by Jared on May.28, 2011
Reprise of Osama bin Laden’s death…
So, I’ve been absent, AWOL, gone. Beyond a busy and unpredictable patch of life weather (children with head lice, junk-car-buying, a load of freelance work to do, the usual culprits), like many, perhaps, I’ve spent the past several weeks adjusting to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. Did it really happen? What are we not being told? What does it mean? Does it change anything? Add in the hysterical-tragic-silenced tale of the Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan and the mind can easily be stunned into silence.
I have not been stunned silent, however. My mind is a wanderer, and I let it. Not silent, just gone away. On the smallest whim I embark on journeys of epic discovery, backyard camp-outs. I don’t even leave a sign in the shop window: “Be back in X days.” I can’t help it. I never know when I’ll be back. I wander until I find something back where I started. Distance brings everything closer.
And so I’m back with a roll of reflections under one arm and nightmares in my back pocket. As one who has followed the “War on Terror” with chagrined interest, bin Laden’s death has been a startling development. To say otherwise would be to lessen the significance of the moment, and I’m not into that. Biting back the bitter bile, swallowing and claiming it doesn’t rankle the taste buds or burn the throat the whole way down, only lessens the radical moment of refusing to vomit.
Yes, I refuse to vomit, though it burns like hell. Even now I write through gritted teeth because no matter the changes brought about in foreign policies, no matter the subtle political shifting, no matter the Arab Spring’s ongoing effect, all of this amounts merely to a reassessment of the chess board. The game is still in place. Winners and losers are still being picked by the high powers of capitalistic greed and corruption, a false-conscious amalgamation of self-interested parties with, as Adam Smith might put it, a force and direction not planned but comprised by the fact of incorporation — a tacit agreement to play the same game by the same rules and profit thereby.
The truth is that we are all still in this game. None of us is able to escape its material hold on our lives. The Soviet Union collapsed because it couldn’t do anything less than compete in the game; by competing it became an inferior version, a doomed comrade. The current Russia fixes that by leaping into the fray with both feet. China, likewise, is rushing into first place by anticipating the system’s next and higher evolutionary plateau, state-run capitalism carte blanche.
The future is bound up with this game because the greater mass of humanity still plays by it’s rules. I know I do. What else can I do? Until a great enough number of humanity’s beacons point the greater mass of us to something different (which may look substantially like an invasion of zombies who eat their own flesh), this will not change.
So don’t vomit. It is not yet time to release your bile built up against the system. Hold your innards empty and kneading, eating holes from the inside out. The game has not changed. Keep poking holes in the exterior. Keep exposing eruptions. Enlarge them like reactors in meltdown until nuclear storms glow a somber green and rain down frogs of pestilence. Keep predicting the Apocalypse and expecting the date to be wrong. Keep eating and fattening the slaughter to come on a day not looked for.
Don’t get me wrong. Bin Laden’s death is a pivotal action in the game: White Knight takes Black’s Queen in a surprise and daring move. It is an explosive moment. Everyone rooting for White breathes a collective sigh of relief. How can I not? Here I am in America.
Pressure is released: the mental pressure of building inconsistencies within the system, of the inconsistency between our everyday lives and the ongoing pan-mono-social narrative, of the pressure between the so-called Left and Right in American politics, of the President making good on a promise to “get bin Laden” and the political points garnered by such a feat, and so on. Left and Right boast and bellow, acclaim and reclaim, propose and oppose, but the details don’t matter. The point is pressure release, letting off steam, productive and strategic movement, channeling the moment ever onward, ever upward. But don’t be fooled — we’re still diving into concrete blocks, languishing on the chess board of oblivion.
For the awake, it is a disruptive moment. The game is peeking, and do we want to play? For my part, I didn’t want to play before, so why now? This one’s holding his vomit, letting the juices eat from the inside out.
The final verdict, then? The death of bin Laden is as significant as it gets in the game of neoliberal capitalism. Whether true, faked, displaced, politically motivated, an instance of international doubled-double-crossing, whether none of those or all of those, whatever it is, it is as significant as anything that will happen in the “news” this year. It’s big — something like but not quite JFK-big. It is an iceberg in its proportions, revealing the huge massive game of pin the ice cube on the Titanic in which this world is engaged. If you fail to see the iceberg, your underlying false consciousness remains.
If, like me, you’ve spent the past few weeks holding down your vomit, or if you’ve failed like me and let some dribble out from the corner of your mouth, it’s all right, there’s still time to swallow it back down and cherish your disgust at the neoliberal game.
