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demophobia (and aggregation)

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One more thing, for now, from the Perry Anderson article about Brazil:

The ferocity of the ensuing campaigns against Lula could not have been sustained, however, without a sympathetic audience. That lay in the country’s traditional middle classes, principally but not exclusively based in the big cities, above all São Paulo. The reason for the hostility within this stratum was not loss of power, which it had never possessed, but of status. Not only was the president now an uneducated ex-worker whose poor grammar was legend, but under his rule maids and guards and handymen, riff-raff of any kind, were acquiring consumer goods hitherto the preserve of the educated, and getting above themselves in daily life. To a good many in the middle class, all this grated acutely: the rise of trade unionists and servants meant they were coming down in the world. The result has been an acute outbreak of ‘demophobia’, as the columnist Elio Gaspari, a spirited critic, has dubbed it. Together, the blending of political chagrin among owners and editors with social resentment among readers made for an often bizarrely vitriolic brew of anti-Lulismo, at odds with any objective sense of class interest. (italics mine…)

Demophobia might well be one word for what this aggregate fiction idea that I keep banging on about might take up, address, attempt to moderate, etc…. I am guessing what the critic mentioned above is talking about is specifically the fear of masses of the poor. But one wonders if there isn’t a fear of number in general, an anxiety addressed by the conventional form of the novel (and its off-shoots) by what I am starting to call protagonism, the focalization of the novel through a single character, the engagement with background groups and masses but only in a restrained, self-immunizing sort of way…

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in aggregate, americas, anxiety

notes on violence and justice

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1) Rewatching the first season of the Sopranos (can it really have been a decade since?) and amongst all of the wonderful (and wonderfully woven) thematic threads is one that I’d forgotten. In S01E09, which is best remembered for the Uncle Junior “South of the Border” sequences, Tony and the boys decide to punish their daughter’s soccer coach when it’s discovered that he was sleeping with one of his charges. What follows is a sequence in which the males are frustrated in their plans through the reasonable intervention of several women, especially Artie Bucco’s wife (who identifies the egotism inherent in the planned action – the fact that the coach would die more than anything else for the collective satisfaction of the mobster fathers) and Jennifer Melfi, Tony’s shrink, who asks the critical question: Why is it that Tony feels that it’s his job to exact justice in every case?

2) The stage is set for the anti-climactic ending by playing the potential climax out in advance, only in small scale and in a banal setting. Artie Bucco and Tony are out for dinner, and they see a young guy wearing a baseball cap in this relatively swish restaurant. After a conversation-that-aging-white-guys-like-to-have about declining social standards and the like, Tony gets up from the table, walks over to the becapped diner, and tells him to take off the fucking hat. The kid does so, embarrassing himself in front of his girlfriend in the process.

3) I’ll admit, I have a little bit of a problem with this sort of thing myself. It’s important, I think, to draw an immediate distinction between calls-to-action that really are yours (your wife / your daughter / your son / your husband is in trouble and its up to you, and only you, to respond) and this other category of events that the Sopranos episode is highlighting.

I’ve ended up in problem after problem in life by throwing myself into frays that were not mine – always, always, on the side of “justice,” or at least what seemed just to me at the moment – it ways that might seem absolutely baffling to someone wired otherwise. They would ask me, just as I am now asking myself, “Why is it your business, business that you actually have to bring to some sort of conclusion, if for instance some young kid hits on a girl in a bar over-aggressively? Why is that your fight to fight?”

4) I don’t like spitting on the street. The other day I was walking down the road when the kid in front of me hocked up a huge one and sprayed in on the pavement. I was just about to tap him on the shoulder to ask why the fuck London seemed like him the right place to blow his brown sputum around when I realized it was one of my tutorial students from last year, one of my favorite ones. I ducked away without him seeing that I was behind him.

5) What exactly is my problem with protest? I’ve been trying to sort it out this week, obviously in the wake of the big demonstration in London on Wednesday. I hate going to them, though often have. Obviously they have to happen, but for some reason (just being honest here – perhaps in the tradition of Orwell on the sense that he could never quite overcome that poor people smelled – and hopefully in service of some larger claim) I can’t help but walk around incredibly fucked off at everyone around me. Whether self-satisfied later-day liberals or kids who don’t seem to know what they’re actually protesting, whether anarcho-thugs bent on violence for its own sake or annoying academics taking a break from skimming the New Left Review – I am an equal opportunity hater, even if – as is generally the case – I am fully on-board with the cause in question.

