Posts Tagged ‘multitude’

when the night was young

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

we had dreams / when the night was young
we were believers / when the night was young
we could change the world / stop the war
never seen nothing like this before
that was back / when the night was young

—Robbie Robertson, “When The Night Was Young” (2011)

In this wasteland of democratic vision known as the Harper Government, previously the nation state of Canada, only 60% of Canadians vote. The absentee 40% is disproportionately composed of youth. Where are they?

Well, besides the hopelessly lost millenials that are either too busy making videos of themselves online doing dirty things and/or otherwise engaged in some form of chat/text relationship that involves staring at a tiny screen for hours on end, there are engaged youth, and not only that, politically active and organised youth. Plenty of them. So then, which national party courts the largest youth support? The NDP? The Liberals? The new, young, suit & tie neoChristian Conservatives? Nay indeed, it’s the Green Party, which received a million votes nationwide and yet whose leader, Elizabeth May, has been barred from tonight’s national debate of party leaders.

What are the psychosocial reasons for barring the Green Party from national politics? What reasoning could be so strong as to bring together a “unanimous” decision from all encumbered political parties and media organisations, including the “liberal biased” CBC?

Let us restate the question: which element of the population is currently the dominant social group (and has been for generations), wielding vast ownership of economic assemblages and thus over political lobbying? The boomers. United as youth radicals, they are now apparently united as self-defenders of their own narrow interests. Or: the hippies are now aging potheads/growers in the Islands, and what’s left are the squareheads who missed the ’60s and, through attrition and devious underhanded support from the old Establishment, have come in to grasp the reins.

Whatever the case, the old boomers are voting only for their aging interests. And like their parents, they are also silencing youth electoral politics. The boomers have easily adjusted to their role as the new Establishment in ousting the Greens.

For the past 15 years, the fattest population swell in the Western hemisphere has retained its socioeconomic power by refusing to retire. Boomers are keeping jobs, claiming pensions and eating up health care. At the same time, a significant proportion of boomers want privatization of Canada’s health care system—at the expense of their own (grand)children. To paraphrase VICE from a few years back, the burden of their pampered lives will cost everyone else for the foreseeable future to-come. Welcome to Generation Mess.

And so all the major parties are courting the boomers. Doing whatever it takes.

For the children of the boomers, if this great game of appeasing the aging & empowered continues, there will be no pension plan, no healthcare, and no job security unless changes are made. There will also be no attempt to address climate change, but I digress. Steps to combat narrow-interested ageism need to happen by upsetting the current balance of power in the political arena. And this arena, thanks to the unanimous consortium of boomer interests, has been cordoned off into a 4-ring circus of the boomer elite. Without the Green Party, there is no representation of youth voters. And without youth voters, there is little hope for the future of democratic process in Canada. And with that, Canada has been sold hook, line & sinker to the greater behemoth—the global powers of corporatism and untethered greed. For the boomers will sell all, souls included, just to live a little longer. Water? Privatize it with P3. Health care? Dismantle & privatize. Two-tiers, of course, with the best for rich boomers, and the dregs for everyone else. FOX news loves it. So does Sarah Palin.

By the time the boomers finally pass on, the state of the state will be a sorry one indeed. Progressive politics, forward-thinking positions that eschew left/right to seek solutions to the great problems of our time, environmental, economic, social and technological, that require studied approaches that remix socialist, anarcho-libertarian, conservative and liberal playbooks, and that seek coalition-building rather than belligerent name-calling—indeed all the various ways in which the Green Party confounds Canada’s dull spectrum of mainstream parties will be forced to take a back seat to the narrow interests of increasingly conservative agendas—based upon doctrines of fear & panic—as long as the fat & aging swell of the population exercises their narrow ageism over the vast diversity of Canadians.

And that is what I learned years ago from Geography 112 (and a certain Mr. Fadum of IB Geography—but I digress, again). And nothing, unfortunately, has changed, except that all of us now are getting older. And by the time that whomever is left with patience and strength from the following generations grabs the tired reigns of this state, it will be be a smoldering shadow, indeed, of what once was.



DiY Revolution

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Adorned with all the signs of insecurity.

If one did want to instigate a mass uprising against an authoritarian regime, how would one go about doing so? What steps are involved? Sure, one could look at various passages in Marx to grasp the economic motivators of social unrest – poverty, disparity, the mechanics of capital as a system of alienation and exploitation – but Marx, rather infamously, won’t teach you much concerning what to do about it.

