the benefit from, that’s what they call profit. He's fucking with shit in Bolivia, he’s fucking with shit in Chile, he’s Anaconda, he’s United Fruit, he’s “in mining”, he’s in what? He ain’t never in his life produced shit. Investment bankers, stock brokers, insurance, man, it’s motherfuckers who don’t do nothing. We see that this whole society man exists and rests upon workers and that this whole motherfucking society controlled by this ruling clique is parasitic, vulturistic, cannibalistic and is sucking and destroying man the lives of motherfucking workers and we have to stop it because it’s evil.
It’s a badass play, and as they were getting ready to perform it–and this is NOT a joke–the principals of the students’ schools actually forbade the performance! Translation: these stupid chumps (school-bureaucrat-politicians) got punked by some savvy proletarian high schoolers; they were embarrassed and afraid, and they turned authoritarian, censoring the students’ creative political expression! But after protests from students and allies, the admin backed down and the play went on for an audience of students that were feelin’ it.
Loosely based on Antigone, the play is titled “Declassified: Struggle for Existence (We Used to Eat Lunch Together).” It addresses how bureaucrats implement whack policy agendas in the name of educational accountability (based on their unreformable subjugation to the needs of capital), which disrupt students’ lives and communities, starve their resources, subordinate all concerns to questions of financing and testing, pave the way for privatization, increase authoritarian control and supervision of youth, and generally suck a lot. And of course, these “reforms” (cuts and reorganization) are part of the overall pressures on poor, working families and part of the systematic way in which the state and capital attempt to divide oppressed peoples against each other. These insights are developed within the play, reflecting an organic, political consciousness amongst the writers.
The play also addresses the most pressing question of our day: As our world is rapidly dismantled by the hungry Frankenstein of late capitalism in crisis, how can we respond?! According to the play, we should catalyze our organic social relationships, reinforce and mobilize our egalitarian principles, and organize ourselves to oppose the beast! This involves conversations (in schools, workplaces and families), organization (of outreach and literature), and some ingenuity and fearlessness. It’s called…communism–the living movement to change the course of history!
"Wear a red flower, tonight."
This was his invitation to the thousands of conscious workers who flocked to hear Gershuni a few years ago, Gershuni, the Russian Revolutionist, who escaped from Siberia, arrived in New York and was to speak in Carnegie Hall that night--but a short while before he returned to the land of the Tzar; to die.
"Wear a red flower, tonight."
And when Gershuni stood before his vast audience in the evening, and saw Nature flaunting her scarlet beneath the multitude of pale faces raised eagerly for his message; he said:
"I wanted you to wear this symbol of the joy and the beauty of life because we demand not only bread, but roses."
For 31-year-old Findlay, state support represents a lifeline, allowing her the freedom to exist independently. If it was taken away, Findlay said she would kill herself. "When I am not able to live independently then there's nothing to live for," she said. "I'll be leaving people behind that love me and I love them, but at the same time they understand that I don't want to be in position where I cannot do things for myself."
Disability charities say Findlay represents a small but disturbing number of disabled people saying they will kill themselves if their benefits are cut. Last month a poll for campaign group Disability Alliance, found that 9% of recipients said losing DLA "may make life not worth living".
Sunday, February 13, 2011
One thing that even the dim bulbs in the media should understand by now is that there is in fact a class war going on, and it is the rich and powerful who are waging it. Anyone who does anything that empowers the little people or that threatens the wealth and power of the plutocracy must be destroyed. There is a reason for these clowns going after Think Progress and unions, just like there is a reason they are targeting wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald, Planned Parenthood, and Acorn. To a lesser extent the fail parade that was the Daily Caller expose on Journolist was more of the same.
You have to understand the mindset- they are playing for keeps. The vast majority of the wealth isn’t enough. They want it all. Anything that gets in their way must be destroyed. They don’t care if they poison every stream or crack the foundation to your house or if your daughter dies getting a back alley abortion or if every one in your mining town has an inoperable tumor. They just don’t give a shit.
And they are well financed, have a strong infrastructure, a sympathetic media, and entire organizations dedicated to running cover for them. They’ve even created their own mythical ideology in which they are superhero Galtian overlords, and this lets a few rubes who babble ignorantly about the free market get to feel like they are playing along, when they are really just being played. It’s these guys versus all of us, yet half the people being rogered (Republicans and glibertarians and hell, half the Democrats) have been convinced the other side is a bigger threat to their well being than the people with all the power, money, and resources. Hell, even in this post I can guarantee that at least five shitheads will come in and tell me they don’t like Glenn Greenwald because he uses too many words or that Jane Hamsher is shrill or because neither of them fellate Obama to satisfaction. Talk about not fucking getting it.
