Archive for the ‘political theory’ Category

never resign the public sphere

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Often I find myself engaging on Facebook, as do we all — the problem is that such conversations disappear. Time to start archiving them more properly, and to resurrect the role of this blog. The conversation below jumpstarted from an offhand suggestion to writer Leslie Anthony that we start pooling our energies to work that critiques the Harper regime in Canada. This brought about some surprise criticism.

Before I begin, I believe that one of the most urgent tasks of leftists who can craft a word or two is overcoming defeatism from within — as well as turning to the task of producing penetrating and readable critique of the right, at all levels from popular journalism to philosophical jousting. The ideological problem is that many leftists have been convinced that the realm of media critique and the public sphere has been all but deflated by the right. Oddly, this forces the call for action, but rather than mobilizing action and taking ahold of the opportunity, this forces many into resignation — and into the defeatism of resigning control of the public sphere and media to the right. This is strategically handing the board over to your opponent, pieces and all.

Click on the screenshots to make them bigger.

resignation 101

 

The problem is not “what is the alternative” — as if those opposed are grasping around at straws. Perhaps we can begin with restoring the rule of law, organising governance for the many and not the few, and taking as principles the equitable redistribution of wealth within an ethics that takes as paramount ecological sustainability and human rights? Even these old, classic, liberal values appear as revolutionary today.

Our not-to-be-named respondent (I respect the privacy of Facebook here, however slight) makes some very good points that are indicative of widespread malaise and disenchantment. This of course needs to be ousted openly, like airing our dirty laundry, exposing this little secret of resignation so we can get over it and move forward with the energy of an attack.

resignation (again)

To wit, and to reply, then: a letter to one so resigned.

dear [name removed], I agree that action is necessary, but what you’re asking for is a solution on a plate: you don’t want action unless someone hands you a “solution,” readymade and consumable, and until then, you take the defeatist attitude of “there is no alternative” or “what’s the point.” Your “solution” is silence and complicity. This is not only defeatist, its strategically plays into the hands of the neoCons — just like your vote for a Liberal, even though you didn’t support their elected leader or party. In short, your strategy failed, so continuing to pursue it seems to be a mistake, no?

As for the possible action of writers — the very reason the neoCons are attacking CBC as well as StatsCan and information services (health, science research) is because they are creating the conditions for a deficit of informed decision-maing in the public sphere, thus paving the way for ever more irrational policies (or lack of policy entirely). Amassing critical writers by wresting back control of the public sphere, and by defining and remaking that public sphere itself as exterior to the mentality of consumer capital, is a powerful weapon and should never be discounted; in fact it has been the leverage for most change in political currency for millenia, besides, of course, brute force.

So I don’t agree with you that investigative reporting and critical media is worthless unless we “provide a course of action immediately.” That is asking us as writers to be your Great Leader(s) and to hand you all the answers when such action is the responsibility of ALL, not just some cabal — it’s the same ideological ploy that the neoCons exploit (“why do anything? why bother? why isn’t anyone telling me what to do?” etc).

I also don’t buy the argument that otherwise “you lose their [and who is this “their”?]” attention.” Believing in mass ADD perpetuates it. Taking the other tack ignites attention. In any case, to reflect once gain upon your voting strategy, it has clearly demonstrated that the alternative is the NDP, front and centre. The numbers do not agree with you: the rest of the country is not split. It is quite unified around the left, and predominantly around the NDP. Your own observations above demonstrate that. This is a long process; it took 10+ years to unite the right; don’t think it will be a magic bullet for the left. Nor is the right completely unified; the budget has disenchanted right-wing voters too, and this disenchantment needs to be exploited — by targeting queasy right voters who voted conservative for economic reasons that are now being shown up as awash not in capitalism but religious ideology and irrational cuts. And this is the work of critical media; to sway opinion with research and fact, to expose the underlying and ugly truths. And this is speaking truth to power and the moment one gives up this belief, one is dead — a corpse of resignation.

Vote where your heart is, write where your heart is, and get strategically savvy. Otherwise you’re in the resignation camp — enjoy the bedfellows; they are but the true bitchers. The rest of us are moving forward. Can we count on you?

FOLLOW UP.

Here’s some words that followed in regards to (dialectical) strategy.

^^ Do you know what I read daily? The Economist, which is hardly left. But even The Economist openly ridicules both the GOP/Tea Party and — guess what — Harper’s Canada, which they see as more of the same, though in softer, court-jester form. In short, the lack of a Canadian environmental policy means that for oil-exploiting capitalists there is uncertainty in the markets as they cannot think ahead nor invest with confidence. Canada’s position in regards to the environment and fossil fuels is unclear and ambiguous. So on this front alone, there is dissension in the right. This gap needs to be widened so that the true issue of self-destructive environmental exploitation can be exposed and brought to light: not only that Canada needs an environmental policy, but this policy needs to be one that addresses capitalism as the root of ecological exploitation to begin with. This is a big step but one always possible through a leap over the abyss, and this is the moment of action, of explaining precisely this shift to the many: this lack of a policy, in this case, opens the door for us, as leftists, to create a policy much more radical and far-reaching. Present this policy openly, and suddenly, it fills a hole, creates a gap where the Conservatives have no reply and no ideas. This is precisely what the Liberal/NDP opposition are doing right now in regards to the F-35s; they are turning the logic of capitalist competition back upon the Conservatives themselves by asking why the jets were not sent out for tender…


dispatched

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

CBC

Yesterday — a day of mourning. Close family, a beautiful & pioneering female skier, and CBC. But right now it’s the Harper agenda against our public broadcaster that has me infuriated. Radio One’s Dispatches has been axed completely — one of the only venues for independent, international, investigative news reporting. Gone. Should we speculate why? Perhaps one Canadian mining or oil and gas expose too many? The erosion of democracy is so easy to accomplish against the backdrop of complacency. Ownership of the media — à la Berlusconi — is the first step to consolidating absolutist power. Dispatches is but one casualty in a coordinated, slow erosion of public institutions and media in Canada. Fight back, Dispatches crew. DO NOT GO QUIETLY.

Berlusconi’s reign over Italy is an interesting example. Did he go because of public uprising, because of political overthrow? No, it was only when Berlusconi’s use of the State as his personal fiefdom endangered the power of capital that the multinational bankers stepped in and installed a technocratic council to rule the State. The catalyst to this was not social unrest, mass protest, or democratic upheaval, but the 2008 financial crisis. Like Greece, Italy is now run by unelected technocrats. Berlusconi has managed to evade every single charge brought against him; he publicly flaunts his largesse and lack of ethics.