6) When I was in grad school, I attended one of the anti-WTO protests in New York. After I proudly reported this fact to one of my smarter and more pragmatic friends, he asked me – quite simply – what it was exactly I was protesting. I could not coherently answer.

For whatever reason of bearing or position, people don’t often ask me questions like that, questions based on an assumption that I simply am too ignorant to answer. It was an awkward 30 second exchange whose import I’ve never quite shaken.

7) I was in my office meeting with students during the early stages of the protest this Wednesday. I’d check the BBC News video feed on my computer and as things heated up at the Millbank Centre I decided that I really wanted to go down there. I mean like viscerally.

8 You really learn what it means to live in a country without a revolutionary tradition when you watch the news media – and even various student representatives – go into an absolute fucking flutter over the destruction of a rather incidental amount of property. America gets panicked about a lot of things, but christ, I can’t imagine the response to some equivalent act of group vandalism taking quite this tone and intensity. Sure, the building housing the Conservative Party HQ isn’t some random Starbucks or Gap outlet, but still….

9) The left response to the seizure of the building has been incredibly incoherent, incoherent in the guise of semi-reasonableness but really wearing the hairshirt of fear and irresolution. For instance:

Why couldn’t Solomon explain her actions? One assumes that she and the other who participated in this event actually did have reasons for doing what they did. One further assumes that she here on Newsnight she wanted to avoid falling into a trap that she presumed Paxman (and the British media in general) was laying for her, but ended up blundering into a far worse situation in the end. In refusing to answer directly, what ends up filling the gap where the reason should be is not the presumption of violent intent. It’s the presumption of stupidity, collective stupidity.

Even worse, some sort of on-message conspiratorial stupidity – which becomes the global effect when one considers many of the articles and documents written in support of the occupation. Again and again, the occupation is explained as an effect of amorphous “student frustration” – which only again begs the question of what, exactly, this act would do to assuage or ameliorate this frustration. It doesn’t get much better in things like the now infamous “Goldsmiths Lecturers Letter” (full text here):

We also wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ. The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased and if massive reductions in HE funding are implemented.

Well OK. That’s pretty carefully worded, but ultimately says not much more than “look over there not here!,” which doesn’t really amount to a serious appraisal of the actual event that the letter is ostensibly focused on but which it ultimately skirts. As such, it opens itself even more flagrantly to the exact sort of co-optation that it ultimately and quickly suffered from. Co-optation without side-effect, as there was nothing in the statement to poison with reason those who would use it irrationally.

Again, assuredly there were reasons, even if uncomfortable ones, for entering the building. It’s my hunch that they would in fact play better than this sort of thing that we’re seeing from the left on television, in the papers, and in a series of petitions and collective letters. If occupations and the like are going to be conducted, if windows are, yes, going to break (as Solomon vaguely promises during the programme), mightn’t it be a good thing to be able to describe why in fact they are happening? The collapse of the London Eye is nothing compared to the wholesale destruction of Higher Education in the UK. The collapse of the London Eye is a deeply-felt expression of student frustration. I don’t want to talk about the collapse of the London Eye, even though I planted the charges. I want to talk about student fees. I’m afraid it didn’t play well this time, and will play even worse next time.

10) At the end of the Sopranos episode that I mentioned above, Tony actually bows to the reasonable arguments advanced and decides to call off the hit. He ends up rolling on the floor of his house, in a drink-n-valium fueled stupor, only able to say to his wife “I didn’t hurt nobody.” He’s restrained his impulses for once, thought something through for once, let the “system work” for once, and ends up an incoherently frustrated mess, basically a very large child in a semi-coherent state.

While most of us are able to step back comfortably from an endorsement of mafia-style vigilante violence of the sort dealt with there, I still think that the episode serves as a very vivid and ambiguously wired political or ethical allegory. That is to say, the crossing of ethical demand and psychological need, the complex relationship between instantaneity and process, and in particular the very complex question of impersonal involvement, even violent involvement, in the pursuit of justice of one stripe or another, are persistent ones, insoluble but worth seeing (I hope, I hope) presented vividly.

11) Why did I want so badly to go down to Millbank? Was it simply because there was the possibility of violence? Why didn’t I go down to Millbank? Well that, my friends, is a longer story than I can possibly tell here.

It’s bad form in even a vulgarly dialectical essay like this one, but I hope that you can see the aporia that’s looming over this piece.