Ditto for Che Guevara — unfortunately in the best tradition of the (negative) dialectic, his Diaries only tell you what one should not do, which is start guerilla war in a foreign country where the locals aren’t particularly interested in having you there.

Reading up on the French revolution is as engaging as it is instructive (and do watch Danton), though the lessons to be drawn from 1789 through Napoleon, and the American and English Revolutions respectively, is that any major upheaval that destabilizes the pillars of a society – including its engines of economic trade and fabric of social reciprocity – has resulted in generations of bloodsheed, counterrevolution, military dictatorship, soft reinstatement of previous systems of exploitation and privilege, organised criminality masquerading as revolutionary zeal, destructive and nihilist infighting and outright civil – if not Total – war.

Indeed, it remains entirely unclear whether humanity is capable of undertaking massive socioeconomic change without such violence and its repercussions (and this includes the “hidden” violence of globalized capital), which brings one directly to the 20th century and the various attempts to commandeer such violence through a revolutionary vanguard. Yet even the good intentions and creative energies of the various antifascist socialist revolutions gave in to an overwhelming paranoia — that by beheading the despot king, a vacuum had been ripped open in the metaphysical fabric of the cultural imaginary that simply had to be filled. And so the abyss was given over to the singularity of the absolute once again, feeding the ravenous cult of the despot, that destructive violence of supplementarity – the addition necessary for the whole to become whole – rendered flesh. Even radical communism could not escape the logic of the sacrificial god (or as some would have it, rather did such a system only intensify the phallogocentrism of the golden bough). As each State became a surveillance State with its gulag archipelagos, its internal purges  met or exceeded – in its modern, industrial organisation of death and repression – whatever monarchical-autocracy that preceded it.

And we have not yet even touched upon the echo chamber of violence that has seemingly overtaken postcolonial struggles and turned them inside out. Nearly each postcolonial revolution of the mid-20th century has turned into some caricature of its former self as it perpetuates the cycle of violence that brought it into power, rather than dealing with the more mundane task of organising some kind of peaceful and participatory State. Violence is addictive, a high, as any member of organised (or unorganised) crime will tell you: violence is hardwired into the human, and boy, do we love it, in all its most depraved and sadistic forms. Which brings us to the continent of Africa and the Middle East, replete with its petty dictators – many armed with nuclear weapons, of course – that preside over endless parades, publicly stroking their egos, playing out a kind of patriarchal onanism often fetishized with self-stitched uniforms, sunglasses, dorky hats and numerous long and ridiculous titles such as Leader of the Grand Revolution of Such-and-Such-Day, Hero Of Our Fallen Martyrs The SteelWorkers of Some Village, etc., etc., etc..

None of which helps much when in our contemporary moment the entire populace living under the State terrorism of such regimes of absolute violence – cartoon leaders are always the most dangerous – suddenly tips over into a state of all-out insurrection. No-holds-barred, we will die for this style, absolute overthrowing of seemingly absolute power — this is what is happening and, despite all the revolutionary history behind us, new and old, the story is the same and yet every time the outcome is utterly unknown: we can know absolutely nothing about the possible outcome of any of the particular (yet connected) forces at work. Military dictatorships? More than possible. Slow transitions of existing institutions to democratic models? Possible too. Mass slaughter and civil war? Already happening.

What is intriguing is possibly where some of the current dis/organisation comes from. Move over Marx, and meet Gene Sharp. Here’s DiY Revolution in eight (easy?) steps:

  • Develop a strategy for winning freedom and a vision of the society you want
  • Overcome fear by small acts of resistance
  • Use colours and symbols to demonstrate unity of resistance
  • Learn from historical examples of the successes of non-violent movements
  • Use non-violent “weapons”
  • Identify the dictatorship’s pillars of support and develop a strategy for undermining each
  • Use oppressive or brutal acts by the regime as a recruiting tool for your movement
  • Isolate or remove from the movement people who use or advocate violence

multitude & moloch

Friday, November 5th, 2010

The evil within is worse than that without

For awhile I thought the inferences I had been drawing – of an unevenly distributed but nonetheless disastrous collapse of democratic institutions, from the precarization of labour to the corporatization of the university – were in part the afterglow of reading deep into the analyses and experiences of all-out totalitarianism. I had just completed Harrison Salisbury’s The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, which had me imagining not only the horrors of war, but the horrors of a paranoid dictatorship seemingly incapable of recognising the danger in its midst, caught instead in a ceaseless and senseless purge of its own people…

