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gemeinkitsch, the alienated majesty of alienation, loving the emergency, etc

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I know that I pound on Adbusters all the time, and there are, I’m very well aware, better things to pound on, but what the fuck is this about? It’s from Kalle Lasn’s opener to a recent issue…

This is the magic moment in which capitalist cool can stumble and authentic cool can start bubbling back up again. And after decades of wandering around the wilderness, we on the Left are finally realizing what that magic moment is all about. Clive Hamilton – author of Growth Fetish and Affluenza – nails it in his 2006 article, “What’s Left? The Death of Social Democracy,” when he writes, “The defining problem of modern industrial society is not injustice but alienation . . . the central task of progressive politics today is to achieve not equality, but liberation.”

Forget about treating the symptoms. Forget about the hedgemaze of identity politics. Break away from the glorious equality and social justice battles of the past. Instead, liberate yourself from the capitalist mindfuck. Learn to live without dead time. Start generating authentic cool from the bottom up again. The rest will follow.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I know. But it’s starting to look like something of a meme, perhaps the early smoulders of a new/old political formation that could become increasingly central as things fall apart one way or another in the next few years. Since I’ve been on vacation, I’ve been allowing myself time to read (for me) tons of brand new fiction, which is a pastime in some senses as depressing as it sounds. But one thing I read that was especially interesting – and probably more scary than depressing – was James Howard Kunstler’s new “peak oil” novel World Made By Hand. Now, Kunstler has a blog that I’ve commented on before…

I might actually try to put something into real paper print about this one, so I’d rather not give away everything here. But just for now: we often say that we live in a period without utopias, a period that somehow gives itself only to the construction of dystopian fictions and films and visions. (Remember this piece by Jameson from the NLR?) All sorts of good and easy and subtle and complex reasons why this is so of course. But whatever the reasons, it has seemed true for quite awhile.

Well, Kunstler’s new novel – like the wild-eyed catastophism of his blog and non-fiction writings – mark a turn in the genre, a turn towards a new (no, again, new/old) quiet, disturbing utopianism emerging out of the ashes of economic collapse and world war. Long story short, we’ve got here a sensible post-technocratic alliance with the fundies, the black population of america katrina-ed right off stage, and the last standing minority in opposition to the new order of later-day settler-patriots with blacksmith shops and Olde Style Dentists and lots of horses and cows are the White Trashers who live up the hill, Mad Maxing the future with live-action porn reenactments and monuments to the Harley.

Resentment+gemeinkitsch+handkraft+catastrophe. It’s not really hard to see where it goes. (I even think there are signs that Kunstler knows himself what horrific echoes the things he writes about have, and writes them anyway out of an “exception times require that we not be pansies about the inevitable emergence of fascism” sort of ethos. Again, all to familiar this stance, no?) But just like the Lasn bit at the start, it is “alienation,” in a sense, that Kunstler’s dystopian utopia is bent on resolving at the expense of just about everything else that we hold dear.

Long story short, it bears remembering that “alienation” may well best be considered a value-neutral term, at least in my book, useless without further qualification and explanation for the telegraphic establishment of the pro or con. Take up arms against this abstraction as an abstraction, and you may well have simply taken the next (il)logical step from the war on “terror”….

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 13, 2008 at 7:09 am

Posted in distraction

2 Responses

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  1. The obv thing to say abut Lasn is that it proposes exactly to treat the symptoms, which is perhaps the inevitable result of the abstraction of abstraction. The giveaway is the use of the phrase “live without dead time,” of which Adbusters and DJ Spooky are so fond: where, after all, does this “dead time” come from? From within oneself, such that one may simply opt to do without it?

    Wait — that’s not treating the symptom, that’s blaming the victim….


    April 14, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  2. Right. Which is of course the logic of the advertisement itself in the first place, this symptom treating / victim blaming stuff…


    April 15, 2008 at 7:14 pm

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