12) Of course some of the impulse to violence in the service of justice is hardwired, written into our basic codes and structures. Interesting to think so, though. Seems an animalian holdover, something quite primitive, but on the other hand: do animals commit vigilante violence?

I suppose the question of vigilantism comes down to an issues of numbers, sets. Family – herd – neighborhood – any random victim on the street.

13) Of course it’s hardwired, but it’s also an impulse I clearly learned from my father. Such vivid memories from my childhood – the time at the baseball game when teenagers were carrying on behind us, using foul language and generally being loud, and my father…. turned around on them. A scene that I’ve been repeating my entire life, along with many others of the same, my entire life: in thought and dream and often enough action. When one is a child, a boy child enamored with his father, these scenes seemed like living allegories of bravery and abstract justice, arbitrary interventions on behalf of justice for its own sake.

Now, while some of the sheen of those moments has been retained, I increasingly want to ask – him, the him in myself – the very question that Melfi asks Tony:  Why was this sort of thing his job? Why is it our job?

14) Under-interrogated psycho-social issue: What is the effect of having a father who went to war when you yourself did not? A grandfather who did while your father did not? I suppose I could ask some of my friends whose fathers served in Vietnam…. Mine was Canadian so (fortunately) missed the show. I suppose I could ask some of these friends, but would risk wandering them into the high traumas of parental alcoholism and violence that I know understand were going on behind the scenes, at night when I generally wasn’t there.

15) The numbered, thetical form that these personal-cum-political blogessays that I write often take allows for a certain halting stream of consciousness, not unlike that which is supposed to obtain during psychoanalysis, to take place. Just write what comes next, from whichever frame of reference it comes.

Of course, this tactic (tactic?) inevitably results in a document useful only as a clearing house for further thought – it is not thought itself. It is a smooth, empty concrete floor where one spills out all of the contents in the hopes that once out one might put them back together again with coherent form.

16) The hidden non-sequitur incoherence of Benjamin’s “Work of Art” essay… The madness of the ending – as an ending to that piece – despite the brilliance of the observations arriving at cinematic pace throughout…

“Fiat ars – pereat mundus”, says Fascism, and, as Marinetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of “l’art pour l’art.” Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

17) Theory and what it excuses: if I were to put myself back in the frame of mind that I once briefly held – during the coursework time, I suppose, of my PhD – I could allow myself to wrap this up in a theoretical aporia, a full-empty question or request for further thought that allows me to step away without solving anything out. We must interrogate the complex entanglements of personal desire and public good, personal perversity and rational action, that informs each and every act of political violence, in this context potentially liberatory political violence. I could glibly ignore the performative contradictions inherent in my piece, expecting that mystified readers would leave off the contradiction inherent in everything that they exuberantly label performativity.

Identifying knots of over-determination but doing so in a tone that seems to indicate that you are announcing a political program is something like treading water while selling slickly-packaged books to the passing tourist boats.

Written by adswithoutproducts

November 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm

saturday post: estuarial english

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– The fascination of cities, of infrastructure. Remember that? With a stable life came thoughts of infrastructure, a continual fantasy that the business pages, folded inside out and turned upside down, transliterated through some sort of magically optimistic and dialectical point of view, would reveal heaven itself. A moderate heaven, a modulated paradise of production and railroads.

– From the window of his upstairs bathroom he sometimes saw the tops of trains passing on the line to the north. He tried to tell himself how happy this should make him, how finally he is living amidst European modernity rather than American dysfunction and disorder.

– Now, from where he sits, he can see half of London, including some trains on the overground lines. There are very few places he visits downtown (and he goes downtown less and less) that he couldn’t safely say “I can see this, the skyward extensions of here, from my little balcony where I will sit and smoke tonight.”

– A Saturday with nothing to do but read, write if the mood captures him. What would he have traded for this a few months ago? But now, proving out some horrible but easy truism of human psychology, it is nearly unbearable. He paces.

– He writes students, trying to re-schedule missed meetings. Even on Saturday, yes. It is good to have something scheduled, some break in the run of the day. Someone told him this and he listened. His father tells him to make sure that he finds something to do everyday, especially on weekends.

– He feels that this is an experiment with, no, not just a form. But a mode of being in the world, or at least of seeing it. When he reads the new round of attacks on the literary status quo, he says to himself “At least here, in my Sunday posts, I am experimenting.”