Harper is the shadow to Berlusconi’s fireworks. All the same strategies are in play — slow erosion of democratic institutions; the flaunting of power and wealth; the complete monopolization of state media. Unlike fascists of the 1930s, today’s neoconservatives know to move slowly by strategically defunding independent public services from the environment and sciences to public broadcasting and food safety. The result is an unstable state lacking the communications and critical media to report upon its wholesale privatization.

A week ago I heard an anti-CBC caller played back on As It Happens: “You should compete like everyone else,” she said, “If I had my way the CBC would receive no funding at all.” Here we have a perfect example of neoconservative, capitalist ideology: here, it is the market, and not public space, which is the norm. Compete like everyone else, join the market; the idea that the market is a private space, and that the space of collective realisation — the “everyone else” — is that of public space, publicly funded from the common wealth, has been completely reversed: now it is the market of competing monopolies that is the “everyone else,” the “we” in which we all feel included. Of course this makes sense given that the self-identity of the caller assumes that of the consumer; the CBC is an imposed purchase under this logic, and s/he doesn’t like what s/he’s hearing. The logic is simple: news is a product, as is all media, and I only want to buy what I like, what I want to hear or see. Of course, such consumerist self-identification undermines the basic principle of journalism, which is to expose all to the ugly truths we don’t like to hear or see.

The more the world approaches ecological catastrophe, increasing impoverishment, permanent militarization, rogue state conflict, the inequality of wealth and power, etc., the more this “everyone else” rebels, creating bunkers of ideology, erecting barriers and fences to the in-common, collective experience of facing ugly truths. The right-wing, Tea Party insanity of the GOP and militant Islam are reactions to the destabilizing and ultimately self-destructive effects of global capitalism. That both aim to fight each other in a duel to the death ignores the true apocalypse brought on by global capital itself—a simultaneous erosion of democracy and the pending ecological catastrophe.

The lesson is bitter and clear: the state political elites serve capital, they are unable and/or unwilling to control and regulate capital even when the very survival of the human race is ultimately at stake. (Slavoj Zizek, Living in the End Times 334)

This is the final logic, the end times. Zizek’s book is highly recommended.

blind signifiers in the new age

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
No More Potlucks 17

No More Potlucks 17

The seventeeth issue of the illustrious No More Potlucks, edited by Sophie Le Phat Ho, is dedicated to inducting its readers into magic — magie no. 17 | no more potlucks.

The choice of ‘magic’ as a topic came out of a concern – une préoccupation qui semble être partagée, vu la richesse des contributions présentées dans ce numéro – for what we are up against… En effet, la magie relève de la technique, de la pratique, du procédé, de l’art, de l’action. Elle est donc intimement liée à une analyse de la réalité, de l’environnement, et ne serait être de l’ordre du divertissement, de la fantasmagorie… Bref, this is serious. [Sophie Le Phat Ho, editor]

This issue features a brief piece I writ entitled Blind Signifiers in the New Age, introduced by a recent communication sent to Hakim Bey.

Blind Signifers is a condensed text on magick as the art of the slippage between signifers, the minimum distance of which constitutes consensual reality. Magick in this respect is a force in the sense that it generates effects wrought from symbolic subterfuge. Magick traverses the realms of the illusionary and the imaginary; it is precisely that viscosity that allows us to conceive of that which would puncture reality with its surreality or irreality. In this sense, magick (a) is generative through effects of signifying systems and (b) is not to be trifled with. Its underlying principle is that CHAOS NEVER DIED.

on the plains / Hakim Bey postcard

on the plains / Hakim Bey postcard

The principle point is that magick is very much in use all around us: it connects the surface of things; it is especially engaged to ensure consistency of action/reaction in systems of capitalist desire, notably consumerism. It is not magic at work here, not the mere trickery of an illusion, but magick, the technics of signifier slippage, the art of symbolic subterfuge. These be the darker arts when used to deceive.

Any such concept of magick as a praxis of symbols follows from the work of Hakim Bey, whose creative work with chaos theory (and the Mandelbrot Set), connecting anarcho-politics to the folds of physics and geography as well as the deconstruction of semiotics and philosophy some 25 odd years ago is, I would argue, indispensible to grasping semiocapitalism. Yet like all texts, including this one, it is writ with a cleaved-edge. Beware the folds.

There are many good essays in this collection (do read them) but relevant to my own work is Magic, Strategy and Capitalism: An interview with aladin by Anja Kanngieser and Leila, who pose the question “what happens to magic once it is embedded in the languages of business and industry?”. Indeed; this is the fundamental question that founds the dark art of advertising and second order cybernetics. However this question ought to be reinscribed: how is it that magick is the basis of capital? How is it that magick constitutes the language of capital itself?

To this end, I would suggest a deeper reading into the “tradition” of magick, as well as that of Marx. Perhaps magic has always been about entertainment and tricks, but magick operates at ways far more embedded into the technics of perception, which is to say, the way in which value is inscribed and perceived.

In this sense—which needs qualifying—the language of magic has been, as the article suggests, “put into use for capital,” but only as a secondary effect or diversion from the magick of capital itself.  Reading Marx, magick is that operation which derives exchange value from use value. Capital operates by way of magick. It is that which makes the “commodity stand on its head” in Das Kapital. Marx often discusses capital as “phenomena” and “illusion,” as a “phantom,” but none of these are terms meant in the tradition of cheap tricks: a social relation is masked behind the relations of capital. Violent, dark magick, in other words, the magick of turning quality into quantity, humanity into slavery, world into resource, is at the heart of capital. Capital is no cheap trick; its cost is Faustian.

As Marx writes, capital’s effects are phantomic; it is precisely this haunting effect, this “specter” of capital which, according to Marx, needs to be exorcised. Over a century later, in 1994, Derrida argued in Specters of Marx that the phantom in general—hauntology—cannot be exorcised. In short, the revolutionary magick proposed by Marx (which was famously unthought) against the magick of capital cannot eradicate the fundamental principles (of magick) upon which capital is based. Why? For the principles of capital—magick—are also those of its antithesis. Any possible antithesis. One cannot eradicate the simulacra; for at base, there is only a doubling of simulacra. Or to put it another way: to attempt to exorcize capital would obliterate the very principle of revolutionary communism, the imaginative magick of a collective ideal. To attempt to practice absolute exorcisim only unleashes the violence at the core of all magicks claiming to unveil or obliterate the true origin or the true illusion (the two being equivalent in force). One cannot exorcise ghosts nor dark magick in toto or ex nihilio. The principle of magick is always thus always doubled: (1) magick never comes from nothing; it always draws from another power and (2) thus it always produces unintended effects and consequences that remain in excess to its intentions. As Derrida thoughtfully explored—in a way few have—one has to learn to live with ghosts. To speak with them. Speak to it, Horatio. Learn to speak the language of magick. One does not exorcise magick; one seeks to practice it as the art of samizdat and containment. Infiltration. And other creative arts that destabilize the easy yet dangerous magick of commodification.