I don’t even know why we bother to hold elections any more, to be honest, the game is so rigged. We’re a banana republic, and it is just a matter of time before we descend into necklacing and other tribal bullshit.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Monday, February 07, 2011
Everything's a moment in an idiotic cartoon or cgi spectacle for Zizek and fans..."philosophy" and "political theory" are transformed into the crudest demagoguery for dopes, a sneer at mom, dad, the old left and grups in general followed by the evocation of some uplifting sequence from the boilerplate sentimental Hollywood blockbuster for kidsendummies. Shot together by Israeli soldiers, the "Palestinian woman" in "traditional dress" embraces the "Israeli lesbian" with "purple hair" as the brass keens and moans. The tyrant runs off the cliff, treds air, looks down and drops from the sky, like Wile E. Coyote, right into stipey jailbird jammies and the dock at "The Hague". And "when we fight a tyrant, we are all universalists" with no need for revolutionary socialism or even that "stupid UNESCO multiculturalism" with all that Islamic Feminist nonsense and other trivia in which Dr. Ramadan is implicated. SZ propounds a version of the J.J. Abrams self-help doctrine and "philosophy of life" really - we compete (divided into ethno-racial blocks, not principally as individuals, for Zizek) until a commmon threat makes us all "work together" for survival, and faced with this dramatically unambiguous nemesis, we embrace and link arms and sing in French and share our hankies as all that nonsense about imperialism, capitalist accumulation, expropriation and exploitation, and class war melts away.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Incredible story out of Ohio, where single mom Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed and slapped with a felony conviction for lying to school officials to get her kids into the better school in their father's school district. The kicker: With a record, she will lose her job and her chance at the teaching certificate she's about to earn. The case is beingappealed. A petition from MomsRising.org and ColorofChange.org here.
So when, in his reading of the famous chorus from Antigone on the "uncanny/demonic" character of man in the Introduction to Metaphysics, Heidegger deploys the notion of "ontological" violence that pertains to every founding gesture of the new communal world of people, accomplished by poets, thinkers, and statesmen, one should always bear in mind that this “uncanny/demonic” dimension is ultimately that of language itself:[...]Violence is usually seen in terms of the domain in which concurring compromise and mutual assistance set the standard of Dasein, and accordingly all violence is necessarily deemed only a disturbance and an offence…The violent one, the creative one who sets forth into the unsaid, who breaks into the unthought, who compels what has never happened and makes appear what is unseen – this violent one stands at all times in daring…
…[W]e should not immunise ourselves against the effects of the violence Heidegger is talking about by classifying it as “merely” ontological; although it is violent as such, imposing a certain disclosure of world, this world constellation also involves social relations of authority. In his interpretation of Heracliutus fragment 53…Heidegger – in contast to those who accuse him of omitting to consider the “cruel” aspects of the ancient Greek life (slavery, etc.) – openly draws attention to how “rank and dominance” are directly grounded in a disclosure of being, thereby providing a direct ontological grounding to social relations of domination:[…]What is higher in rank is what is stronger. Thus, Being, logos, as the gathered harmony, is not easily available for every man at the same price, but is concealed[…]
[…]Simone de Beauvoir noted: “many racists, ignoring the rigors of science, insist on declaring that even if the psychological [sic] reasons haven’t been established, the fact is that blacks are inferior. You have only to travel through America to be convinced of it.”*
[…]Beauvoir’s claim about the factual inferiority of blacks aims at something more than the simple social fact that in the American South of (not only) that time, blacks were treated as inferior by the white majority and, in a way, they effectively were inferior….This softening distinction misses the truly trenchant dimension of racism; the “being” of blacks…is a socio-symbolic being. When they are treated by whites as inferior, this does indeed make them inferior….[T]he white racist ideology exerts a performative efficiency. It is not merely an interpretation of what blacks are, but an interpretation that determines the very being…of the interpreted subjects.
[Peter Singer] radicalizes and actualizes Jeremiah Bentham, the father of utilitarianism: the ultimate ethical criterion is not the dignity (rationality, soul) of man, but the ability to SUFFER, to experience pain, which man shares with animals[...] Look an orangutan straight in the eye and what do you see? A none-too-distant cousin[...]
Singer argues that "speciesism" is no different from racism [...]
[...O]ne cannot dismiss [Singer] as a monstrous exaggeration – what Adorno said about psychoanalysis (its truth resides in its very exaggerations) fully holds for Singer: he is so traumatic and intolerable because his scandalous “exaggerations” directly renders visible the truth of the so-called postmodern ethics. Is effectively not the ultimate horizon of the postmodern “identity politics” Darwinian – defending the right of some particular species of the humankind within the panoply of their proliferating multitude (gays with AIDS, black single mothers…)? The very opposition between “conservative” and “progressive” politics can be conceived of in the terms of Darwinism: ultimately, conservatives defend the right of those with might (their very success proves that they won in the struggle for survival), while progressives advocate the protection of endangered human species, i.e., of those losing the struggle for survival.