– After a literary contest that he has judged, he is asked to say a few words to the contestants. He recommends Dubliners, of course. “How many of you have read it?” Two hands go up, though there are two hundred hands in the room, mostly the hands of “young writers.” The anti-epiphanies, the very torque of short fiction from the get go, he tries to explain. Later, in the bar, a young girl comes up to tell him that he is completely wrong about Dubliners. In no mood, and since this is off the clock, he basically tells her to fuck off and leave him alone. She is not his student; he is in no mood to engage with stupidity.

– Earlier that day he meets with his “agent.” He doesn’t want to talk about the novel though, and so they talk about other things. The state of the industry etc. Another day, he sits and helps friends who are in something of a bind. He tries not to expect anything in return for the good deed he is doing. He is slightly jealous of their something of a bind.

– He takes his phone off of silent, off of buzz. It rings, he talks. It rings again and he talks again. And then it rings no more.

– He owes emails and is sorry for that. He has missed meetings and is sorry for that too.

– His mother doesn’t have lung cancer, just pneumonia. In his family, this is called “good news” which explains all too much. He finds it interesting, slightly baffling, to talk to her when she is tremendously high on pain killers. The timbre of her voice changes, she giggles, is almost flirtatious, and he wonders yet again about their familial psychochemistry.

– Personal mythology about going to seed and writing. That the former might have to come before the later, but that the entire process is wrought with tremendous risk.

– He suspects he might write something excoriating about Tom McCarthy. There’s something about this new novel that rubs him the wrong way, just as Remainder did.

– Kafka’s notebooks in German on on the shelf next to him where he types. He is tempted to make a project for himself. To recapture a language lost. The problem is that – he has to admit in shame – that he finds them boring even in English. This would be a labor of love, respect, self-respect and for Kafka too.

– Tomorrow he will wander out to see the sea. He will write in his notebook words like estuarial, words like eel trap. He wonders what an eel trap looks like – this is the sort of question that now seems to him worth answering. It will be good to get out of London, to stop staring at this wonderful view. He would prefer a muddy bit, nothing too scenic, not even Nova Scotia. Something half-random and without proper amenities.He will walk and count on the world and his debit card to provide what is needed. He is the son of a tourist town; his grandmother sold tourist trinkets to Americans on bicycling tours who came over on the ferry. But still the sea, a sea wall, and that smell.

– He has never been and will never be a tourist when visiting a cold water seafront, haunted by fisheries that operate or operate no more. Florida is another matter, but along the mud and pubs of northern coastline, this is where he lives, wherever he is at the moment.

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in anxiety, sunday

the chip on his shoulder, the game on tv

with 4 comments

He promises himself not to take it out on them, just as his father promised that he would not take it out on him. And we all know how well that went.

When he takes his older daughter into the bookstore or the newsstand, often enough they stop to look at things that he has written, that her mother has written – as yet exclusively in the magazine and newspaper bits of the store. “Dadda wrote this piece… Yes I know it’s smaller than the other ones… Yes, we have a copy at home, I just thought you’d like to see it…. Do you remember when Dadda had to work last weekend – well, this is what he was doing, writing this…. Yes, sweetie, I know it is smaller than the others. That’s not what is important. What’s important is that Dadda wrote this piece.”

Or there are books. “Do you remember the man who came over last month? Do you remember Lola and her sister. Their father, yes. Yes, this is his book. Yes, he wrote all of it – the whole thing…. I don’t know if he did it on weekends or not, probably, at least some of the time…”

What a fundamentally different relationship to a bookstore, which for him was a sort of sacred shrine visited weekly with his mother. The people who wrote those were nowhere, elsewhere. You read what they wrote and you were thankful for the opportunity to do so. He never once thought of them, the people that he read, as alive and sitting at typewriters somewhere knowable, somewhere one might visit.

Still today, when in stress, he buys books. He never – until today – understood exactly what it means. Today, sitting in the Ikea cafeteria with his daughter, the older one, he received an email about his novel. Nothing bad – just preemptive feedback from an editor at X that his…. agent (?) had spoken to about it. When they were home, and after he had built the tiny child furniture they had purchased, he asked for time out to work and then stopped at the bookstore before making his way to the coffeehouse where he works.

The bookstore, the books he buys, in short, mean security against, recidivism in the face of, the unbearable task of doing something that he simply isn’t suited, for a thousand reasons, to do. By nature and by upbringing, he is a reader, a semi-passive recipient of these things, not one who makes them himself. That is for other people, those people whose parents took them to bookstores to show their children the articles and books they had written.

