Posts Tagged ‘Marx’

Search This!

December 22, 2009

This blog was hit by a surge of activity over the past few days. The search term that brought the activity here was “rodger levesque polygamist”. I’m sorry to let the searcher down, but here goes, the rest of this post is for you. Now seems as good a time as any to put down a succinct statement of my view on conjugal relationships.

First, the concept of living together that I’m working on is far from finished. That’s part of the reason that very little of the concept has been a subject of my writing. Another part of the reason is the confrontational quality of a critique of commonsensical concepts. These are only two reasons, but they play off each other, and have created a necessity to develop a conceptual sphere within which the idea can be safely discussed. That sphere is a theory of social change. This work isn’t even in the beginning stages, but this short statement might help.

Polygamy creates an immediate reaction. The word is synonymous with polygyny, which is the practice of men marrying more than one woman. This practice is most frequently associated with religious institutions and under-aged (non-consensual) brides. This practice, like the common practice of marriage, limits human affection and relationships to an institutionally predetermined configuration. These relationships are closed and exclusive. And the breaching of these definitions is subject to a punitive justice that justifies violence against women, reveals the objectification of women as property.

There are a number of problems within society that are embodied in our cohabitation practices. And while a theory of change wouldn’t stop at the criticism of relationships, the criticism of relationships needs to be included. The criticism of our conjugal practices has a long tradition in the development of a theory of social change.

Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

Today still the most radical freak out when the couple as the only possible relationship is contested. The immediate reaction is the illegality of polygamy, but this form needs to be contested as well. What I am currently proposing is an open , inclusive practice of living together. I’m not suggesting any form of polygyny or polyandry. I’m suggesting no institutionalized form, but a practice of living with friends and lovers in common.  I suggest it as a way of overcoming the splitting that is affecting us so deeply in this policed state we are living under.

“The bourgeois whose existence is split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a “social contact”: that is, as being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward contact.” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. p.155. Continuum, New York)

When Rodney King asks “Can’t we all just get along?” the cynical modern city-dweller can only laugh at the naivete. But in that question is the seed of an important part of any theory of social change. Why can’t we get along? Why are we incapable of living together?

Very simply, I’d argue that our institutionalized relationship forms are not open enough to accommodate the variety of relational possibilities. And more the exclusive quality of the given form creates a taboo on intimacy outside the form. It can be argued that any taboo limits freedom, because of the possibility of free movement transgressing the taboo.

Of course we are not prepared to live together. We have lost the art. But manuals like Aristotle’s Ethics and The Way of The Samurai can teach us the way to live together, and with commitment to the experiment, we may once again experience living in groups or actually living in community.

On Urgency

April 3, 2009

It’s part of our Heritage, some guy, an extra on a movie set, wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “The End Is Nigh!” Am I wrong to imagine I’ve seen him in a lot of movies? That guy, or at least the message he carries is all over the internet. This is our final moment, we’ve got to act now!!

It’s never a good idea to argue, I was going to write, with these maniacs, but unless you enjoy the sport, I mean you get a kick out of the hilarity of a fixed mental position, most argument is pointless. If someone thinks it is ‘over’, you are not going to convince them otherwise. And to complicate things, this sense of urgency, this need to act now, this feeling that the time is now or never is part of our heritage, it’s a social condition.

It’s not just the lunatics who suffer the delusion of now. In Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now, Gary Hall on the issues of new media and open access argues that “this is a chance that very much has to be taken now.” He goes on to say that if corporations figure out a profit model “then the opportunity to set the policy agenda for open-access archiving will very likely be lost.” (I’m currently working on a review of this book. I mention this because the point I’m criticizing here is a very small point in a pretty good attempt at thinking a situation through.) Can you hear Eminem “You only got one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, ’cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”? I’m not talking shit, whistling Dixie, this sense of urgency is well documented, but not in a way that makes us aware, these documents are all telling us to “do it” to “just do it” and do it now.

This reactionary thinking, (I just mentioned something similar to this to my four year old daughter today, “You’re not really thinking, you’re just wanting.”), this thinking in, about and for the moment, is socially conditioned. It’s the way of thinking within a capitalist society. We are always capitalizing on moments, trends, the way things are. For revolutionaries, this thinking is a problem. The Communist Manifesto, suffered from this problem. Propaganda tries to quickly, and sloganeeringly, drive the masses to action. Many of the radical ideas Marx and Engels tried to get down before and after the Manifesto was written, were simplified, and dodged to produce a pamphlet for consumption by the masses. And where did this get us! The revolution will be a slow burn, the deep restructuring of a new consciousness. The revolution will not happen overnight. (there you go, I’m a sucker for slogans) A long process of developing a revolutionary consciousness, which is the revolutionary process itself, is not something one can do to an other, and I don’t think it’s something that can be done alone.

