And a quick quote from David Collings’ Stolen Future, Broken Present:
“What happens to our orientation to the future when its livability is cast into doubt and begins to dissolve? ….What if we realize that the life we wanted to lead is ecologically outrageous, that the children we’ve been raising have no chance to live as well as we have, and that the political causes for which we’ve been fighting may never succeed?
The answer, I think, is clear: all our practical activities, our human relationships, our professions and goals, are harmed in their very substance. The value of our ordinary activities begins to fray, and the entire framework of our lives becomes suspect. Climate change does not just melt the ice caps and glaciers; it melts the narrative in which we still participate, the purpose of the present day. In this sense, too, we are already living in the ruins of the future.” (p.116)
It is important to see that, in the critique of ideology, only those interventions will work which make sense to the mystified subject itself. In this sense, ‘ideology critique’ has an interesting affinity with the techniques of psychoanalysis. ‘Criticism’, in its Enlightenment sense, consists in recounting to someone what is awry with their situation, from an external, perhaps ‘transcendental’ vantage-point. ‘Critique’ is that form of discourse which seeks to inhabit the experience of the subject from inside, in order to elicit those ‘valid’ features of that experience which point beyond the subject’s present condition. ‘Criticism’ instructs currently innumerate men and women that the acquisition of mathematical knowledge is an excellent cultural goal; ‘critique’ recognizes that they will achieve such knowledge quickly enough if their wage packets are at stake. The critique of ideology, then, presumes that nobody is ever wholly mystified – that those subject to oppression experience even now hopes and desires which could only be realistically fulfilled by a transformation of their material conditions. If it rejects the external standpoint of Enlightenment rationality, it shares with the Enlightenment this fundamental trust in the moderately rational nature of human beings. Someone who was entirely the victim of ideological delusion would not even be able to recognize an emancipatory claim upon them; and it is because people do not cease to desire, struggle and imagine, even in the most apparently unpropitious of conditions, that the practice of political emancipation is a genuine possibility. This is not to claim that oppressed individuals secretly harbour some full-blown alternative to their unhappiness; but it is to claim that, once they have freed themselves from the causes of that suffering, they must be able to look back, re-write their life-histories and recognize that what they enjoy now is what they would have previously desired, if only they had been able to be aware of it. It is testimony to the fact that nobody is, ideologically speaking, a complete dupe that people who are characterized as inferior must actually learn to be so. It is not enough for a woman or colonial subject to be defined as a lower form of life: they must be actively taught this definition and some of them prove to be brilliant graduates in this process. It is astonishing how subtle, resourceful and quick-witted men and women can be in proving themselves to be uncivilized and thickheaded. In one sense, of course, this ‘performative contradiction’ is cause for political despondency; but in the appropriate circumstances it is a contradiction on which a ruling order may come to grief. – Terry Eagleton, Ideology, An Introduction, (unpaginated forward)
“Bourgeois ideology… continually violates one of the central functions of ideology in general, which is to make the subject feel that the world is not an altogether inhospitable place.” – Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, p.331
The inevitable end result of the Girl Talk aesthetic has been reached only by joke Soundclown subculture. Gregg Michael Gillis’ performances as GT were always revelries and reveries in pop’s ultimate fungibility and interchangeability (one of the only bits of Adorno I’ve read was about pop music and there’s some good criticisms of what he said, esp in “Adorno meets the Cadillacs” by pop music academic supremo Bernard Gendron) and so once the ecstasy wore off we were just left with the bare facts in the cold light of the morning after.