Likewise, when Marx wrote that “All that is solid melts into air” as effect of capitalism, he had in mind the magick of substantial transmutation, not as trick or hoax but as the slippage of signs in which an object of use value (the table) is stood on its head, begins to walk, and becomes the commodity of exchange value—out of which evolves further signs:

But, so soon as it [the wooden table] steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than ‘table-turning’ ever was. (Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities” in Capital Vol 1)

Magick breeds magick; we are deep now in the realm of these wooden, grotesque ideas of semiocapitalism. In the 21st century, magick has revealed itself as operative mechanism of capital in-itself; this is the meaning of the 2008 financial crisis. This is a crisis of the system of signifiers which determines valuation, a crisis of completely speculative levels of capital which are completely estranged from what Marx called “use value.” It is the beautifully complex world where negative effects (debt) are valued as positive on a completely speculative basis of future returns—returns which, as the various complex operations of debt transfer and futures demonstrate, are expended infinitely until “all that is solid melts into air,” completely suspended, and crashes. And the effects of this crash are disastrous.

Herein lies the “trickle down” effect of capitalism: all the debt culled from below and profited from above returns with a vengeance, as it does not trickle but torrents down and pools in the trenches. At the bottom, those impoverished drown in debt. This is what smiling Reagan meant when he sold trickle-down capitalism to the masses. Shit runs downhill. While all shall inherit the debts of the financial crash, those at the bottom, unable to dodge the wreckage, will reap its total effects, as all of semiocapitalism, as all that dark magick and uncollected emptiness, trickles down into a whirlpool of poverty. This is the lesson of trickle down capitalism: those above, unless clinging to the burning hulk as it splits apart, never even have to open an umbrella. The metaphors are pushed here, but you get the point.

A keyword missing from this discussion with aladin would be afrofuturism, where the dark arts of magick take on another dimension, that of the transmutation of concepts such as race. Perhaps more on this soon.

double p/androgyne: s/he is (still) her/e

double p/androgyne: s/he is (still) her/e

I would also highly recommend the evocative Sex Magic in One Act: Exploring the Properties of Extensional Sex by Lolix. The reversal of inside to outside using sex magick’s gendered body from female to male is here rendered explicit in creative sex work. Pan/drogyne, in short. Lolix explores a shift that takes us beyond -x to +x, presence of the phallus/absence of the vaginal interiority, and into the  z/y axes to a third-eye dimensional sense of the chiasmus. This text and its images work on many layers. It brings to mind the latest incarnation of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, as s/he becomes neither male nor female, yet both, as the physical incarnation of Genesis’ now deceased partner. The signifying magick be: S/HE IS (STILL) HER/E, the permutations of which continue to unfold in the flesh.

 

thought probe

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Marshal McLuhan is a 100 year old media entity today. 100 years of ditching the academes to delve into writing and thinking without restraint, on the one channel, and yet allowing his own odd blend of Catholic conservatism to orient his thought probes into deep media, on the other. I took McLuhan’s advice on reading Understanding Media—I only ever read every second page. His ideas are prescient. The “global village” is a contradiction in terms understandable only through its elucidation of the time-compressing effects of not only electronic media, but the on-demand supply chains of delivery and just-in-time capitalism. The global village is the effect of electronic media coupled with advanced transportation— shifting what I would call the technics of perception from the identity of the “individual” to that of “tribal man.”

McLuhan’s concept of  tribal collectivity informs  the work of Michel Maffesoli, for example, and to this day continues to provide a lens through which to view the “LIKE” attributes of social media, where everyone wants to know what everyone else is already thinking before they think it through themselves. As I’ve commented elsewhere, the effect of social media’s advanced filtration and aggregating of like-content is that of an echo chamber, a smothering, collective identification of all-alike.

Yet listening to today’s broadcast of Ideas on CBC had me on pause. First, because I hadn’t realised that Paul Kennedy had abandoned a PhD in History under McLuhan at the University of Toronto precisely because the History department didn’t consider McLuhan worthy enough back in the late 1970s. “What would they think in the hinterlands?” asked his History advisor, if he had McLuhan as supervisor? Even after—or perhaps because of—this:

So in 1977 Paul walked across Queen’s Park to the CBC to produce an Ideas documentary on Harold Innis and his seminal work on the fur trade in Canada, in which he analyzed space-and-time compression through the socioeconomic colonization of Canada through, yep, beaver pelts.Kennedy’s The Fur Trade Revisited “took him on a 1,600 kilometer journey paddling down the Mackenzie River from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean.”

Hats off to Paul Kennedy. That should be worthy of an honourary PhD in itself.

Second reason why McLuhan is unavoidable: because I wouldn’t be undertaking my own field of study without him. My  PhD is through the two departments of Communication Studies and Philosophy at McGill. When I undertook the professional seminar in Communication Studies around 2003, we traced a lineage from the pioneering work of Harold Innis and George Grant—on the relations and effects between technologies and sociocultural, economic and political formations—to Marshall McLuhan’s work on the environmental or atmospheric effects of media.

Insofar as there is a distinctly “Canadian” Communication Studies, it is to be found in the nexus between the technology and media philosophy of Innis, Grant and McLuhan and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, imported when Adorno and Horkheimer fled to the United States shortly before World War II.

Today, what is called “German media theory” defines a distinct branch of Communication Studies. The irony is that its chief proponent, Friedrich Kittler, cites McLuhan as a significant influence. As usual, it takes a Canadian to leave this country, be interpreted elsewhere, and return to us in translation before s/he is given the gravitas he or she deserves….

Which is to say that McLuhan has always resonated outside of the academy—and perhaps with greater force than within. Several years ago I DJ’ed with DJ Spooky at SAT in Montréal, where Paul played a McLuhan video during his talk—I recall he had just acquired access to the television archives. He expected all us Canucks to be enthusiastic or perhaps to show him some kudos for his resampling of Canadian culture… but for us McLuhan is a strange figure. He is there, but like the media he studied, a background effect or an atmosphere, a shadow in the great Canadian wilderness of minds. We’re not  taught that much about him; sometimes it feels like he’s a heretic that has to be dealt with because he made some noises down South. Heck, Woody Allen liked him, right?

And though I had always been aware of the influence of McLuhan on Jean Baudrillard, more recently Graham Harman has noted his debt to McLuhan.