Later, he returns home and watches a repeat of the Yankees – Mets game on ESPN America. The reliever for the Mets throws at 3/4ers, just as he did. Throws a slider that shivers the legs of the batters, just as he did. This he could have done – this he was groomed, unlike his own father, to be large and brave in doing. He should have, he thinks, taken up the chance to pitch at university. What went into the pious decision to work instead? What sort of misplaced confidence, what sort of working through of class?

In lieu of writing at night, he smokes cigarettes and drinks beer. But before that, well before, as he and the same daughter, the older one, walked to pick up pizza, he told her “You know, actually you don’t know, but your grandfather almost ran this company… Yes, Pizza Hut. He was recruited, we went to Wichita, Dadda almost moved to Kansas, something we can both be thankful didn’t happen. But, yes, your grandfather almost made these pizzas, right from the very top….”

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 20, 2010 at 1:02 am

Posted in anxiety

sniffed out

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Think I sniffed out a colleague that reads this blog tonight. Was talking about the video in this post with, in fact, the person featured in it – not Coetzee, the one who makes the brilliant joke. And my co-worker sitting next to me said “Ah yeah I’ve seen that video!” But when I asked how he found it, he replied that I had told him about it. But of course, I hadn’t, not as far as I can remember. You see the implication…

We’ll see. If he reads this, he is welcome to let me know so that I can start self-censoring myself on here properly.

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 11, 2010 at 2:42 am

Posted in academia, anxiety

dysphoric about dysphoria

with 8 comments

Very grateful for the articulate explanation of militant dysphoria at Poetix today. I hope Dominic doesn’t mind if I post the pièce de non-jouissance, the final paragraph, here:

“Militant dysphoria”, or “politicised unpleasure”, is a name for the shift from experiencing dysphoria as a personal pathology (depression, anhedonia, guilt) to recognizing that the syntheses of experience that bind together all but the most rudimentary pleasures are part of a larger cybernetic network: personal “dysfunction” must be understood in the context of this system and its (naturalised) functions. The aim is not to reform the world so that one will at last be comfortable in it (what suits me wouldn’t suit you, just as what suits you doesn’t suit me), but to be able to suspend the verdict of pleasure where it serves reactionary political ends.

I’ll admit that there’s a sort of knuckleheaded temptation to answer this provocative arguments with just what it expects to be answered by… diagnosis, pathologization, and the like. After all, to be fair about this temptation, there are lots of people with major or minor, manic or minimal, physiological / psychological / social issues and pathologies that can in fact be treated and via all sorts of approaches. It is clear that some forms of therapeutic intervention are certainly aimed at simply taping up the broken worker and getting her or him back out on the the neoliberal, precarious, dehumanizing shopfloor. CBT, which is by far the dominant practice in the UK, aims at just that. (Though I will say that I’ve seen some serious and undeniable success stories with CBT and CBTesque therapy, and often practice a bit of auto-CBT on myself, as do we all, I’m sure… Still…)

But even if the embrace of one’s own dysphoria, let alone becoming militant about it, leaves me worried from the start for the above reasons, let’s not head down this line for now. And anyway, if much of the point is to see the social (or “cybernetic,” in Dominic’s term) matrix that informs one’s own individual negotiation with happiness and unhappiness, then I’m all for that. One of the weakest points of psychoanalysis (even in its softer versions – which happens to be my preferred therapetic approach) is its unstinting structural avoidance of the social and political. It’s written right into the basic models at play. Everything goes back to when you were a little kid, dealing with the dad and mum that made you and their treatment of you after they did, and the thing about families is that class differential really doesn’t exist in the family home, or only does on rare occassions. Things change when Billy leaves the house, and later becomes CEO of the company that employed Dad as a janitor, but during the first act, you are your parents’ class. When dealing with later issues, if they’re always belated, adult manifestations of the child’s problems, class / work / financial matters can only be deplaced meta-effects of the pre-social triangle of mommy/daddy/me. If you’re dissatisfied with your work, it’s because you had a tyrannous father who told you would fail etc.