In Workers of the World Relax, Conrad Schmidt answers the democratic revolutionary’s question.

How do we lose an election proudly?
Don’t try to win at all. Discuss issues you believe in.

…to win the battle of democracy

March 17, 2009

Back when it seemed a possibility that a coalition government would take over parliament, my dad and I started a short conversation about the meaning of our vote. He was angry that the party he’d helped vote into a minority government was about to be reduced to the opposition. “What about my vote?” he asked. I asked him the same question. I was joking. I’d voted for the communist party, so my ‘voice’ was useless. Really, voting has little more use to me than backing a hockey team. But my father asked, “no one wanted your party, why is that?” Yes. Why is it people are not voting communist? I know it wasn’t a real question, I mean, I know he wasn’t looking for a real exploration of the possible reasons why. But I saw it as a baited hook, and bit. I started writing an essay, but it’s way too long, meandering and not really much of a conversation starter.

Before this conversation started, just before the last election, I had written an open letter to my father explaining the reasons why I was voting communist. It wasn’t very persuasive. I sent the letter to every member of my family on facebook, and I am pretty sure it had no effect whatsoever on the votes my family cast. One of my cousins accused me of just fooling around. There’s something to this. Communication needs a hook. Talking about communism is talking about old news, an already decided subject, there’s nothing to connect the talk to. There’s no reason to talk about it. Bringing it up now has a bit of lunacy to it. My cousin knows I’m not crazy, so if I’m talking about communism, I must just be fooling around. Today there is a hook. The news of 1200 jobs lost in Windsor (again this year), gives us a reason to talk about capitalism (masters of industry and wage slaves), the violence of profits before people, and the socialist idea of worker control.

I’ve been thinking and reading about and writing down some of the reasons people aren’t voting communist, but I’ve also been aware of the madness associated with talking such nonsense. There are differences between capitalist values and communist values that require a complex conversation, rethinking how we live on the level of the day-to-day. It requires becoming aware of our condition. I’ve asked my network of friends and family into this conversation, so I should start with something.

Let’s talk about the word ‘communism’…

From the response to my last open letter, it’s clear that ‘communism’ is understood as a dirty word. I just recently read an article about ‘socialism’ being used as a slur. After you accept the fact that corporations produce our culture and meaning, it makes perfect sense that these powers would try to poison the words that will launch a revolution; democratize production; replace capitalist controlled corporate power with worker controlled corporate power. Revolutionaries understand ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ to mean ‘the creation of something which does not yet exist.’  The words signify new relationships to each other, where radical democratic associations of workers motivated by human development take control of production. The American and French Revolutions replaced monarchy with hierarchy. The coming revolution will replace hierarchy with anarchy. The coming revolution will be the end of profit-for-the-few and representation-by-the-few. The revolution will bring new values of human (species) development and radical democracy.

…melts into air

March 13, 2009

Today I read this in Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now :

…the very web-like structure of the Web often makes it difficult to determine where texts end – or begin, for that matter. All the cutting and pasting, grafting and transplanting, internal and external linking involved means that the boundaries between the text and its surroundings, its material support, are blurred and can become almost impossible to determine online – just as the boundaries separating authors, editors, programmers, producers, consumers, users, and commentators/critics are blurred.(p.66)

The blurring of textual boundaries interests me. Especially in academic texts, where citing other texts, other legitimate texts, is the necessary foundation for the building of new texts.

Yesterday I went to an event at UBC.

The MisEducated Imagination: McLuhan’s Creativity The lasting legacy of Marshall McLuhan has everything to do with his creatively disruptive thought: art as an early warning system of major technological change, media theory as culture probes, words moving at light-speed, texts as worm holes to alternative futures, a festival of seductive paradoxes in writing, images, and aphorisms. With McLuhan, technology simultaneously stultifies and mobilizes the imagination, does violence to the human nervous system and creates electronic breakthroughs. Arthur Kroker is Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory & Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Author of numerous books on technology and culture, including The Will to Technology, The Possessed Individual, The Postmodern Scene and Technology and the Canadian Mind: Innis, McLuhan and Grant. With Marilouise Kroker, he has edited the field-defining anthology, Critical Digital Studies and the internationally acclaimed electronic journal, CTheory (www.ctheory.net ).

