July 28, 2008

Sui Generis

Addressing concentrations of power and all the various kinds of social and political neglect which ensue in a large corporate nation-state requires opening the political space to facilitate countervailing political action. For though we may have personal freedoms, we have little, if any, civic freedom to actually participate in political power. So look forward to voting in November...or at least try to look forward to voting in November given that existing political realms, as well as public duties and responsibilities themselves, have gradually over the decades been bought out and “outsourced” by powerful economic, political , and legal interests. Again, the only way to make political life more responsive, more responsible, more caring, and ultimately more liberating is to "open," "create," or "disclose," (choose what you like) a political space that is recognized as distinct from the machinations of high-powered corporate lobbyists. Indeed public ideals, duties, and responsibilities, have to be appealed to in order to garner architectonic leverage to circumvent and reign in power brokers and their "special interests." Thus it is important to understand not that “the political” does not exist or even that it exists only nominally as merely a cover for "politics as usual" but rather that it exists in order to prioritize, justify, facilitate, and account for the wide array of institutional means, responsibilities, and powers pertaining to a whole constituency.

But today in the US...may I add... it’s not just the starving and paralysis of public works and political impotency that is a problem. We must also note that amongst many Americans there is widespread complacency with “the system” as inevitable as well as broken. And it is this banal carelessness, outright denial even, that makes us retreat easily into petty stubborn narcissism, into the celebrity cults, into the spectacle of the subject... even the simulation of the subject.

More on this later....

July 21, 2008

A Few Arguments Contra Globalization....just a reminder.

Tocqueville emphasized more than a century and a half ago that strong local institutions and a strong civil society are needed in democratic societies not just for charity, good-will, and a general embodied sense of belonging but also for the claiming of a political context. So while the “free-market” rhetoric of recent years claims to “open borders” to a whole array of “guest workers” who come and labor for an indefinite period, it also facilitates the upward flow of capital, and, more importantly, backhandedly renders political arenas increasingly deleterious. Economic globalization surely makes some of the wealthy wealthier; it also ostensibly provides low wage earners-usually immigrants-more work opportunities. Yet it also makes workers, whether guest or host, politically powerless by severing them from the kinds of activities and associations that enable them to exercise power as citizens. Laissex faire leaves them adrift in the currents and whims of “free-trade.” Conjures the Joads traveling Route 66 to and fro does it not?

"Deregulation" policies also enable corporations to close shop and move abroad to get cheaper labor, and take advantage of less stringent labor laws and safety standards. That venture capital would not only dismantle manufacturing industries in the US but come to rely on the regressive-even feudal-practices of sweat-shop labor and authoritarian regimes is a dark truism. Dissolving state boundaries, even from a Hobbesian point of view, also puts obvious stress on the ability of state institutions to protect, manage, and serve the population - even today, especially today. One of the dark ironies of globalization has actually been the intensification of state power to pursue matters of national security. But don’t let the “smaller government” rhetoric underlining free-market ideology mislead you. Governance, (if that is what you can call it,) is waged not through the public realm but through managerial mechanisms of and bullying tactics by powerful corporations that are largely divorced from public accountability and the public interest.

July 5, 2008

The Space of Suspension of Disbelief

How is truth possible when everything in the culture is an advertisement? Has it actually come to the point where we have to continually promote, spin, and downright lie simply because we are incapable of the truth?
Everybody knows they have been lied to – by the boss, the advertisements, the nightly news, the politicians, even by our friends. They also know something is deeply fucked with "the system," and that they cannot do all that much to make it better. Sure, when they have to, they usually do a great job at hiding their contempt for it all. But they also actually come to accept an alarming degree of danger and neglect in their lives as, well you know, the inevitable routine of everyday life, or even as professional protocol – provided, of course, they “know” its bullshit, and are themselves somehow immune or sufficiently detached from its pernicious influences. This is the game we play with ourselves; to cling to that space and go about our lives just as everything makes us complacent as well as deeply cynical. And so, "just leave us alone."
Well I'm not going to leave you alone! Because the really interesting thing is that we all seem to continually suspend disbelief about how bad things really are in the world by continually looking for some glimpse into some truth that we want to believe in – either in some revealing casual gesture, some slip of the tongue, some demographic signifier, some subtext. There will always be a subtext because that’s our entitlement, as well as our entertainment, whether it be as viewers, consumers - as citizens even - no matter how many lies we believe we are being told, no matter how much bullshit gets thrown at us, no matter how much hope we have lost. In effect, we need to watch, we need to look, if only because we need to believe in something. We need a little of what Coleridge referred to as “poetic faith” in order to get on with living.
The problem is that this suspension of disbelief also makes us credulous and incredibly vulnerable. We tend to get lost in our beliefs, fantasies, and dreams not only because people are lying to us but because we are lying to ourselves. Fantasy is fun and great; but it also presumes we are actually capable of making the distinction between what is truly fake and what is truly real, and this is how we delude ourselves. Negotiating these boundaries surely enables us to construct for ourselves meaningful narratives as to what is, as well as to entertain ourselves. And fiction and great art pander to us that way...by making us privileged voyeurs with an "insight" to make. After all, our opinion counts, does it not?