The more radical path (might be?) to take the juxtapositional, repositioning and cut-up aesthetic more seriously – and this is, I think, what the Soundcloud (Sound Clown?) community might be doing. The above mixtape cannot be mistaken for anything than what it is – it is neither delerious nor revelry, it’s so straight. “Dad?Chat Mix” is such an inspired name. There is so much more to say but I have another post in mind that I need to draft now.
true blu heroes
need some of these today
I looked at my hand, and my little finger was gone—the bone was sticking out. It’s the weirdest feeling; one second you’re fine and your little finger is there, and the next second it’s gone. It shoves reality up your backside. I was in so much pain and shock that the first thing that hit my head was the beat and the bass. The bass was hard, so I just ripped off my top, wrapped it around my finger and tied it up as tight as I could and skanked it out for half an hour. My mentality was, I’ve only been here for an hour, I’ve paid £10 [$17] for this night, I’ve lost my little finger—am I seriously going to go? Nah, I’m going to skank until I can’t skank anymore. After that, my mate dragged me down to the paramedics.
So of all the responses to this poor raver kid losing a finger I’ve seen, just about all of them highlight the fact that he “kept raving” – as though the remarkable thing is that he didn’t seek immediate treatment. To me that’s not quite the most important element to this story. His reasoning for doing so, however, is incredibly revealing and far more staggering – “I’ve paid £10 for this night” along with his explanation that the music was good and there were girls to dance with.
But the point is the very first thing he says to explain why he doesn’t want to go and get his finger bandaged up is that he doesn’t want to waste the 10 pounds he’s already spent. No one I’ve seen so far has commented on this, and why would they? He’s acting in precisely the way we are increasingly being taught – even forced – to behave: as rational economic calculators. If I leave now to receive necessary medical treatment I will have lost ten pounds and gained nothing for it. That’s the equation that he explains in his head – and it is a perverse kind of reckoning for one to have to do. Further, goes to underscore the issue of wealth inequality as well, and how much ten pounds means to a kid like him today.
I tweeted somewhat facetiously last week about razing the entire suburb of Newtown, after watching this video which hand-picked the worst of the worst when it comes to living in the “newtown bubble” but…
…even so, I think this example-by-hyperbole does highlight some very real contemporary attitudes which express a longing for place. Crucially, these valorized locations area always fucking prestige suburbs and the current obsession with Brooklyn and New York (which I am sure are perfectly lovely) is all about capitalising on a very deliberately and carefully constructed image and sense of ‘place’. At best these are ersatz attempts at conjuring up now-lost affinity for characteristic inner-city suburbs which have steadily been draining of real local “character” for decades, like the pensioners who have lived there for 40 years but can’t afford to live there anymore because the rent’s now too high – propped up, no doubt, by the boom in trust-funded twenty somethings arriving to capitalize on the felt sense of “history” and “connection” created by the crumbling buildings.
Mark Fisher calls this type of impulse a nostalgia for the past periods which is inevitable under capitalist realism and its imagination crushing aspect. Particularly perverse is how it seems to emerge in people who (like those of us under 30) have never even actually lived through these eras. (Lets not even mention how much of the appeal to Newtown is put down to “the diversity of people,” while all those interviewed are young white 20 something’s).
Place is a real thing, not always ‘simulation’, as Adam Brereton was quick to point out to me on twitter, but the obsession with inner city prestige suburbs is not the same thing as felt connection to place. Hell, I live in Penrith and that’s as much of a god damn “place” as anywhere – everywhere is a “place”. I live above a guy who works for the air force apparently and is being redeployed to Afghanistan soon. Another of my neighbours in the apartment complex is a long-time immigrant from Holland, in his 60s, unable to find work doing carpentry, plastering, etc. simply because of his age. His wife works as a nurse, at the local hospital but he can’t get a job or the pension.
Raze the whole suburb of Newtown and Penrith both, put up those glass and steel monstrosities, just spare us young people with no knowledge or experience of history but a felt claim to it… Sarah Kendzior is great on this topic, and she has talked about resisting the east coast/west coast megacity pull, living as she does in the relatively small city of St Louis. It hasn’t impacted her work – and much of the appeal to prestige suburbs seems to be their work-conducive nature, what with the simple fact of access to ‘more’ people and the informal networks that the culture industries thrive upon. In fact, for Kendzior she seems far better for it.