And now, the rest of this post somewhat altered but mostly the same as it was to appear some time ago before I got sidetracked… (Part 1 here)
We the False-Conscious Bombers of Planet Earth, Part 2
“…even when commodities have this impact on the internal structure of a society, this does not suffice to make them constitutive of that society. To achieve that it would be necessary […] for the commodity structure to penetrate society in all its aspects and to remould it in its own image.” -Lukács
~ ~ ~
Sleepwalkers are such crazy peoples. This is America, says the dreamer and sleepwalking mask-maker, imbiber of commodified ideology in colors red, blue, and polka-dot. Corporations have rights in America. The same rights as any individual. The right to make decisions…
[…that affect the rest of us, with impunity, without the benefit of collective thought and debate. Government makes any decision and mouths call tyranny. Corporations lobby for those decisions and the same mouths call free enterprise. This is the commodification of politics, what we’re sold, what we buy from corporations and political parties, underlying relationships not even a blip on the radar. Calms what might otherwise become insight, reform, revolutionary praxis, the sheer messiness of liberated dreams, ungrammatical sentences.
Corporations have rights, we’re told, the Bill of Rights-type rights, except no mere individual has the ability to make the waves that a corporation makes. If a corporation is an individual, why can’t any individual take a corporation to court and win on the basis of law? Ever hear of it happening? Probably not, because a corporation has resources far beyond any mere individual’s capacity to resist and protections against being held accountable. This is not David vs Goliath, but David vs a thousand Goliaths running a self-perpetuating profiteering machine.
Steamroll, discredit, settle. Today’s Goliaths know how to deal with a David, with the mutant individual, the statistical outlier. Goliaths grow policies like I grow beard-hair: twisted labyrinths, scripted outcomes, what a deal when you get smashed, settled (down), bribed (cheap — if you get the money, they got the deal). Today’s Goliaths know how to ru(i)n a city, a state, a country, a globe for their one purpose to make more Goliath than there was before. Are you a good Goliath, or a bad Goliath? A Goliath either way. Goliath lived in David’s house until he outgrew and demolished it while turning over in bed one night…]
~ ~ ~
“The commodity can only be understood in its undistorted essence when it becomes the universal category of society as a whole. Only in this context does the reification produced by commodity relations assume decisive importance both for the objective evolution of society and for the stance adopted by men towards it. Only then does the commodity become crucial for the subjugation of men’s consciousness to the forms in which this reification finds expression and for their attempts to comprehend the process or to rebel against its disastrous effects and liberate […] from servitude to the ‘second nature’ so created.” -Lukács
~ ~ ~
Walks the sleepwalker, talks the sleepwalker, smiles the sleepwalker: Corporations are our benefactors. They built our country. They built IT. THEY built it…
[…on the backs of workers, or not at all. For the profit they could make from it, or not at all. And while workers barely scrape by in an era of stagnant wages, while most workers pay their taxes like good citizens, corporations make use of tax shelters and loopholes set up by elected officials they paid to put and keep in office. Warren Buffet pays a lower percentage of his earnings in tax than any of his staff who works for him, he acknowledges this, but will he do anything about it other than talk? In talking about it, is he doing anything more than saving face so he can continue to command the respect of investors?
There’s a smart Goliath, a Goliath of a Left-ish persuasion as opposed to the Right-wing knuckle-dragging type. Smart Goliath’s know they have to keep the boy with the sling happy. FDR, the smartest Goliath. Keep your distance from the boy with the stones. Pacify him, acknowledge his god in word and sell him a cup of coffee, give him a place in the bread line.
Oh, Goliath, how you multiply! The largest multinational corporations are sitting on globally scattered piles of wealth while the world is in a financial turmoil of Goliath’s sole (soul?) making. If you haven’t yet admitted to that reality, what really can I say…?]
~ ~ ~
“If we follow the path taken by labour in its development from the handicrafts via cooperation and manufacture to machine industry we can see a continuous trend towards greater rationalisation, the progressive elimination of the qualitative, human and individual attributes of the worker. On the one hand, the process of labour is progressively broken down into abstract, rational, specialised operations so that the worker loses contact with the finished product and his work is reduced to the mechanical repetition of a specialised set of actions.” -Lukács
~ ~ ~
But oh, we need the jobs they bring us, mumbles the sleepwalker, turning eyes from the gold-encrusted dragon, with shades on to deflect the twisting lights. Without corporations, jobs will go away. If we don’t protect corporations from what threatens them, no new jobs will be made. Our children will be jobless, starving. They will drive junked-out Cadillacs and not live in McMansions. They will…
[…just perhaps live happier lives chosen for themselves doing that which creatively inspires rather than begging for corporate handouts and pushing corporate brooms.
