Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
UPDATED: Zandria Robinson Fired From University of Memphis for Saying Obviously True Things About Racism in America?
If, like me, you are legible as a "white" person in terms of the irrational rationality of race in America, you can be anti-racist but you cannot be not-racist: you are a beneficiary of white supremacy and positioned by whiteness to incarnate racist biases. There is no way to be "white" and also "right" when it comes to race in America -- this is a demanding and uncomfortable and often quite heart-breaking recognition -- but surely you will have noticed that to be "black" in white-supremacist America is also demanding, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking? There is no way to be right under racism. Racism is wrong. And the wrongness hurts.
It is surely a measure of white-privilege to fancy that you could opt out of racism in a way that would not cost you something, that you could simply decide your way out of racism by understanding it a bit better. You better believe that black people understand racism a whole lot better than white-allies do, and you certainly don't see that understanding rendering them immune to racist violence, exploitation, and bias. This sort of thinking is almost as bad as would-be anti-racist white folks who seem to expect to be petted and praised for trying to do what they say is the right thing, rather than simply trying to do the right thing because it is the right thing, or who expect special immunity from criticism when they fail to do the right thing because they say they are trying to do the right thing, rather than simply trying harder to do the right thing because they say they are trying to do the right thing.
Robinson's recent comments about the Confederate and US flags are easy for me to sympathize with as well -- I said some roughly similar things in public here. Nothing I am saying now is the least bit original or exemplary on my part. I try to be an ally to people of color in white-racist America but I cannot say that my efforts have ever been worthy of attention or are the least bit extraordinary. They are at best a matter of common decency with a bit of historical awareness thrown in. I don't expect to get fired for saying these sorts of things in teaching contexts -- as I very regularly do -- and nobody should. I don't expect to get a lot of grief for pointing these things out in writing here and there, though this is not the emphasis of my work or my politics.
As far as I can make out, it is nothing but obscene that Zandria Robinson has lost her job over her unpopular but useful public critiques, if that is what has happened here. I can't see that many people have even been paying attention to this apart from a lot of howling reactionaries (anti-civilizational Daily Caller and David Horowitz witch-hunting and book-burning for free-dumb types) who decided to organize to attack a vulnerable academic in anti-intellectual America for trying to teach her students to question their worldviews a bit in the service of equity-in-diversity. I hope she is supported by academic and activist communities and rises to new heights from this attack to continue her work.
UPDATE: The University of Memphis is now saying that Robinson was not fired but has left for a better position -- but their earlier announcement seemed to be shaped in response to right-wing pressure in a way the lead much of the right-wing to celebrate her leaving as a great victory. There would appear to be more to the story than we know now. I sure do hope Robinson was not fired and that she is already moving on to do better things with more support.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Sunday, June 28, 2015
As readers of Amor Mundi know, my partner and I have been together for over thirteen years now. But we aren't gay married because we disapprove of marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and as an irrational acquiescence to damaging Hallmark card fantasies of romantic completion. And yet we both fought for marriage equality and are cheered by its successes because our exclusion from the institution damages the lives of queer folks who feel differently than we do (even if for bullshitty reasons), and because that exclusion remains an injustice supporting other worse injustices, and also simply because it seems more forceful politically to oppose norms from which you are not already excluded and the refusal of which costs you something.
Appalled by the deathly demoralizing anti-democratizing energies of corporate-militarism as I am, I grasped nonetheless the indispensability of ending the Clintonian gargoyle "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the ban of queer folks from serving openly in the military for reasons similar to those that make marriage equality victories good -- but, again, I cannot say the jingoist cadences inevitably framing the victory felt particularly enlivening to me personally. Ending employment discrimination against queer folks seems to me a more substantial goal that will help many truly precarious people in this country while imposing a constraint on many truly pernicious people in this country -- and hence I cannot say that I am surprised to find it the assimilationist goal that still most stubbornly resists accomplishment. I don't like kids enough to wallow in gay adoption victories, and while I am all for Families We Choose, I wonder why the Chosen Families we celebrate must always be so drearily conventional.