So, it is time for a little song in honour of McLuhan’s ghost, and his atmospheric persistence—some might say his disturbance. McLuhan would’ve liked this one. Clap along, now. From my favourite Canadian comedy crew ever:

Once upon a time there was a town
A town where chaos reigned
Lawlessness was everywhere
And there was no cohesive theory existing which properly explained the mass media and their impact on society and man’s thinking
And then one day a stranger came riding into town
And all the townsfolk gathered ’round and asked him his name…
Well, he tipped his hat and he said:
Marshal. Marshal McLuhan

Marshal McLuhan, you’re such a groovy thinker…

Radio Free Vestibule, “The Ballad of Marshal McLuhan” (1994)

 

free vampirism

Friday, July 15th, 2011

had a bit of a revelation on the whole “free” economy. it can work in specific cases but the reality is that here/now, things aren’t set up to be able to handle free. energetically or otherwise. so the very idea of “free” here… if it’s expected and ends up draining people in the process is a type of vampirism of sorts. thats a strong word… but we need fair exchange, not people greedy sucking at an all you can eat menu. if we where balanced, then its a different story. it should be free. we know deep down that it should be. but we’re here, and things aren’t balance. and that’s where we’re at, so free a lot of the times can be feeding the greed economy, the suck them dry economy. when it comes to protecting the integrity of important knowledge, copyright is super important. [vynny]

Indeed, though copyright is super important only if it’s collectively enforceable, claimable by content creators, and modifiable. Getting paid is key, I’d say, not necessarily the archaic apparatus of copyright. What we need is protection from theft by megacorps. Copyright shouldn’t be about hoarding. Squatter’s laws in effect. If you don’t use it, it’s up for grabs—but not for corporate use. Though I’ve heard plenty of critiques of Creative Commons, I think it’s “share-alike” license is the best thing going.

cyclists are commies

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Bixis everywhere for all...

Imagine a city dotted with rental bike stations… where bike lanes lead in nearly every direction… protected from traffic, with cement barriers, ploughed for year-round access… smartly done too… some lanes with removable poles, so that the road can be used for parking and snow clearing during winter… with networks extended by painted lanes, like in other cities… the biking network extends everywhere.

Imagine this bike rental service being affordable and easy, thrilling and useful… and you have Montréal’s BIXI network.

Bikes are revolutionary. There are more people on bikes in Montréal now than I can ever remember from living there for seven years. Bikes are changing the patterns of circulation within the city. The city itself is changing. With many streets of Montréal routinely closed for summer festivals, the car is shortly becoming a liability within the downtown area.

And people are everywhere. And they smile. They’re happier… and becoming fitter.

Happy people on bikes don’t feel isolated. They feel part of something. Cyclists feel part of the city around them, which is theirs. And this is why they don’t vote for xenophobic policies. They vote for people who like people on bikes, which means supporting the environment we all live in through policies that look at the city as a holistic environment, a complex and thriving ecosystem, and not just a traffic thoroughfare with a series of linked parking lots.

Unlike Vancouver, the political fallout of BIXI in Montréal has been minimal. Vancouver has an organised business organisation trying to undermine cyclists, trying to do away with all bike lanes. The Vancouver Board of Trade and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association rejects bike lanes because they impede the flow of traffic, disrupting the “traffic network” and “hurting the bottom line of business” by removing automobile parking.

Cars, traffic, parking. Apparently this is a machine that need not require humans. It would be easier to eliminate the flesh entirely, were it not for the economic placeholder in which flesh consumes flesh. Placing humans into isolated metal boxes produces a significant distancing effect, enough to block the sensory perception of a complex and ever-changing environment. The taste and feel of a place are kept at bay. Immersed in the box, in the screen, my car is a just like a videogame.

Never step out of your car save to shop. Never bike on the road—you might get hit. Drive a bigger SUV to keep safer. Buckle your kids in with crash helmets. Only crazy people bike. You are not like them. They are outside the window. The window is a movie screen. The city passes by like a movie made just for you, but interactive, like a videogame. The best interactive game ever. A cyclist interrupts that drowsy flow. Swerve and negotiate. How dare they bike in traffic! Hold on now. Something is going awry… a light blinks… you need new pharmaceuticals. The haze of dumb acceptance is wearing off. Anger and frustration are coming. You have to watch out for “pedestrians” and “cyclists.” The laws won’t change until next week… then you can run them over and collect the reward points. More petropoints. Park over there, step out, and buy something. Some more pills. Mmm. A new shiny thing. A greasy thing. Eat and swallow. Don’t move too fast. You might have a heart attack. The doctor gave you pills for that. Get back in. Drive away.

What the grey room wants is unhappy, isolated and cloistered individuals, getting fat off bad foods, polluting the atmosphere in their cars. The grey room of control, mute in their deadness, amassing piles of coin. Cyclists are the enemy. Why? Because unhappy people buy more consumerist crap as a band-aid solution for their constant depression. They wallow in a potpourri of pharmacopia. They burn more fuel. They support bad business in their despair. The car is an isolating, depressing way to travel through the city… a beautiful, seductive ride. Step right in. Never leave.

In Montréal, on the contrary, cyclists are seen as the people they are. Cars don’t buy things. People do. And people, given the chance, will ride bikes, and invest in good things. People on bikes change economies, patterns of consumption and circulation, which is precisely why they are a threat to the established order of consumer complacency.

Because there is nothing more beautiful than biking home with the wind…

Sounds all too simplistic, eh? Indeed. It can be.

Heard on CBC Vancouver this morning from the right-wing “develop it all” and anticyclist NPA — “we shouldn’t focus on becoming a green city — we already have green industries — forestry (which is a renewable resource)… and mining.”

When will Vancouver finally cast out these rejects?

Montréal is decades ahead. May Québec nationalism never die. For it provides the bonds of a collectivism that has all but been eradicated in the rest of Canada—or manipulated into isolated xenophobia, such as with Rob Ford’s Toronto Fat City, where bike lanes are being ripped out so as to save the city “billions” in lost consumer spending. Remember, getting somewhere in a car is the only metric of happiness. Happiness is only measured in spending. Spending is all that matters. Spend some more. Take another pill. Keep on drivin’.

Cyclists are commies.

Kai Nagata, hats off.

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Kai Nagata quits his job as a national TV broadcaster for CTV. He’s in his mid-20s. I can clearly hear the tone of his frustration and the intelligence behind his words. His angst is not just that of a personal existential crisis, but of something else —

All quotes from Kai Nagata, “Why I Quit My Job.” Read it.

On the existential breakdown of meaningless media:

I quit my job because the idea burrowed into my mind that, on the long list of things I could be doing, television news is not the best use of my short life. The ends no longer justified the means.

On the “curious medium” of TV and the sexualization of the reporter’s body:

I admit felt a profound discomfort working in an industry that so casually sexualizes its workforce. Every hiring decision is scrutinized using a skewed, unspoken ratio of talent to attractiveness, where attractiveness often compensates for a glaring lack of other qualifications.