At the Bust the Budget rally yesterday, there were only a few really enjoyable moments – most of it was spent standing in the cold and the wind, listening to boring oldies talk about the facts which everyone by then already knew by heart anyway. If you’re not aware by now of the effect that this budget is going to have on carers and older people, and younger people, the unemployed, the sick, the disabled you simply haven’t been paying attention and shouldn’t even be listened to. For the rest of us, it’s time for a bit more than just competent communication.
Which is why I got really excited when an aboriginal woman was asked to speak before anyone else – and at which point it became transparently clear that the only real struggle happening in Australia is in indigenous rights, the recognition of their sovereignty and improvement of their currently abhorrent and negligent treatment. This is currently the only topic with enough of a human face, enough of a history and a mile-high list of abuses and outrages to significantly motivate and mobilize a mass movement.
Now people might say that white Australia will never really be motivated by the plight of black Australia, but I think that’s actually nonsense and ahistorical. Most white Australians I know have only the barest idea about what its like to be a blackfella in Australia today, even in spite of things like the screenings of Utopia. In contrast to the plight of indigenous Australians, all others pale into insignificance and I really do think that more needs to be done to listen to and learn from indigenous struggle in this country (the way the Subcommandante Marcos did similar with the Zapatistas in Mexico paints a compelling picture of this kind of activism). What I’m not suggesting, mind you, is a return to precisely the kind of paternalism that got us into the current mess that is the NT Intervention and all the horrors and indignities it has brought about. Indigenous struggle has united and invigorated Australian leftist movements in the past and it can do so again – from native title and Mabo, to the Wik ruling, the freedom rides, the BLF standing up for aboriginal rights, etc. (Here’s a timeline and further links)
I’ve started reading Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth, which is just mind-boggling in its ability to hits you over the head with the biggest open secret and one of the greatest tragedies this continent has seen since white arrival. Page after page after page of early white settlers in the early 1800s describe exploring this country and finding it verdant, park-like in the manner of the English landed gentry – totally inexplicable given the way the land looks today. In essence, Gammage’s thesis is that the environment and specifically the plant/tree/animal mix were so highly regulated and obviously cultivated (one diarist notes that he wants to use the phrase “judiciously arranged” regarding the location of trees in a park-like way) that it seems impossible that it wasn’t noticed and comprehended at the time. That it was treated Terra Nullius seems far less to do with the quality of the land than with the racist presumption of the inhumanity and incivility of first Australians. It crushes my heart to imagine the radical break that occurred with white settlement, not to mention the mass campaign of literal massacres, incarcerations, ill-treatment and general cultural destruction that occurred, and that has denied us access to this whole pre-invasion life-world and the possible riches that this (now, anyway) quite harsh and degraded land hold. We still have barely begun to approach the level of sophistication with which aboriginal Australians managed the land, by Gammage’s account.
All of which is to say that this original evil, this Prime Harm has still not been addressed; is not being addressed. Any activist movement needs to somehow mobilise and pass through this question of this first and greatest wrong done in and to this country and its first inhabitants. There’s a vitality and an urgency to this struggle which the concerns of white, urban, leftist Australia and the union movement is lacking. How do we bridge that gap? Who do I know, and who can I learn from?
The idea emerges that every person’s illness is somehow their own fault, that it comes from nowhere but themselves: their genes, their addictions, and their inherent human insufficiency. We enter a strange shadow-world where for someone to engage in prostitution isn’t the result of intersecting environmental factors (gender relations, economic class, family and social relationships) but a symptom of “conduct disorder,” along with “lying, truancy, [and] running away.” A mad person is like a faulty machine. The pseudo-objective gaze only sees what they do, rather than what they think or how they feel. A person who shits on the kitchen floor because it gives them erotic pleasure and a person who shits on the kitchen floor to ward off the demons living in the cupboard are both shunted into the diagnostic category of encopresis. It’s not just that their thought-process don’t matter, it’s as if they don’t exist. The human being is a web of flesh spun over a void.
Sam Kriss is a funny writer who understands Pure Ideology.