One Code To Rule Them All… When all that has been solid melts into code, how do we rethink and re-make scholarly praxis — theory, research and pedagogy — built from and for a literate universe? Quality becomes quantity, arts and sciences are re-fused, media fluidly converge, and even the ontology of the body, this “too too solid flesh” of Hamlet’s distracted imaginings, becomes molten, as virtuality. This paper is part of a larger project which interweaves three strands of interdisciplinary scholarship: the conceptual work of forging a ‘digital epistemology,’ the technological challenge of developing a multimedia, multimodal research tool capable of taking the measure of the re-mediated subjects and objects of interdisciplinary study, and the pedagogical call for the resuscitation of ‘play’ as inseparable from and indispensable for teaching, learning and the advancement of knowledge under unprecedented conditions of uncertainty.  Suzanne de Castell is Professor and Dean pro-tem of the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University( http://www.educ.sfu.ca/research/decaste/). She’s interested in relations between media and epistemology, between ‘knowing’ and ‘tools of intellect’, in relation to print literacy, new media studies, and game-based educational technologies. Books include Literacy Society and Schooling (with Alan Luke and Kieran Egan), Language, Authority and Criticism (with Alan and Carmen Luke) Radical Interventions (with Mary Bryson) and Worlds in Play (with Jen Jenson). Her current work is on the ludic epistemologies of game-based learning, exemplified in several projects co-developed with Jenson: Contagion ( http://contagion.edu.yorku.ca/), a compelling game about public health , Arundo Donax , ( http://contagion.edu.yorku.ca/Tafelmusik/login/login.html), a gripping engagement with Baroque music, and Epidemic, a social networking site where your ‘friends’ are contacts you manage to infect. She co-edits the Canadian Game Studies journal, Loading…(http:// journals.sfu.ca/loading/ )

Dr. Arthur Kroker gave a concealed radical talk. He was saying something under the academic babble, something about a new consciousness that was to come, a change in our miseducation. That the new digital consciousness, new digitized body that we take on. Taken as a whole, if only for a moment, it was worth the two hour bus trip to and from UBC. That ride in itself, and the fact that it was bodies with ears listening to Kroker read from a laser-printed paper, should be enough to dispute what Kroker was saying, of course there was a very radical undertone, to the talk. Suzanne de Castell talk was much more concrete with her explanation of an experiment to expose the social construction of meaning. The need for such thinking in society, the ability to reflect on our constructions, entered the question and answer part of the talk. A question was asked of Kroker, it was more an expression of disapproval than a question. It went something like “You say there is a new digital body, a new digital future, but does this change the way we eat or love?” The answer given by de Castell was great. She said that the confusion between eat and love, that one is a physical need and the other a social, or literary, construction. We’ve been colonized by the word. She told of the creation of romantic love by literature. I don’t think the questioner “got it” but it was a very good point. Our categories, boundaries, the narratives, and meaning attached to our bodies are not solid. These are the necessary errors, the solidity, that with new insights melt into air.

He Loves His Mother!!!

March 11, 2009

Bill Mayer — He loves his mother!! I thought I’d start with that. Religulous, a film by the same people who made Borat, and Borat, too, was purposefully offensive, and it, too, was funny, but it never, not for a second took itself seriously. Borat brought us into some very serious territory. There was the blatantly misogynous college boys scene, and the dangerous war of terror scene, maybe it was the moustache, but the nausea producing, in a culturally discomforting sense, scenarios made us witnesses.  Borat, himself, was nearly invisible. Religulous does something different, and I didn’t like it. The scenes where Maher analyses what we just saw are all gawd-awful. He interviews some fairly stupid people, but Maher’s arrogance, which may have held up, especially with the cuts to clips from Superbad and Scarface, those were hilarious, his arrogance may have held up, but when he was on camera by himself, the weakness of those scenes reframed his arrogance as simply mean. Sure, he loves his mother, but he’s a mean mental weakling himself, bullying other intellectually challenged, differently intelligent people. There’s the difference, Borat’s misogynists exposed themselves and an oppressive cultural undercurrent, while Maher victimized the people he put on film.

