Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Against Bataille

another cut from the Millennium essay

Waste is not a by-product of consumerism: it is integral to it. The resurrection of Georges Bataille's (1988) 'solar economy' of waste and excess is no longer viable as a critical perspective, because we live in a political economy which is more than excessive and wasteful: a system that has become suicidal, premising its inhuman accumulation of wealth and obsessive growth on the demolition of the very planet (and its populations) on which it depends. The popular cinema of eco-apocalypse echoes with Benjamin's early warning,

Humankind, which once, in Homer, was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, has now become one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure (Benjamin 2003a: 270)

Films like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) or World War Z (2013) instruct us in how to contemplate our species' extinction with something bordering delight; and even a documentary like An Inconvenient Truth can breed a certain perverse joy in watching the destruction finally unleashed, and the guilty pleasure of knowing, as the last lights go out, that we were right all along. The spectacle of annihilation, like that of waste and excess, is alluring. If we refuse to succumb to integral waste, we must either unpack that allure in critique, or create alternatives to it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Narcopolitics and the suicidal drive of neo-liberalism

excised from a piece I'm writing for Millennium Film Journal's 35th anniversary issue

As Baudrillard wrote,
When the two towers collapsed, one could feel that they answered the suicide of the kamikazes by their own suicide. It has been said: "God cannot declare war on Itself". Well, It can. The West, in its God-like position (of divine power, and absolute moral legitimacy) becomes suicidal, and declares war on itself (Baudrillard 2001).
9/11 made visible the suicide enacted by neo-liberalism and its symbolic twin towers. The suicide of the bombers is no different from the trajectory of neo-liberal consumerism. The death of nature is not an act of murder: it is a symptom of another malaise, species suicide, conducted at the level of species by agents – corporations – that have already ex-corporated their humanity and uploaded their consciousness to corporate databases, no longer buffeted by wind and rain but only by the vagaries of chaotic markets they no longer wish to understand or control. The stupidity of fracking, of Arctic oil extraction, of nuclear facilities, of arming all sides in proxy wars, even the immense assault on the global poor is not in itself genocidal because it is integral to the suicide pact capital has signed with itself: to eradicate the world it is built on in order to ensure its own self-murder.

The silence of the silent majority is now punctuated by the murder-suicides of despairing cast-offs of the corporate system, banging away with Wallmart guns at whatever attracts their rage, in this emulating what destroys them, before making the futurological sacrifice, a signpost to the teleology of neo-liberalism , by turning the gun on themselves. America does not need imported terrorists: these lost souls perform the ritual of terror for them, protected and encouraged by the corporate lobby.

We speak of 'state terror' but even the worst states enact in haste what corporations enact at leaisure, and then only in cahoots with the corporations that pay for governments, often in the currency of the very arms they use to terrorise their populations. We should instead speak, like Rob Nixon, of the slow violence, the slow terrorism, of debt, despair and drugs (prescribed as well as illegal)

Narcopolitics is at the forefront of the suicidal economics of integral waste. Not content to treat bodies as externalities, dumping grounds for the over-production of toxic fats and sugars, narcopolitics pollutes the reservoirs of its last resource, the minds that manipulate its symbols, that provide the creative engines of innovation on which its cycles of built-in obsolescence depend.

This is the savage contradiction of capitalist growth; and it is this contradiction alone that allows creativity the space between waste and suicide, to clamber over the inert forms of parties and corporations, to produce the conditions for a politics worthy of the name.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shame and the banks

To the tune of Richard and Linda Thompson's For Shame of Doing Wrong'

The UK government is floating the idea of jailing bankers who transgress good practice. There is little point, though I admit I'd get a jolt of Shadenfreude like anybody else. As someone said on C4 news tonight, the CEO will always say his (always his) financial advisors, staff, board and shareholders all supported him in malpractice. This is because banks are not composed of people

Banks are cyborgs: very large machines with human biochips plugged in. You cannot blame the biochips when the machine employs them for interests utterly divorced from theirs, or any human's.

The motive of corporate cyborgs are not human. They know only one goal: to accumulate wealth. They do not share human goals like happiness or well-being or spending the afternoon drunk in the arms of their beloved. Most of all they know no shame.

Shame is one of the most human of emotions – though I'm sure at least some animals also feel it. Our capacity for shame is proof of our inescapable commitment to the other. It is the bitter wound left by failure to give, or give enough. Shame is not embarrassment or regret, not gentle remorse: but the stabbing pain of memory. Bankers might individually feel shame: if not, they are clearly psychopaths and need our care and therapy. But banks do not feel shame.

Banks externalise shame. Where we might feel the agenbite of inwit, they export shame, and not for the past but the future. As debtors, we feel the shame; shame becomes ours, and pervasive, as we are all dragged into mortgages, pensions and credit. Shame is a pollutant emitted by banks in the shape of debt because shame is, from the perspective of the pure accumulation of wealth, external. Banks dump shame into the external environment like factories dump toxins. It is important therefore to realise that we should never be ashamed of toxic debt because lending, not borrowing, is toxic.

Banks are constitutionally incapable of shame, and thus inhuman. Not the singer, then, but the song needs to be attacked. It is to our shame that we have permitted banks to become the most powerful agents of history. These inhuman, shameless cyborgs must be terminated.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anecdotal Evidence (2)

The paper on Anecdotal Evidence is online in the excellent Necsus open access journal which this issue features a special section on green issues, with contributions by Jonathan Beller, Barb Creed, Salma Monani, Sabine Niederer and Sy Taffel among many others

The earliest draft appeared on this blog in January as a first pass. Little acorns.