On the CBC, the public broadcaster “leading the charge” at the Will & Kate show:

More damnably, the resulting strategy is now to compete with for-profit networks for the lowest hanging fruit. In this race to the bottom, the less time and money the CBC devotes to enterprise journalism, the less motivation there is for the private networks to maintain credibility by funding their own investigative teams.

The war against science and the rise of Harper’s right-wing:

Right now, there’s a war going on against science in Canada. In order to satisfy a small but powerful political base, the PMO is engaged in a not-so-clandestine operation to dismantle and silence the many credible opponents to the Harper doctrine. Why kill the census? Literally in order to make decisions in the dark, without the relevant data. Hence the prisons. Why de-fund scientific research? Because whole branches of the natural sciences are premised on things like evolution, a theory the minister responsible made it clear he doesn’t understand – and likely doesn’t believe in. Why settle for weak platitudes on climate change? Because despite global scientific consensus, elements of the Conservative base don’t believe human activity could warm the planet. Centuries of rational thought and academic tradition, dating back to the Renaissance, is being thrown out the window in favour of an ideology that doesn’t reflect reality.

On the downward spiral into climate change:

The dogmatic refusal to accept that people have created this crisis and people must do what they can to avert it reminds me of the flat-earth crew.

Conservative politicians are abandoning my generation and any that hope to come after.

 

I read this and I hear something else — the clarion call. We are not alone. We… who, us? Yes, the greater majority of humans who want the goons & the apes with all the weapons and prisons out of power. For good.

for now, for us—yes (perhaps)

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Levinas on top.

So here you have it: something of the reading program I will be ploughing through shortly. I’ve been through Levinas before, but not yet an extended engagement. As for Harman, I am indeed looking forward to Circus Philosophicus, in the hopes it will provide more varied discussion of the hidden world of objects than the rote repetition of thought that makes up Tool-Being. I find him at turns infuriating and liberating, which means I will certainly grow to like him.

I picked up Paul J. Ennis’ Continental Realism yesterday on Kindle, but it is unfortunately nor formatted properly—no hyperlinked endnotes. I did contact Ennis and the publisher, so hopefully they are able to fix this formatting error and re-upload it to Amazon (Amazon removed it; sorry Paul!).

I’ve got Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude on my bookshelf but I’ve only skimmed it. I found Meillassoux oddly authoritarian—since when must philosophers answer questions of the type “does X exist?”  yes or no? Especially under conditions when scientists and laypeople do not? If this is the new form of philosophy, it is an authoritarian one that rests disturbingly assured upon the principle of non-contradiction. I find this disturbing—kind of a philosophy as authoritarian interrogation. But I’ll get to it soon enough.

I’ll turn to it before I finish Ennis, as I have too many questions that remain quite unanswered, so far, in Ennis’ exposition. For starters, scientists are granted the privilege of answering to questions of the type “is X scientific fact true, yes or no?”, YES, but with the following provision:

These statements will not be considered complete or unrevisable. Falsification is always possible for the physicist, but until a better theory is put forward the scientist will claim that it is sensible to accept the statement as true. (Ennis 2011)

Sure, this is the scientific method, which is entirely contingent: for now, this statement is true, given it has not been falsified. This for now is necessarily open; otherwise the scientific method would resort to the hypostasis of dogmatism. And an anthropologist, as well as a physicist of general relativity and quantum mechanics will add, in various ways, the “for us” as well as the for now. So first off, it is not only philosophers who add this “for us,” but science itself. Second, this “for us” is more complex than simply designating a human observer. Third, I don’t believe that all of science operates upon the assumption that the “for us” threatens “realism”—on the contrary, the “for us” conditions it—that such positions that negate/ignore/forget the “for us” are somehow better than taking into account the complexities of the observer (including the technics of perception), the info-technical apparatus used in experimentation (the very parameters of measurement are subject to change, the technologies of experimentation, and so on), and overall, temporality in its basic open-ended form, insofar as all of these variables may change (even, in certain conditions, the speed of light).

Point being, the for now of the scientist holds the same structural  position as the for us of the philosopher; both are a fundamental position taken in regards to the open-ended futurity of temporality that recognizes the contingency of the observer. And, this observer includes the entire technical apparatus of measurement (the laboratory, the technologies involved, etc., right down to the technics of the theorem and mathemes). So there is a difference here, unthought, between the for now and the for us which is privileged: whereas scientists are granted the for now, philosophers are not granted the for us, despite that, when taken as structural positions of contingency in regards to temporality, both perform the same effect.

This can be explained in both philosophy and science. In general relativity, the position of the observer shapes time. In Derrida, différance is precisely timing-spacing for a reason: time-and-space are variables whose structural positions are contingent and relative. In sort, Meillassoux denies the contingency of timing-spacing and privileges a simple time (of future possibility) over the complex time of its positioning (spacing). Simpler again: Meillassoux privileges time over space. He does so against the grain of all 20th century science and philosophy. Why?

In any case, philosophers are not, apparently, granted the same contingency as the scientific method and of scientists themselves to include pauses or provisions in their replies. Instead, Meillassoux demands they answer like this, kind of like the Spanish Inquisition of philosophy:

“Did the accretion of the earth happen [i.e. the historical record of the Earth based upon carbon-dating], yes or no?” (After Finitude, 16)

Yes, of course it did, I would answer, and just like the scientist: for now, for us. That carbon-dating is based upon a method which was “perfected” in the early 20th century does not preclude changes in measurement or technologies of dating that might occur; it does not preclude warped theories of time travel that might change this record (hey, if Stephen Hawking can go there, why can’t I?); it does not preclude, in short, any possible temporal shift in all manner of technics which would fundamentally alter the trace of différance. To think otherwise would be to trap science (and all observations and truth-statements) into a far worse hell than that of supposed “correlationism:” absolute dogmatism.

So let’s pretend it’s the late 19th century and phrenology is accepted as a science. And someone like Meillassoux comes along and says: “So, are Negroes born criminals, yes or no?” See the problem here?

The temporality of the scientific method cannot simply be collapsed for the sake of securing some kind of fundamental assurance in things. Indeed Meillassoux seems to think that any questioning of temporality, technics of measurement, and so forth, amounts to some kind of “anti-realist” stance (known, apparently, as “correlationism”). I find the entire framework of his thesis unconvincing in terms of the discourse of science itself, which I think is where Meillassoux et. al. are on weak ground. In short, I don’t think there is a fundamental problem with contingency—nor does science. It appears that Meillassoux et. al. think this is some sort of grave error we all desperately need to be rescued from by removing the complexities of contingency and accepting an unconditional YES: it’s ALL Real! This would, it seem, merely repeat all the errors of the pre-scientific method past: dogmatism, refusal to accept change, the Inquisition, etc.