So whatever qualms I have about Dominic’s description as far as the first move – toward the comprehension of the generic nature of personal dysphoria – goes, I am definitely willing to shelve my concerns and keep listening. Where I become much less patient, however, is when we get a bit further down the road. First of all, while I am clearly no expert on Goth culture, and that seems to be an important thing to understand in order to understand, let alone buy into, Dominic’s claims, I would assert that I was a paid-up and duly dunked member of the original Gothic clan, that is to say, the Roman Catholic Church. Funny costumes – we got those. Fetishization of gore and all sorts of visualized morbidity – check. But above all else, militant dysphoria shares with Christianity the embrace of the refusal of “natural” pleasures, the prolongation under the banner of virtue of unhappiness, the investiment of unhappiness in the bank of uncertain and ill-defined futures. When I was told not to masturbate or mess around with girls, it wasn’t couched in the promise of more and better pleasure in the future. It was dysphoria for dysphoria’s sake – and as far as Dominic’s post takes the matter, that is what I see as the logic of his argument as well.

I’d even be so glib as to say that the conceptualization of militant dysphoria would only be possible in a place that’s long since left Christianity behind, where enough generations have come and gone since belief and all that comes of it was real that it is possible to forget how all of this worked. Or perhaps its just poor memory at play. For what Dominic is refounding (rather than simply founding) is a pseudo-Christianity dressed in the garb of a left politics without the political, that is to say without a pragmatics of possible change and resolution of the problems that the concept is meant to address. Sure, Christians are meant to get to heaven by embracing (or actively creating and then embracing) their refusal of pleasure. But heaven is as vague a place as the outcome of MD – both Christianity and militiant dysphoria are far more invested in the pathologization of pleasure in the present than the arrival of some sort of misty reward after the redemption.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but there’s a way that this endorsement and prolongation of the dysphoric resembles the temporal (il)logic of what has long been called the Protestant Work Ethic as well. Isn’t the trick of the PWE, too, the trick of deferral within a system that will systematically deprive you of the opportunity to reap what you’ve sowed? This brings me to my second, and perhaps more important, problem with the description. As Dominic says, “The aim is not to reform the world so that one will at last be comfortable in it (what suits me wouldn’t suit you, just as what suits you doesn’t suit me), but to be able to suspend the verdict of pleasure where it serves reactionary political ends.” This I really don’t understand. Perhaps there’s more to be said, but I’m just working with what’s in front of me.  But where does this dysphoria end? If the aim is not reform, such that the gothic disavowal can finally put an end to itself, and everyone can be just a littel bit or a lot happy – whether they want sex, whether they want to come, or not – then I’m not sure I see the point. Does reform, despite what Dominic says, slip in the backdoor at some stage in this process? Or do things end up in a dysphoric utopia? If the point of the deferral, perhaps infinite, of the partaking of pleasures is to bring about radical political change, presumably unto the betterment of the world, then at what point to the capes and sullen looks get beaten into jouissance, or even plain-old plaisir, of any sort?

If we’re killing the category of pleasure off altogether, then I’m not sure what game were ultimately playing. In fact, if that’s the game we’re in, perhaps there would be nothing better than to simply embrace the present, call for exactly more of the same dysphoria that we’ve allegedly already got. I’m sure it will get worse, all by itself and without our attention. Perhaps this is the point. But if this is what we’re after, then I’m not sure there’s any point in writing about it. It will happen whether we’re awake at the switch or fast asleep, either way. And either way, I’m afraid you can count me out of all of this.

One last thing – perhaps a bit guardianistal, but so what. I’d be really very nervous, if I were Dominic, about trotting this idea out in front of people whose dysphorias are less cerebral than material. If anhedonia is the baseline, sure. But I’d venture to guess that for 95 percent of the world’s population, and even a healthy minority of Britons, the idea of giving up the struggle to make things better, the idea of actively embracing a perverse and amorphous psychological blankness, would be, to say the least, something of a non-starter. This is politics for the relatively affluent only – and come on, we’re all relatively affluent – we eat, we don’t get rained on, here we even get free medical treatment and cheap or free education. Let your imagination roam free, and imagine what happens when you pitch this stuff to anyone who’d not a well-fed information worker….