The siege of Leningrad, which killed some 1.5 million through forced starvation alone, could not only have been avoided if Stalin had acted upon the early warning signs of Germany’s treachery, but was further compounded by Stalin’s paranoia, which froze independent thought and action among his generals and armed forces, paralyzing the defence of the Soviet Union from the Nazi blitzkrieg. Besides the fact that Stalin failed to heed the many reports and indications that Nazi Germany was amassing an army ready to annihilate the Soviet Union, the Kremlin politics of Stalin and his right-hand man Police Chief Beria ensured that the many who valiantly defended Leningrad, from the upper military echelons to the lower, as well as the many who sought to memorialize its tragedy, from artists to playwrights, from officers to museum directors and staff, were purged from within while the city was laid waste from without…

For years I have been reading William L. Shirer on the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Seven years ago nearly to the month, I began conducting historical studies on the topic, writing of some of it briefly in this post and here. Much has changed. At the time the figures involved were media supercaricatures, with the terrorist-fighting superduo of Bush and Blair paired up neatly against the evil  outlaws, the mysteriously invisible Bin Laden and the poster-boy of evil, Saddam Hussein. These supercaricatures rendered cartoon-like the embodied power of the sovereign even as their power operated, like classic Roadrunner cartoons of seemingly innocuous violence, through the politics of fear. To this end Massumi and Dean’s analyses of Reagan, the actor-president, the fiction of sovereignty – as the “Last Emperor” – proved uncanny and useful.

Each supercaricature had its trading-card qualities. Bush seemed so incredibly inept, so affable and stupid, that the violence of his gesture and the menace of his speech were all the more amplified. Bin Laden, gentle and effeminate, articulate and seemingly intelligent, was all the more horrific for he had successfully used his wealth to spawn a terrorist network that would live on even if he, as the head, was decapitated. Hussein was the most pitiful of them all. Dressed in the trappings of his ornamental uniform and adorned with the dictatorial moustache, Hussein the egoist tyrant seemingly never understood what he had done to upset his friends the United States, whom had previously supported his regime in the war against Iran. When Hussein was pulled from his hiding hole like a rat from the sewers, he had become a cartoon of power, and a convenient bogeyman for the noose.

The mad, mad multitude

Now it is not the supercaricature that rules the day. Rather, it is the undefined, faceless mass, the screaming, nonsensical, overabundance of flesh that weighs among the shouting many, the madding crowd, gun-toting, SUV-driving, flag-waving patriots, mouth agape, eyes angry and yet — so vacant, so devoid of worldliness. We are indeed witnessing the clash of the uncivilizations, whether it be a crowd of clerics screaming for the stoning of a women accused of dishonour because she was raped, or the mad yelling and gun-brandishing of Tea Partiers demanding that income tax be rescinded so that they can… so they can what exactly?


Contesting Civil War: Tiqqun & Agamben

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Semiotext(e) have recently published the text Introduction to Civil War by the pseudonymous authorial collective Tiqqun. The text is number 4 of the Intervention series which has set for its mission the publication of recent works in political philosophy and political economy, including Christian Marazzi’s The Violence of Financial Capitalism (a crucial analysis of the recession) and The Invisible Committee’s manifesto of contemporary insurgency, The Coming Insurrection [download here].

These texts should not be taken lightly – or rather, these texts weigh heavily on the paranoia of the French state. In France, the alleged author(s) of The Coming Insurrection were violently arrested under “preemptive” measures that identified them as “pre-terrorists”. What is striking – and frightening – is that the Tarnac 9 by all accounts were not a revolutionary cell, but a small alternative commune living off the grid. Apparently such existence, outside of a few norms, is enough to invite the living nightmare of State hostility. Whether Julien Coupat wrote The Coming Insurrection is irrelevant. The text resonates with the zeitgeist that exploded in the banlieu riots of 2005. It is rightly anonymous as its claims are that of a world. Tiqqun’s Introduction to Civil War suggests the experience of the Tarnac 9:

Spectacle’s genius is to have acquired a monopoly over qualifications, over the act of naming. With this in hand, it can then smuggle in its metaphysics and pass of the products of its fraudulent interpretations as facts. Some act of social war gets called a “terrorist act,” while a major intervention by NATO, initiated through the most arbitrary process, is deemed a “peacekeeping operation.” Mass poisonings are described as epidemics, while the “High Security Wing” is the technical term used in our democracies’ prisons for the legal practice of torture. Tiqqun is, to the contrary, the action that restores to each fact its how, of holding this how to be the only real there is. (Civil War §82: 189).