But even if, as I say, I fully recognize the indispensability of demanding the availability of legibility on conventional institutional terms, lest illegibility marginalize so many of us in ways that literally ruin and end lives, I personally believe that a life more fully lived demands selves made of both prose and poetry, freedom requires both answerability before the eyes of power as well as the questionableness out of which different worlds are made (read Fanon if that doesn't make sense to you yet).
Yes, I am one of those grumps you hear about who think that having too much Pride in assimilation to the institutional norms of reprosexual corporate-militarism is more than a little fucked up. While Pride originated in the righteous impulse to defy the hurtful shame imposed on wanted queer lifeways by mean, fearful, ignorant majorities, I think there is plenty to be ashamed of in the complacency, conformism, and consumerism Pride celebrates.
Especially now that I'm pushing fifty I more or less want Pride to get off my lawn. It is like a crowd of vacant consumers and squalling kids hard to distinguish from a food court in a Tornado Alley suburban mall even with the interchangeable shirtless guys and sequins shorn of their magic by too much sunlight. I do know that there are plenty of older folks who draw a real measure of strength and support from Pride, and yet I do think Pride is something youthful at heart, and in a way that registers both the fabulousness and foibles that can characterize youth in dumb overgeneralized stereotypical ways I won't make many friends getting into in any depth. But the hazy ambivalent fondness I still feel for Pride, while feeling at once quite contented that Pride is no longer the thing for me, is something like the hazy ambivalent fondness I feel for my own time of youthful adventuring.
I marched with my friends in Queer Nation in the Pride Parade in Atlanta half a dozen times at least, in the early nineties, and that really felt like something. Perhaps it was because we didn't seem quite as respectable as the Pride tag insisted we should be aspiring to be, for one thing. I marched in San Francisco's Parade just once, the summer after I moved here, in 1996, and it already felt terribly belated and pro forma. I wasn't really part of any movement anymore, and that left me feeling like I was at a County Fair cruising a loud crowd for dick and funnel cakes. That's been nearly twenty years ago now. I must say I felt quite a lot of sympathy for the Occupride moment in 2012 -- but I heard about it on the news after the fact. There was some political alchemical spark there, some joyful noisy resistance, some futural opening onto elsewhere that felt truly queer. To connect with that kind of queer futurity, I might even drag my tired old unrepentant queer ass onto the street again one day.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Friday, June 26, 2015
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Monday, June 22, 2015
When people respond to demands to take down/protest the Confederate Flag with demands to take down/protest the US flag I am troubled. The gesture reminds me too much of those who respond to #BlackLivesMatter by piously intoning "all lives matter." That is to say, it feels like a reactionary circumvention of a vital protest in the form of a pretense to greater radicalism, an evacuation of specificity through the ascent to a self-congratulatory universality. Of course there's plenty to protest about the domestic abuses/rights violations and foreign wars/imperialism waged beneath the US flag, but the US flag is an ambivalent signifier, invested in a history of protests, that include taking it up in demands to redress legitimate grievances. The Confederate flag is an unambiguous signifier of white supremacy, however, very much including when it is a signifier of "heritage." Take down the Confederate flag and take up the US flag, if only to burn it in public, I say. The difference makes a difference.
1. When people respond to demands to take down/protest the Confederate Flag with demands to take down/protest the US flag I am troubled.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
2. The gesture reminds me too much of those who respond to #BlackLivesMatter by piously intoning "all lives matter."— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
3. That is to say, it feels like a reactionary circumvention of a vital protest in the form of a pretense to greater radicalism…— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
4. …an evacuation of specificity through the ascent to a self-congratulatory universality.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
5. Of course there's plenty to protest about the domestic abuses/rights violations and foreign wars/imperialism waged beneath the US flag,— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
6. But the US flag is an ambivalent signifier, invested in a history of protests, that include taking it up in demands to redress grievances— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
7. The Confederate flag is an unambiguous signifier of white supremacy, very much including when it is a signifier of "heritage."— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
8. Take down the Confederate flag and take up the US flag, if only to burn it in public, I say. The difference makes a difference.— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 22, 2015
Sunday, June 21, 2015
@dalecarrico If you could state your anti-futurology in the futurological mode, you'd really be on to something— Alien Nation (@Kilgoar) June 21, 2015
@Kilgoar "In Twenty Years Futurologists Will Still Be Tools for Plutocrats Peddling Deceptive Ads As Prophesies." How's that?— Dale Carrico (@dalecarrico) June 21, 2015
Saturday, June 20, 2015
More Futurological Brickbats here.