The science is in. Consciousness is a chemical energy. Our perceptions are bodily. Chemical and bodily changes affect consciousness and perception. Philosophically I work from the premise that existence precedes essence. Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre, if generally understood would make it easier to argue that we should educate and properly house and nourish everyone. What I’m saying here is that there is no God of Abraham, there are no angels, spirits, demons, heaven or hell, at least outside our language systems. Our language systems exist physically in our bodies, in this sense these things exist, they are within us and communicable. Maher had an opportunity to produce in incredibly informative film. He came close with the Andrew Newberg, MD (University of Pennsylvania research neuroscientist) interview. Newberg discusses the process of imaging people’s brains as they pray, meditate or speak in tongues, but no conclusive statement is made. He also brought in the consciousness changing properties of drugs, but again the neurophysiology that could reveal the chemical and physical contingency of consciousness was not explored.

Maher is content to promote doubt, but there is certainty that consciousness is chemical reactions within organic physical structures. We don’t know how exactly it works, but there is certainty that material is at work. These ideas can also be communicated, but Maher didn’t do the research. And understanding consciousness, the bodily manifestation of these belief, may have softened his, persecution, of these believers. Really what was he doing? In his interviews with Muslims, he was told twice that it was politics and not religion, that the motivation behind terrorists and extremists, but he didn’t accept it. He even made “fun” of the interviewee by writing a text message implying he was a terrorist. Later he analyses these scenes saying that they don’t want to admit to outsiders that there are problems with the religion. Doubt in this sense is not a tool for understanding, it is an analgesic for stupidity. What were the political motivations of the religious George W. Bush and what were the political motivations of the differently religious Osama Bin Laden? Maher is content to doubt everything and everyone.

In Saul D. Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals he spends an entire chapter “of ends and means” explaining how political interests are clothed in religious morality. “The Haves,” he writes, “develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.” What’s interesting is that Obama was schooled in the Alinsky tradition. Maher’s film is now an historical document. But Alinsky also taught respect for the beliefs and values of the Have-nots and spoke against arrogance. Politically, in the political system, I’m with Sven. This call for compassion, and understanding, when dealing with religious consciousnesses, is not a form of self protection, it comes from an understanding, limited sure, that our bodies and consciousness are totally intertwined, and a massive change, in our society, especially forced from the outside, well, it’s abuse.

And one last thing about embodied knowledge, especially the kind of knowledge that defines a persons existence. This is from wikipedia:

In Carl Jung‘s psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. Jung believed that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as existential crises which were sometimes attempts at self-reparation. Jung’s concept of metanoia influenced R. D. Laing and the therapeutic community movement which aimed, ideally, to support people whilst they broke down and went through spontaneous healing, rather than thwarting such efforts at self-repair by strengthening their existing character defences and thereby maintaining the underlying conflict.

With this in mind, really, what the fuck was Maher doing? He loves his mother, but he’s still an ignorant fuck. Had he actually broken through the defences of these people he was attacking, he would have precipitated a moment of realization in which everything previously known is wrong, leading possibly to a physical and mental breakdown. In one scene Maher’s mother reminds him of how upset he was when he discovered Santa Claus wasn’t real. The equation of a childhood fantasy game, with god consciousness or a bodily awareness of god, is ridiculous in itself. In my utopian thoughts after the consciousness of our interconnectivity is widespread, when we are concerned with the care of each other, the issue of religion will have faded away, but until then we need to work toward our own understanding.

More on Catching The Wave

August 17, 2007

It looks like I might have to read and write about Marx. It’s got to be best to avoid mentioning the name, but if I want to use the concept of alienation, even if I want to transform it a little, I should have some idea of how the concept was originally used. I thought for a moment deterritorialization might work, but that’s even more academic and not really synonymous, either way, alienation has a common meaning that circulates outside the academic world.

The wave we’re after, or on depending on your place in the spectrum of alienation, is capitalism’s third. Again back in Harris’ Ontario I saw the effects of policy geared toward business interests on community. The funding for Ontario’s arts organizations was threatened. And these once community based and minded organizations began appealing for funds with business and economic based arguments. The shift in thinking swept these once autonomous community groups up with the wave of capitalism.

Something very similar is happening with this call to catch the knowledge wave, if we understand it as knowledge wave capitalism. Much has been written about the commercialization of our schools and the resulting uncritical acceptance of product placement. But I’ve also read somewhere that capitalism is illiterate, I could look into this and its effect on literacy.

If literacy is seen as being in harmony with a culture’s body of knowledge, then alienation and illiteracy are connected. Developing a method to bring each child individually into harmony with our cultural body of knowledge would be a “micropolitical means of subversion.”