As for the for us, I have yet to read, either in Harman or Meillassoux (and I am not done yet), a questioning of the “us”, which so far, assumes that the “us” is a simplex of the human individual. The error here is not that taking into account the position of the observer, or the technics of perception of the human, is somehow a mistake—on the contrary it allows us to account for this positioning rather than simply ignoring it through the blind belief in our technologies of measurement or theorems of science as providing access to direct truth—it’s mistaking the “for us” as reducible only to the human observer in the Kantian sense.

So let’s grant Harman’s observation that all things are beings—it was already made by Deleuze, Derrida, etc. years ago anyway—and reiterate: all things are observers; general relativity applies to all. So does indeterminacy and contingency. In short, arguments of Meillassoux’s type are more anthropomorphic than they realise: they naively assume that “for us” equates to the human (and that we know what this human is, inside and out), when the more complex understandings of the “for us,” long past Kant now, take into consideration a quasi-transcendental logic, or alter-logic, which deconstructs not only the human-being, but all beings (as becoming, etc.).Sure, the 20th century was occupied with the (human) subject. I’m glad that we’re going to talk about other things now. But is branding all talk of the contingencies of the decentred subject “antirealist” at all helpful or correct? Easy answer: no, not really.

This is the same kind of argument I have so far with Harman, who also limits language to merely something among humans. If language is the trace of alterity, is alien, and is generative of the effect of consciousness (Derrida), then it cannot be said to be properly human, either. In the language of Heidegger, the things speak—and I grant to Harman that we all—dust to quirks and quarks—be things (which is to say, beings).

So far, both Meillassoux and Harman need to severely constrict their readings to rather straightforward Kantian transcendentalism or linguistic analyses which already presume language as a human construct; neither have yet dealt with the likes of Deleuze (who directly engages science throughout), Lacan (whose mathemes of the subject provide the kind of numerical basis Meillassoux champions) or Derrida (whose thinking of arkhe-writing and the quasi– provide a much more difficult challenge to a simple realism/antirealism diatribe). (I remain to read the rest of their work, so this is a provisional statement; however, so far this thesis has held for a few hundred pages now—we’ll see if there are any surprises.)

What I find particularly odd is that Meillassoux claims to be setting out to somehow defend science, and yet in doing so throws out the baby with the bathwater, trapping science in a simplism of yes/no thinking which is not how science operates (we haven’t even yet begun to discuss chaos theory). Moreover, it ignores utterly the more interesting thought from quantum physics and general relativity, which, by the way, have yet to be “unified.” Just about a century later, these two observable theories of physics have yet to find their common—how does Meillassoux handle this intractable paradox of both the yes and the no, within science?

So a proposed title of an essay, a position which is a position for philosophy itself—For Now, For Us, Yes (perhaps). Ooooh, how Derridean. Indeed: the hard Derrida deserves his return right about now. The difficult, early, very well-read, incredibly thorough, and not-so-generous Derrida. Derrida with the scalpel.

If philosophy now means, under speculative realism or OOO or whatever, being forced to answer yes/no, then all this means to me is that philosophy has been handed over to the police. I’d rather not police thought.

there is nothing for you

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

THERE IS NOTHING FOR YOU — WE GAVE IT TO THE BANKS

technics & decrepit democracy

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

 

Will the 41st Canadian Election see the return of the youth vote? The previous election in 2008 saw the lowest voter turnout in the nation’s history, especially among youth.

So far the “youth” I’ve heard interviewed by the CBC—university students all—appear somewhat clueless. Is the uneducated, unengaged, uncaring countenance portrayed by national media an accurate sign of general malaise amongst the under-25 crowd? Or does it merely show that reporters still don’t know who to talk to on campus, avoiding the radicals hanging around the campus and community radio station, passing by the scribes at the student newspaper, ignoring the offices of student politicians, all in the vain hope for some kind of “average student” as somehow synonymous with the general (which is to say, non-voting) populace?

Such strategies only serve to reinforce the narrow perspectives of ageism. Yet something nags at the contemporary image of Canadian youth—a striking absence from the landscape, as if youth had once and for all become the niche-market consumers they were programmed to be since birth. A lack of rebellion pervades a youth generation that appears completely infatuated by the technics of consumerism and always-on communication. A pastiche of postmodern style has stagnated into over a decade of hipsterism that drags on & on without reinvention nor cultural innovation. Music regurgitates itself without push nor force. Meanwhile, this cultural merry-go-round—a kind of cyclism of rehashed styles—rotates around an absent pillar: that of youth displeasure and rebellion against the controlling interests of the nation-state. In the ’90s Naomi Klein and Adbusters writ about rebellion as bought & sold as an advertising strategy. Today we talk about the absence of even such strategies. It is as if an election and the workings of democracy are a disposable communicative fragment that, moreover, is denigrated as one particle stream amongst all others. The election, like a text message from a nagging parent, is easily deleted, without even the dignity of a NO LIKE button.

Cryptofascism & the Uncitizenry

Indeed, it is tempting to argue that no rebellion can exist in such a fragmented existence wherein the nation-state and its democratic apparatus are reduced to hollow signs that have no virtual presence on social networks. There is no rebellion not because youth don’t care; there is no rebellion because youth live in a world created and catered through info-filtering mechanisms tailored so precisely to predict and provide for their consumer and erotic impulses that the practice of democratic choice has no place within it. One can LIKE but one cannot not like; there is no choice per se, only the metrics of one-way desire. Two questions:

(1) Are youth inculcated in a new form of choice that negates choice—which is to say a nonchoice—in which decision-making can only form either a favourable mark  (LIKE) but not its expressed DISLIKE? Moreover, is this merely a “youth” phenomenon? Is this not simply the one-way directive of desire that has become pronounced in social networks?

(2) There is no VOTE app on Facebook nor for the iPhone. Mediated existence, though it registers the metrics of LIKE that appear seemingly everywhere, does not contain a voting sphere. There is no choice in this patterning towards a one-way metrics of desire. Everything appears just for you, me, them: this is how Facebook works with its pyramidal-style News Filter, where that which is LIKED is repeated, reiterated, regurgitated. The new falls by the wayside, the repetition of the same LIKE becomes the horizon of mediated existence of LIKE-LIKE discourse. One never encounters the Other…. is voting now foreign to the discourse engendered by social networks?

This perceptive difference of what the world is—not only its being but its discourse of desire in relation to it, its ontology of technics and urgency—and how it appears for me—its perceptive alignment with implanted consumer desire, what might be called the cryptofascism of corporate perception—suggests a near impasse in engaging any 21st century technological citizen with the centuries-old processes of democratic involvement that require movement, thought and a mark. There is no rebellion because the world itself appears appetizing, as if all communication is geared solely toward un/conscious appetites and ego. It is tailored and remade to appear as-such. All the time. And it is. Desire is an App. An App is an expression of controlling desire. I LIKE the App. I LIKE what is desired (for me).