Friday, June 19, 2015
The premise of my Berkeley summer intensive course "What Is Compelling?" is that persuasive discourse is a site for the nonviolent adjudication of disputes, not because it is an "outside" to violence -- the naive distinction of persuasion and violence disavows, after all, both the threat of violence that inheres in so much persuasion as well as the deeper trouble that any testimony to violation secures its legibility as such only through a circumscription of norms that constitutes an epistemic violence of its own, rendering other possible testimonies to violation illegible -- but because rhetoric, with its definitive focus on the traffic between literalization and figuration in signification attends to the terms on which these legibilties are conferred and volatized and hence provides the opening for dispute over the ongoing constitution of violence and hence competing claims in dispute that would be nonviolent.
This premise is, whatever else, separable from questions of theology. For me personally, as an atheist and both a scholar and activist of nonviolence, this separability is hardly surprising, but for me that doesn't quite get at the connection at hand, because my interest and commitment to nonviolence was not only preceded by my arrival at atheist conviction but was provoked and shaped by that atheism. Obviously, mine is not the only path to nonviolent commitment -- nor, would it seem, the usual one -- but it is my path, and hence a possible one. For me the arc of the moral universe does not bend toward justice, but bends from just us: that the world is what we make of it and that all we have is one another seems as firm a foundation for nonviolence and the democratization with which it is connected as any faith to my eyes.
That is why it is striking to me how rarely this connection is elaborated in such terms. The Levinasian distinction of discourse from violence (with which the influence of Judith Butler has given me affinities) is leveraged explicitly on the Biblical injunction "Thous Shalt Not Kill"; the Arendtian account that has (unsurprisingly) long been an influence is a formalism (I take quite seriously, on literally her terms, her assertions that "nonviolent politics" is a redundancy and "violent power" a contradiction in terms), regard her assimilation of violence to instrumentality useful but incomplete, and note that when the account is fleshed out, things get theological quite soon after all: forgiveness is a "miracle," political action "redeems" political cycles of retribution, natality resonates with its Augustinian genuflection to "a child is born unto the world," and Eichmann must hang. The Foucauldian supplement of productive power is still mucked in the red thread of disciplinarity, the repressivity of which is (at least chronologically) continuous with the formulation of the power without a Kingly head (it got chopped off, you know). Zizek's little book on violence is some help, perversely enough, but his usual glib recourse to "Lacan" is, I don't know, Jesuitical.
We take up some of these questions in class today, but in a way that reflects my frustration, reading essays claiming pretty much everything but what I would want to myself: various religious believers asserting that atheism supports and implies violent politics, various atheists asserting that religious belief supports and implies violent politics, and strategists of nonviolence who circumvent questions of faith in a way that also divests nonviolence of an ethical dimension.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Monday, June 15, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
This analogy is definitely clearest in the guru-wannabe layer of the organizational archipelago of robocultic sects. But I tend to think the more apt analogy is the crass salesmanship of the middle-managers and PR-glad handlers, barking on cellphones and laser-pointing at PowerPoint slides the latest line in BS.
Consumer capitalist marketing is an endless peddling of stasis as novelty and crap as wish-fulfillment. And I think futurological discourse is just a slightly amplified variation of that dance of death. That most futurologists likely disdain or at any rate fail to grasp their kinship with their more prevalent middle-brow discursive cousins just goes to show that they aren't exactly very sensitive or bright, even as they congratulate themselves on their superior scientificity and visionary genius. No doubt there are plenty of banksters with the same delusions of grandeur.
Neither is it surprising on these terms to see that futurologists so readily fancy themselves parts of futurist "movements" -- eugenic transhumanism, history-shattering singularitarianism, greenwashing geo-engineering, the various techno-immortalisms, plastic/nuclear/nano/3Dprinter-cornucopisms, and so on -- after all, consumer fandoms around Apple gizmos fancy themselves movement no less. In No Logo, Naomi Klein described a company exec declaring Diesel Jeans "a movement."