A space opens up for the ancient art of authentic and harmonic human living to flourish inside the ruins of failed financial corporate global brutalism. Hail the breakdown and pass the recall ballots. Any more earthquakes? I need one in MY backyard.
The recent victories of the Green Party in Germany figure here, where also tens of thousands protested (and prevented) the moving of radioactive waste where the bulk of citizens had decided it should not go, a reawakening of us all to the rationalized dangers of 20th century nuclear culture. A convergence of themes stains the last remaining petal clinging to les fleurs du mal, the synchronicity of a new zeitgeist blowing against the wobbling tyranny of financial necessity, the false consciousness of the (un)free marketplace exploited by gov-corp’s pay-to-play heyday peeking its iceberg (lettuce? wilted?) forehead.
Waking means we might imagine our own lives, standing means we’re going to try, walking means doing it. We might form sustainable enterprises that can survive against unfair Goliaths on the wane, clutching at their last straws, exiting the U.S. for more exploitable fields. Even those fields are looking barren. The world is an increasingly unwilling harem. We return to the proliferating earth, to the mother long dominated by the money-ogress and her brooding husbands, governments worldwide. We return, buried flower bulbs sprout new shoots, ungainly, unpredictably anarchic, blooming only to die again, but scatter the seeds.
Through political action, we might level the playing field, decrease the number of teams to one, and increase the number of players from 1% to how-many-have-you. Workers might form cooperatives, take over dormant factories, oversee the design and production of industrial products that serve people and the environment, not profits. There are recent examples of this occurring. Farmers and green laborers might activate thousands of acres of dormant land, reclaim city wreckage in the name of earth, tree, and root. Also occurring, in limited fashion. We might move away from the mystifying global financial system to more personalized systems of exchange enabled by advances in communication technology. We might trade goods and services for goods and services. We might decentralize, relationalize, rehumanize the world.
We might make a move toward that world if we’ll fight for something we can’t yet and probably won’t see in our lifetimes.
~ ~ ~
“It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife.” -Heraclitus
~ ~ ~
The sleepwalker shudders. But our children don’t realize how harsh the world is, how dangerous. We’ll stop making bombs, but THEY won’t. If we don’t make bombs, we’ll have no bombs to keep THEM at bay. If we don’t conquer THEM, THEY will conquer us. We need our bombs. We’ll be unsafe. We’ll be…
[…no longer strangling our own future just to live profusely in the present. Awake for the first time. The question is which conflict we will engage and will we shoulder the load? Many of us clamored for help for the Libyan people. Is anyone surprised the best we could hope for was a rain of bombs and missiles followed by brief partisan wrangling, all while speculators wait for the golden opportunities to follow “regime change”?
All help given in this commodity culture is commodity-driven. All official speech is parsed of commodified partisan talking points hatched by aides in back offices, paired and balanced and self-cancelled out, continually relocating itself somewhere that it is not.
We throw bombs at starving babies, guns at youths if the politics will hold. Why? Because of the human cost of doing nothing? As Americans pay even more for a tank of gas, the Middle East’s democratic freedom threatens our wealth.
Maybe the only way to exit this game of sociopaths is to stop playing, set up a moment’s soap box, and just keep moving when they come for you…]
~ ~ ~
“The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish piled up at random.”
“Even sleepers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe.”
~ ~ ~
The sleepwalker tosses, turns the other way, dreams of his plan to golf when the weather warms, her plan to shop for new shoes or a spring wardrobe, a baseball game on a sunny June day, warmer weather and sleepy vacations, celebrity gossip, no more Oprah on daytime TV, the summer movie lineup, The Tree of Life. This has nothing to do with me, says the sleepwalker. Nothing to do with me. Nothing to do…
[…but fail. If we do nothing, what results will be the result of doing nothing. The result of dropping bombs is certainly fire and craters. Beyond that is hard to tell. The result of gov-corp (ir)responsibility is all around us, enabled by silence, tacit acceptance.
Wake up, mumbles the sleepwalker, when will I wake up? I think I’m painting the world in my dreams. I think I’m sleepwalking…]
~ ~ ~
“Other men, on the contrary, are as unaware of what they do when awake as they are when asleep.”
Lukács, György. History and Class Consciousness. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.
Harris, William. Heraclitus: The Complete Fragments. Accessible: http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/Philosophy/heraclitus.pdf.