[...]This, then, is the ultimate truth of Singer: our universe of human right is the universe of animal rights.
The obvious counterargument is here: so what? Why should we not reduce humankind to its proper place, that of one of the animal species? What gets lost in this reduction? Jacques-Alain Miller once commented an uncanny laboratory experiment with rats: in a labyrinthine set-up, a desired object (a piece of good food or a sexual partner) is first made easily accessible to a rat; then, the set-up is changed in such a way that the rat sees and thereby knows where the desired object is, but cannot gain access to it; in exchange for it, as a kind of consolation prize, a series of similar objects of inferior value is made easily accessible – how does the rat react to it? For some time, it tries to find its way to the “true” object; then, upon ascertaining that this object is definitely out of reach, the rat will renounce it and put up with some of the inferior substitute objects – in short, it will act as a “rational” subject of utilitarianism.
It is only now, however, that the true experiment begins: the scientists performed a surgical operation on the rat, messing about with its brain, doing things to it with laser beams about which, as Miller put it delicately, it is better to know nothing. So what happened when the operated rat was again let loose in the labyrinth, the one in which the “true” object is inaccessible? The rat insisted: it never became fully reconciled with the loss of the “true” object and resigned itself to one of the inferior substitutes, but repeatedly returned to it, attempted to reach it. In short, the rat in a sense was humanized; it assumed the tragic “human” relationship towards the unattainable absolute object which, on account of its very inaccessibility, forever captivates our desire. On the other hand, it is this very “conservative” fixation that pushes man to continuing renovation, since he never can fully integrate this excess into his life process. So we can see why did Freud use the term Todestrieb: the lesson of psychoanalysis is that humans are not simply alive; on the top of it, they are possessed by a strange drive to enjoy life in excess of the ordinary run of things – and “death” stands simply and precisely for the dimension beyond ordinary biological life.
[...I]t is easy to imagine German officers and soldiers listening to ["Hans Hotter’s outstanding 1942 recording of Schubert’s Winterreise"] in the Stalingrad trenches in the cold Winter of 42/43. Does the topic of Winterreise not evoke a unique consonance with the historical moment? Was not the whole campaign to Stalingrad a gigantic Winterreise, where each German soldier can say for himself the very first lines of the cycle: “I came here a stranger, / As a stranger I depart”? Do the following lines not render their basic experience: “Now the world is so gloomy, / The road shrouded in snow. / I cannot choose the time / To begin my journey, / Must find my own way / In this darkness.”
[...]The obvious counter-argument is that all this is merely a superficial parallel: even if there is an echo of the atmosphere and emotions, they are in each case embedded in an entirely different context: in Schubert, the narrator wanders around in Winter because the beloved has dropped him, while the German soldiers were on the way to Stalingrad because of Hitler’s military plans. However, it is precisely in this displacement that the elementary ideological operation consists: the way for a German soldier to be able to endure his situation was to avoid the reference to concrete social circumstances which would become visible through reflection [...]and, instead, to indulge in the Romantic bemoaning of one’s miserable fate, as if the large historical catastrophe just materializes the trauma of a rejected lover. Is this not the supreme proof of the emotional abstraction, of Hegel’s idea that emotions are ABSTRACT, an escape from the concrete socio-political network accessible only to THINKING.
* What Simone de Beauvoir actually wrote: "In the past twenty years there hasn't been a single serious work that dared to defend the prejudice, however convenient, of biological inferiority. But many racists, ignoring the rigors of science, insist on declaring that even if the physiological reasons haven't been established, the fact is blacks are inferior. You have only to travel through America to be convinced of it. But what does the verb 'to be' mean? Does it define an immutable substance, like oxygen? Or does it describe a moment in a situation that has evolved, like every human situation? That is the question. And to fresh eyes it is clear that the second meaning is the correct one: 'Blacks are uncultured'."
I was/am addicted to this show Weeds, a fascinating example of how the ideology of revanchist white supremacy of kindly white bourgeois American progressives works in the genres marinated in "postmodern irony" before being baked in sentiment (among them the ubiquitous black dramedy, into which all other genres including news seem to be collapsing). The white family (a matriarchy, led by the self-styled lioness) is "dysfunctional" and down on its luck but plucky, sexy, adventuresome, with an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit, ferocious competitive instinct, and flamboyant individualism. "Racial others" appear as dangerous threats and yet necessary resources; one after the other they are subdued and tamed, exposed as mechanical (and "rude mechanicals") and a bit ridiculous, quirky imitations of "the American family", living that (upper) middle class domestic dream in varied ethnic flavours which produce the cutesy "incongruity" of violence/banality, coded as racially black/white, of which somehow tv execs can never get enough. (Mexican flavour: wife/mother vetoes daughter's tarty dress choices while telling hitman hubby on the mobile phone to hurry up and kill white heroine Nancy and come home she's making something special for dinner.) These others - African-American (LA), Mexican (San Diego/Tijuana), Arab (Dearborn) - are creatures of culture and constructed of behaviours; the white protagonists are self-fashioning, infinitely varied, and equipped with interiority.