Think of those self-esteem hucksters and the authors of management technique best-sellers, offering up their vapid but lucrative consolations in packed Vegas auditoriums -- they are the same sort of guru-wannabes some lucky TED-talking futurologists manage to become, spouting slogans and neologisms and offering up their desperately hyperbolized advertorial promises, sex and success, like every empty ad shouting its lies on every screen.
"The Future" -- that would-be heaven of certainty and satisfaction and youthful skin -- is the faith that suffuses our catastrophically stupid society, its deceptive, hyperbolic norms and forms distract and derange us on our way to death as we destroy the world and the weak for no good reason any one of us can say, corrupt priests and dumb postulants all the way down.
I have always assumed the so-called "simulation argument in its futurological form was something of a scam: futurologists pine for better-than-real immersive virtualities that never arrive, so they pose as a thought experiment that reality itself might be just such a virtuality to lend credibility to the endlessly deferred promise of the techno-utopian fancy they pine for.
Friday, June 12, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Anarchism means "No Beginnings," from archein, "to begin, to rule": There is no need for a word "archism" because "politics" is that word.In the Moot to that post friend-of-blog "Elias Altvall" made some reasonable objections:
Actually no. Anarchism is derivations from anarchy which is anarchos which translates to without rulers. I understand the decreipt state anarchist movement is in America with the so called "lifestyle" and libertarians but your always your weakest when you desperately tries to make all anarchists and especially historical anarchism (socialism) into the samething. If archism means rulers then why is politics that word. I atleast thought politics original etymological meanings, especially in its aristotelian meaning, was active engagement with ones community structures and decision making. Yet politics as has been referred to since 16th century has always meant the rich and powerful decision making not the peoples, so to speak.I am pleased to use the occasion to further elaborate my point, especially since the demands of summer teaching intensives seem to rob me of the capacity for original longform posting on topics outside my lectures these days, but conversation still works. Upgraded and adapted from the same Moot:
archon, ruler, derives from archein, to begin, to rule. My point is not to deny the familiar derivation but to point out that beginning is inherent in that ruling, which is less familiar and provocative. That sense is conspicuous in, for example, our "archetype," a comparable derivation, which is the origin/master/model from which subsequent variations/copies arise.
The nature of such rule is citational and reiterative in a performative account of the political of the kind one discerns in works by Hannah Arendt and Judith Butler (which I have always found congenial), in which norms and institutional forms are enacted in an ongoing way, a matter of improvisation within constraints. What matters to me in proposing politics to be in some sense an "archism" is that it highlights the performative character of ruling as acting-in-public, even -- perhaps especially -- in democratizing contexts.
Yes, of course you are right that politics derives from polis, and names the values/experiences emerging from the state of plurality in which one is immersed in settlements/cities. That plurality is the condition in which Arendtian action -- a matter of beginnings or at any rate interruptons introduced into the given with unexpected consequences -- and the performative rematerialization/refiguration of Butler's forceful but flexible public norms. There is nothing desperate, I hope, about this proposal or weak about its premises, tho' of course it may turn out to be wrongheaded like anything one thinks through so theoretically, but it is just meant to be illuminating if unfamiliar.
I do continue to think anarchist theory misses much that is indispensable to a proper conception of the political, and in its evocations of "spontaneous order" -- whether in the market pieties from its right or in the consensus pieties from its left (I leave to the side the unfortunate Propaganda of the Deed and recurring insurrectionist strains, that cannot be wished away, and tend to exhibit the limitations of spontaneism even more forcefully still) -- anarchism tends to be a reactionary disavowal of the contentious plurality recognition of which is the point of departure for political thinking.
This error sometimes yields bad politics on the ground, and definitely yields some terrible sloganeering, but I still think that anarchist-identified activists are often congenial and indispensable allies in democratizing politics practically speaking, usually in spite of the anarchist notions in the name of which they think they are acting (at their best, which is often, activist and artist anarchists are doing vital democratizing work in my view).
Finally, let me note that the querelle des anciens et modernes in its political face is the distinction of a politics conceived as providing occasions for the excellence of the few as against amelioration of hardship for the many. I am not one to deny the abiding reality of plutocratic power throughout history, but surely what is interesting about politics since the 16th century is precisely the democratizing and sometimes revolutionary insurgencies of people-power?
UPDATE: This exchange has continued on in the Moot linked above. Feel free to join in.