As the voice of pop radio, Auto-Tune is there for the confusing identity siege that is junior high. Faheem Rasheed is T-Pain. T-Pain is Auto-Tune. Auto-Tune is a vocoder. (T-Pain said so.) I am T-Pain is an App. You are T-Pain. T-Pain is a brand. No sooner did Jay-Z call for Auto-Tune’s head after seeing Wendy’s use it to sell a Frosty, than Apple made the I Am T-Pain app available for $2.99. As demonstrated on the Champion DJ track, “Baako,” babies can now be Auto-Tuned before reaching intelligibility (Dave Tompkins, How To Wreck A Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop @ 302).

Do I, LIKE? This App? Instead of being ignored, youth—a category no longer of age but of consumer uncitizenry, which is to say, humans who only participate in collective processes through consumption and discourse with corporatized social networks—feel that with social networks and mobile communications that they, each and every one, are the centre of all attention. Uncitizens command and demand—not from their nation-states, but from their corporations, and what they demand is the short-term satisfaction of their pleasures. Nothing is easier to deliver. And when it goes wrong, there is no recourse. One cannot UNLIKE anything. As for voting? This unlikely process might be dismantled in time too.

The State Without Desire

The tactics of consumption, the ingenious ways in which the weak make use of the strong, thus lend a political dimension to everyday practices (Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life @ xvii)

At the limit, what do today’s uncitizens expect from the nation-state? Nothing; it does not exist as-such—which is to say as a metric of consumer desire—for them. The nation-state passes into the realm of the hyponoumenal or unsensible. Thus its dismantling appears favourable; why keep what is not an object of desire?

Competing interests to democratic governance play this absence of desire with astute aim: utilising communications media, the absence of desire toward the participatory democracy (neither LIKE nor anything otherwise) is re-presented—advertised, talked up, played out; tweeted, linked, screamed—as an object of DISLIKE. If one’s existence is constellated within online social networks, being presented with democracy as an object of DISLIKE offers the first significant chance to render choice as-such through the expression of concrete negativity. Yet desire here is rendered by proxy: I express DISLIKE, and a “real choice,” only to dismantle its mechanism as-such. The first expression of democratic engagement is self-defeating. DISLIKE is voted through as the dismantling of the system that perpetuates and organises the benefits to be derived from voting.

This is how normative politics emphasizes—and for lack of a better word, pronounces hysterical—the glut of bureaucracy, engaging in a shrill and strident discourse that reiterates tirelessly that hand-outs must stop, that everything from arts grants to education and health care must be reduced or eliminated outright in order to allow the play of the “free market.”

Such normative political interests—which are, at their worst, organised expressions against democratic governance—build not upon an engaged citizenry seeking libertarian governance and a minimalist State, but merely run with the absence of any such desire concerning the State. Such an absence of desire one way or the other allows corporate systems of production to occupy the role once previously held by the State, yet without any such safeguards nor protections offered under democratic governance. Several factors come into play here. Consumerism perpetuates the myth that the “market” provides for all desires (which is to say, it fails to provide what remains necessary , and certainly it does not ensure the equitable benefits of the common wealth). Meanwhile, the technics of perception in which uncitizens engage with the social network aligns desire with socially networked consumerism. Desire is directed toward a ceaseless flow of objects and data (either LIKED or absented in response). The nation-state and its apparatuses do not exist in this realm; they are negated a priori. Is it any surprise that their political expression is thus one of outright negation of the infrastructure of democratic engagement?

We are dealing with borderline technological determinism and worst-case scenarios evidently of the speculative sort. Yet the traces are evident.

A party wishing to capitalize upon this corporatized technics of perception only has to shape a negative platform which satisfies this urge to ignore (if not eliminate) democratic governance completely. At the same time, this grants free reign to the controlling interests of a cryptofascist party (corporate funded) that would capitalize upon the new blindness of an uncitizenry that quite literally has its head down, eyes locked to the mobile screen, while everywhere (and yet oddly, for this perspective, nowhere), the beneficial conditions of collective existence are dismantled (elimination, defunding, privatization).

One must consider the darkest of strategies—that the cryptofascist core is centralizing its power and mobilizing control over resources to ensure its survival as the planet’s environment becomes increasingly unsustainable. This is social Darwinism. These controlling interests have done so by utilising the nonengagement of stagnant democracy to perpetuate the latter’s destruction, thereby catapulting the narrow-sphere of the self-interested to power.

If one were to look for the new collectivism, it only appears in two places:

(1) In that of cryptofascism. The “unite the right” slogan is indeed a crafty strategy to ensure an insider-outsider urge to join those who are successful in attaining power through whatever means possible. The majority of such hangers-on are seekign entry into the corridors of power, and do not realise that they will forever be denied (witness Harper’s controlled campaign appearances). In short, centre-right Liberals voted Conservative so as to “get in on a good thing.” Time to cash in & forget the others. Yet this is only one part of the strategy; the second part is amassing votes from those who believe in positions that are, in fact, executed in their obverse. That neoConservatives spend more than their “socialist” competitors—usually on militarization and imprisonment—is a fact oft ignored by those voting neoConservative so as to support fiscal conservatism. Likewise, “lower” taxes are designated for corporations, not the lower-middle class (and “ethnic”) voters who swing Conservative. A basic failure to grasp actual factual conditions prevails; at its worst, this is the rise of the New Dumb.

(2) As for the second collectivism, it forms as counterposition to the Right. In Canada this polarization has collectivized around the NDP, which has formed the Official Opposition in Parliament. In itself, the rise of a declared Leftist party signals hope—for those seeking democratic engagement—and yet, also concern over an American-style polarization of the spectrum in which both sides descend into a politics of the very worst. The centre has fallen out, and its contents spilled out in two directions. Most of its contents spilled Left; the NDP gained 65 seats while the Conservatives gained 24. Yet can the collectivist action behind the NDP sustain itself in Canada’s volatile political landscape? In a situation where still-separatist Quebec holds the trump card with its NDP “orange crush”? In a mediasphere where the probable axing of the CBC will result in further attack ads and tarnishing of the NDP as the Conservatives strive for absolute power by ushering in Harper’s Media Centre?

We are here again speaking of the engaged and those who voted—only about 61.4% of the eligible voters. Unless mobilization occurs in the voting sphere, it will be a shock indeed when the uncitizen pokes his or her head up and realises there is nothing left for them. That all which is for me is now merely a waste of words. That the world itself has been sold off….