There is one performance, by Guillermo Diaz, that lifts the Mexican gangster character he plays above this plane so that only the authorial disregard of his pov prevents him from attaining the status enjoyed by the minor white characters, but the ethno-taxonomic operation in which he is enmeshed is such a repetitive loop (menace, diffusion of threat, menace, diffusion of threat), so perfectly entwined with the dramatic structure and the requirements of both caper and comedy, that the emotional interest he elicits only enriches the racial mythology produced. Discursive domination (stereotype, unbridled cultural appropriation, the monopoly of spectacle, and a J. Petermanesque anthropological/sociological "knowledge") - the narrative authoritarianism of authorial authority - is itself flaunted as the instrument of white supremacy, the arsenal wielded for the protection of the white family.
The show and its loving, condescending zoology could serve as a guide to the ideology permeating the milieu of Suzanne Moore and giving rise to the now routine argument that "the failure of 'the left'" (to be racist enough) causes fascism. If only feminists today were like Shulamith Firestone! She certainly understood that the problem was the "dangerously prolific reproduction" of black women not the dangerously despotic impulses of white elites (simply "universalisable", generic individual, representatives and proxies of humanity) whom she urged to sterilize them.
Remember, the EDL formed in 2009 after a demonstration against the returning troops from Afghanistan. Banners were held up saying "baby-killers" and "butchers of Basra". This demonstration was organised by Al-Muhajiroun and included members of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. These are extremist groups. This is the bit where it is obligatory to say that most Muslims are not like this.
Most not butchered and bereaved? No no - most not so rude, crude and savage as to complain about - and wound with their harsh words - Afghanistan's liberators on the civilising mission. And are most white English people baby killers and butchers? But for Moore "Muslim paedophile gangs" not "British imperialist baby killers and butchers" is "the stuff that many people say when they think no one is listening", people being of course people, universal types without particularist bias. Unsurprising then neither "most Jews" nor "most Christians" nor "most non-Muslims" is the counterpart to "most Muslims" Moore finds for her natural egalitarian, un-bigotted balance:
The EDL evolved, if that is the right word, into the "United Peoples of Luton" in response. Many of its members have BNP pasts, criminal convictions and come out of the hooligan firms of the football casuals. This is also the bit where I will say that not all EDL support is so straightforwardly thuggish, either.
Imperialist white supremacism fades into unquestionable normality - merely the natural condition for the urgent "problems" about which Moore is complaining and advising - as Moore daringly raises the question (again as if breaking a taboo, though this is now one of the most frequent topics for the despised "chattering classes") of the purported failure of "multiculturalism" to ensure that civility among the imperial core hoi polloi the appearance of which (of that is social harmony and cultural/racial virtue) forms one justification for the imperialist ruling class' civilising mission.
Placing "Muslims" on one side and the EDL on the other, Moore effectively offers a huge population defined by something other than actual religious conviction as the "mirror image" of white supremacist fascist thugs, producing a riven society of multiculturalism gone wrong in which, we are invited to conclude, there remains neutral good wholesome human stuff of the social order which includes herself and others like her:
The EDL slogan of No Surrender, a Loyalist slogan (or just possibly the title of a Bruce Springsteen song) also tells us a lot about their roots and influences. Far-right movements will, of course, thrive during a recession. Certainly, one of the things we need to do is to understand the new right. For the left to rise again in any meaningful way, we have to deal with the concept of Englishness, and stop the official silence around race and culture. The crude stereotyping of the EDL plays into their hands. As with their Dutch counterparts, they are using a language of libertarianism, modernity and fake inclusiveness. They know what they are doing, just as Al-Muhajiroun does. Such groupings may in fact be mirror images of each other. Any anti-fascist movement cannot take on one without the other. That is indeed complicated. But any other way is indeed surrender.
This native and beseiged humanity, the rightfully resident, non-problem population, (what others of Moore's ilk often call the "host"), cannot be named or described positively (except by the Zizz crowd) if the white supremacism is to remain veiled; they can only be made to appear obliquely like this, as those implied targets of these identified menaces, those who mustn't surrender to either Muslims or white supremacist fascists, those whose existence and presence in the UK are merely given, natural, along with their imperialist adventures about the wisdom of which of course they are entitled to debate (civilly).