Thursday, 17 September 2009

War Journal Day 2805

His spectre still so obviously surrounds her, emitting such unknowable thrusts of force that only those held by the South can feel, the shrill dog call of hundreds of years of inscrutable obligation. A code even in its apparent disuse that creates the most Spartan, steadfast, longsuffering moral subjects. It is only a matter of time until we all abandon practical reason and obey the ritual acquiescence of peace. For trauma is the oppressors greatest friend. So obfuscating that lived through yet alien space, so obliterating the possibility of saccharine-sweet and righteous justice, opening the way for the ultimate destruction of the loving creator by her prostrate offspring. Mere peace, mere betrayal.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Critique of P(ure) R(idicule)

It is difficult to know where to begin with this inadvertent admission of latent capitalist historicity. It could be my own subjective optical illusion acting up again but can someone explain to me how this vestige from last weekend's CityBoy Stag Do quiz made it past those idiot savant editors of The Economist?

Question 1: Is Africa a continent, a country or a ruddy red indentation on the surface of Mars? The genius illustrator charged with such an imaginative task could have at least depicted what the blank continent may look like after capital works its magic – palm trees, countryside villas, dare we say, borders. Ten points to the banker who can find Rhodesia.

The advertisers responsible for such a farcical disavowal of hundreds of years of African history must tell us which bit of the world they’d like to bring to Africa. Is it the parasitic religion of the Jesuits? How about the politics of King Leopold? The original meaning of Human Resources?

Other famous taglines they may have aped:

The Royal African Company: literally bringing Africa to the world.

The Boston Manufacturing Company: bringing warmth to Natives and workers the world over.

In his book, The Long Twentieth Century, Giovanni Arrighi argues that Africa has never been the dark, disconnected continent of Punch and Disney lore. Instead of being left out of the global economy, the variegated peoples of Africa have been subject to centuries of market integration, primitive accumulation, and resource extraction.

Also, isn't it a bit early to hail the return of banks. If anyone is going to re-build Africa for the 700th time it should be the responsible governments of Western Europe. The financial crisis never crises never happen...the financial crisis never happened…

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cameron and Khamenei (and Obama and Jong Il)

Knowledge is normally so convenient. In its modern form, knowledge - at once appearing objective and empirical - is the tool, like a great telescope, that allows us to focus on and comprehend more and more of the seemingly distant and obscure objects before us. And as the universe of objects expands, it both widens and particularizes our view. In this sense, it allows us to simultaneously glimpse the entire universe and focus on the individual components within. In this sense too, it is ever progressing - expanding until that point in time where everyone can see everything.

Through what Georg Lukács describes as reification, throughout his History and Class Consciousness, 'the' world then becomes 'our' world and vice versa. In this way, a particular (ie scientific, national) understanding of knowledge shifts to encompass the general realm of experience. Strangely, it is this idea of subjective objectivity, what Lukács deems false consciousness, that is ever gaining strength alongside the supposed return of fundamentalisms. Yet at second glance this phenomenon is not so odd.

Take the recent case of British and French Conservatives attempting to restrict the accumulation of knowledge to hard sciences. Juxtapose that next to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rejection of social sciences and more appropriately, liberal arts, as contributing to the ‘loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge.’ On the surface, both lay claim to objectivity, though they couch them in seemingly diametrically opposed terms. According to the British Conservatives, knowledge is becoming less convenient. That is, at least, if we, as tolerant liberals, continue to define knowlege in more and more of its manifestations, from liberal arts and media studies to vocations like bricklaying and vehicle repair. For the Tories, knowledge should be restricted to the capito-objective triumvirate of business, technology, innovation. For Khamenei, the liberal understanding of knowledge is equally inconvenient. Instead though, he identifies “godly and Islamic knowledge” as the only just and proper objectivity.

What the two camps share is the fear of a loss of belief in the Lacanian Real(s) of these clashing civilisations. For the Tories, this horizon or foundation, against which all other forms of knowledge are mere opinions, is Capitalism. For Khamenei, this horizon is Islam. Both Real(s) are the absolute truths, telescopes through which everything else can be understood.

Where they diverge though is in their definition of the liberal arts. For Britain, and the ‘developed’ world in general, liberal arts – political science, media studies, language – are not inconvenient at all. They are in fact supplements to the capito-objective worldview. The study of political science obscures the fact that both capitalism is axiomatic and political science is a particularist lens through which all other (non-democratic) politics are judged. The media too, most evident in its world news segments, under the guise of expansion and progression of knowledge, uses the madness of the universal world to reinforce the particularist position of the objective Real. Liberal arts in Iran act as subversion and in this, even liberal capitalism is perceived as a threat.

In the end, the two share a disdain for critique. For both, the subjective arts, as a proxy of subversion, are means through which politicisation occurs. Politics, in turn, are bad for productivity – GDP for one, the perpetuation of the hierarchical religious state for the other. And thus knowledge is more than inconvenient; it must be purged.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Excerpts from a Like Mind

Walter Benn Michaels in the London Review of Books

'a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.'

'The recent furore over the arrest for ‘disorderly conduct’ of Henry Louis Gates helps make this clear. Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point Gates himself tried to make to the arresting officer – the way he put it was: ‘You don’t know who you’re messing with.’ But, despite the helpful hint, the cop failed to recognise an essential truth about neoliberal America: it’s no longer enough to kowtow to rich white people; now you have to kowtow to rich black people too. The problem, as a sympathetic writer in the Guardian put it, is that ‘Gates’s race snuffed out his class status,’ or as Gates said to the New York Times, ‘I can’t wear my Harvard gown everywhere.’ In the bad old days this situation almost never came up – cops could confidently treat all black people, indeed, all people of colour, the way they traditionally treated poor white people. But now that we’ve made some real progress towards integrating our elites, you need to step back and take the time to figure out ‘who you’re messing with’. You need to make sure that nobody’s class status is snuffed out by his race.'

'Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people.'

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Unavoidable Fallacies

Science dictates that two examples do not make a trend. So to corroborate my suspicions, I will need to use white people performing covers of hitherto uncool mainstream r&b songs as my proxy in Google Trends.