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 16, 2009 at 11:18 pm

checkup checklist

with 2 comments

another sunny day in blighty

Man alive! The manicness! There are good, good reasons. Time’s a-getting short. But still. Let’s check the stats:

  • Drinking: Way way down
  • Smoking: Way way up
  • Writing: Up, especially today – 1200 words of boring review at Southbank Centre on eee, another 600 tonight.
  • Reading: Same, nil, except for LRB (see below)
  • Paper Marking: lots, but still not done
  • Abortive Blog Posts: Up, up. Two huge ones perking in the pot. And you’ve seen how many actually made it on to the site lately, so… But these are legitimate, old school AWP posts. So, you know, likely they’ll not be posted.
  • Anxiety: moderate, moderate to low, spiking at times
  • Loneliness: high – things get bungled and there’s no one to hang out with. I could see a movie or something I guess with my night out. London!
  • Crosswords: Frumpy non-participation, nil
  • Bothering people with dark depressive angst, kitchen table conversations of a certain sort and the like: still low, gott sei danke, though I’ve been a bit grumpy with all the grading to do.
  • Moments spent regarding the London Eye under the the heavy lightness of England and with the soft shuffle of freepaper rustling through my ear canals? Some, grindlingly happy ones at that, makes life worth living, never enough per the malign logic of such things, see the PoS etc.
  • Bolãno envy: slightly higher today after reading Michael Wood’s review in the LRB

I figure putting this stuff on display might somehow be instructive or edifying or at least comforting (by christ at least I am not like him) for someone…. And it’s a smidgen, just a smidgen therapeutic for me, or so I tell myself. But I guess I’ve blown the whole “under my own name” practice run.

et tu brute?!?!?!

I was going to make a resolution, but it seems rather absurd at this point. (There, I made it quietly… You can guess if you like…) If I go to bed now, I can get up and work some before the start of the day.

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 26, 2009 at 12:39 am

Posted in anxiety, london, me

ever more nervous about nationalization

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Despite the fact that the non-nationalized corporation that he works for has just dragged its own building down to the pawnshop in order to keep paying his salary, David Sanger from the NYT still believes in the American way. Just. A Bit. Nervously. And just like our president-elect.

WASHINGTON — When President-elect Barack Obama talked on Sunday about realigning the American automobile industry he was quick to offer a caution, lest he sound more like the incoming leader of France, or perhaps Japan.

“We don’t want government to run companies,” Mr. Obama told Tom Brokaw on “Meet the Press.” “Generally, government historically hasn’t done that very well.”

But what Mr. Obama went on to describe was a long-term bailout that would be conditioned on federal oversight. It could mean that the government would mandate, or at least heavily influence, what kind of cars companies make, what mileage and environmental standards they must meet and what large investments they are permitted to make — to recreate an industry that Mr. Obama said “actually works, that actually functions.”

It all sounds perilously close to a word that no one in Mr. Obama’s camp wants to be caught uttering: nationalization.

Not since Harry Truman seized America’s steel mills in 1952 rather than allow a strike to imperil the conduct of the Korean War has Washington toyed with nationalization, or its functional equivalent, on this kind of scale. Mr. Obama may be thinking what Mr. Truman told his staff: “The president has the power to keep the country from going to hell.” (The Supreme Court thought differently and forced Mr. Truman to relinquish control.)

The fact that there is so little protest in the air now — certainly less than Mr. Truman heard — reflects the desperation of the moment. But it is a strategy fraught with risks.

The first, of course, is the one the president-elect himself highlighted. Government’s record as a corporate manager is miserable, which is why the world has been on a three-decade-long privatization kick, turning national railroads, national airlines and national defense industries into private companies.

The second risk is that if the effort fails, and the American car companies collapse or are auctioned off in pieces to foreign competitors, taxpayers may lose the billions about to be spent.

And the third risk — one barely discussed so far — is that in trying to save the nation’s carmakers, the United States is violating at least the spirit of what it has preached around the world for two decades. The United States has demanded that nations treat American companies on their soil the same way they treat their home-grown industries, a concept called “national treatment.”

No need, really, for me to go into how bothered I am by Sanger’s “first risk,” is there? As basically just about every corporation in the world totters on the verge of collapse, as far as I know packages mailed via the USPS will still arrive in time for the special morning. Everyone knows why Amtrak has trouble, and Sanger should come over to the UK to experience what fully privatized rail travel is really like. I’ve heard all those privatized and deregulated airlines are doing really really well lately, but sure, yes, the privatized (um?) defense industry has done well over the past decade, that much is true.

I know it’s boring to keep posting these, but I’d like to keep a record just for record keeping’s sake. A post is coming that dares to tie the knot between my dominant preoccupations, NYT watching and nationalization, within hours or at the tops days. That Habermas piece is around here somewhere….

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 9, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Posted in anxiety, news, socialism