Millenial Malaise and the Resurgence of Generations X & Y

One cannot rebel against that which is nonsignifying, which is to say, against that which is not only imperceptible, but quite simply off the radar of desire. The Green Party experienced this precisely this election. Off-the-radar, out-of-the-debate. Unrepresented. A non-object. The nation-state is not an App. It has no status update. The psychosocial dimension of this malaise is the persistence of boredom in an always-on environment. Or rather, teenage-era forms of rebellion have solidified as technico-ontological frameworks of perception amongst young “adults”: pronounced boredom through ceaseless consumption—until debt do us a part; general malaise of the uncitizen as precarious part-time work provides a deadening of stimulation; distracted nonattention as competing virtual environments promise the collectivity which is everywhere destroyed in the concrete; and a lack of engagement becoming a performative lifeworld of “not caring cool.”

Too bad that’s the formula for getting fucked over by the big bulge of the population. The boomers, who increasingly vote for their own aging interests, privatize health care and dismantle social services, all in an effort to keep their own taxes low, and all at the expense of future generations, a.k.a. today’s youth vote.

Do Millenials even realise how badly they’re getting screwed by their own parents and grandparents? Apparently not; it’s not a tweet meme, hashtag, nor status update. VICE magazine covered it years ago, but that’s Gen-X & Y critique circa 2005. The Millenials missed it.

Conventional wisdom says that engaged youth primarily vote on social issues, with a strong tendency to vote NDP. Keeping down the youth vote has been a strategy of the neoConservatives since day one—as witnessed with the brownshirt tactic of disrupting advance polling (as was the case at the University of Guelph).

Yet survey data shows that the NDP surge in Quebec has little to do with the youth vote. If correct, this data tosses the conventional wisdom that once you “grow up and start paying taxes,” you vote only for your narrow self-interest, and thus brainlessly throw your vote in with any party that promises a lowering of taxes. It also demonstrates the increasing power—and here I hedge a thetic guess—of Generation X & Y.

The return of the rave generation & post-punk politics

Generation X, whether bitter ex-punks or Douglas Coupland’s cocaine-fuelled cubicle kids, have long been ignored under the heel of the boomers. Gen Y, the rave generation, has seen its entire musico-cultural expression criminalized and erased from the history books. Both generations were the last vestiges of inspired rebellion from the ’60s; these are the generations of the APEC and Quebec City protests, of Clayoquot Sound, of mass rave culture and its collectivist pursuits. It was Generation Ecstasy that brought the dark rebellion of rave culture into the light, organising Reclaim The Streets, the rise of “carnivals against capitalism,” providing the organisational capacity and infrastructure for the alterglobalization movement that brought down Seattle and Genoa. Gen X & Y are the generations of hackers, hacktivists, DiY-zine producers and internet utopians, Burning Man freaks, DJs and musicians, artists who fled to Montréal (and Berlin), the generation of mass energy throughout the ’80s and ’90s that, in a word, connected Lollapalooza to Woodstock, alterglobalization anticapitalist carnival to May ’68, rave culture to the Happening & Be-In.

Is this generation beginning to find itself? Its rave-era participants possess an uncanny organisational capacity—could it be directed toward reinvigorating the institutional Left? Overtaking it entirely? Are these generations beginning to vote en masse? Will new forms of party politics arise from these much more complex political landscapes of late-night bohemians that nonetheless have tasted the freedom of the TAZ?

Evidently there are splits within the boomer demographic as well. The incumbent party that supposedly stands for fiscal conservatism—Canada’s delightful neoConservatives—has pursued a massive increase in military expenditure, including 30 billion dollars over 30 years on fighter jets (and without cost-saving measures of competitive contracts). The Conservatives have racked up the largest deficit in Canadian history, some 55.6 billion. Harper’s promise of fiscal conservatism is, moreover, encoded within a right-wing moral conservatism based upon fundamentalist Christian beliefs, including Stephen Harper’s involvement as a founding member of the pro-apartheid, pro-South Africa, pro-white Northern Foundation in the late 1980s (see more research on these connections here). The signs are everywhere of increasing neoConservative strategies: Conservative defunding of Planned Parenthood, and other indications of religious fundamentalists being placed in positions of power over, say, the portfolio of science and technology.

Like, the Youth?

As for the youth? A good point is made here, that winning the youth vote begins with respect. According to blogger AW Reeves, political parties need to

talk about urban issues and green infrastructure; building better public transportation and supporting the arts; the importance of local and healthy food; of civic engagement, political participation, and the importance of taking pride in where you live (AW Reeves).

In short, the issues of youth are, perhaps, more progressive and varied than those of mere education. I agree. I would’ve said the same in the mid-1990s when Generation Y came into the age of majority, but hey, we were too busy organising on cultural and political levels an entire collectivist movement of alterglobalization and electroniculture. And still, many voted. Or loudly protested its lack of options. However, it is worth noting that education is always defunded in proportion to the neoConservative increase in prisons. Education is a broader issue than just youth; it has to do with creating and sustaining an enlightened citizenry. Without it, we usher in the Tea Party mentality of the New Dumb. Is this not a neoConservative strategy?

That Reeve’s optimism is tempered by his observation that seniors are a better bet strategically for enterprising political parties—”seniors have a stronger sense of the importance of voting, and more time on their hands typically”—only suggests yet more reasons to ignore the youth vote. Youth are the future of democracy, and always will be. In the ’60s the boomers understood their strength in numbers, which was repressed, it would seem, only through sheer violence (Kent State, COINTELPRO, assassination and imprisonment of activists) and over-indulgence (the excesses of the ’60s drug culture). While the Millenials do not exist as strength in sheer numbers, they can tip the scales if they vote.

But is it feasible to expect an engagement with the papertrails and processes of democracy by a generation only connected through its disconnection, otherwise untouched by the concrete? The infiltration of existence by technical means of capture, screens & devices that effectively “capture consciousness,” has meant that an entirely new sphere of bubble-world existence is the new technico-ontological state of Millenial desire. And the highly powerful yet seemingly invisible nation-state does not appear within this social radar of the captured consumer kids—at least not until the VOTE APP.

The Black Box of Control

Indeed, why not a VOTE APP? The answer remains resoundingly negative for all the reasons the white hat hackers of 2600 have exposed concerning the control mechanisms contained within electronic voting machines (which probably delivered Florida on a few occasions for Bush) as well as the lack of security, transparency and accountability once information is rendered digital.

This suggests that, quite profoundly, democracy is a fleshy and breast-to-breast encounter, if even with the ballot slip. Its effort of engagement underscores its significance to the collective capacity of discourse and organisation that sustains the nation-state. Like, dude, one cannot VOTE by hitting the LIKE button.

../…. .