November 28, 2011
William Shakespeare. Someone I am particularly not enjoying right now in high school English. Regardless, the man had a way with words. I have thought a lot about what to write and I came up with a concept several weeks ago, I have just had trouble putting it down. I think in Macbeth Shakespeare captures how I feel on the issue of death pretty well.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing
Macbeth- Act V, Scene V, Lines 17-28
What is death? What does it mean? Is it the opposite of life? Is it the absence of life? Growing up I always thought it was just a biological function, but does that even make sense? How can biology explain the complex phenomenon of life and death? I feel like this post will be a lot of questions. I will be short and just my thoughts.
In the attempt to understand death, or try and grasp it I have asked myself several questions over and over. They usually mirror something along these lines: What do I experience in death? Do any memories go with me? Does this very moment of thought matter, will it be remembered or have significance once I have passed?
After I toy with those questions another one usually hits me. Why do I want to know? Why do all of my questions assume death in a negative sense, defined only as the inverse of life. It brings me to an interesting point, does life give value to itself, or does death give life value and also does life give death value. Why have I for so long believed that death is an experience to be avoided?
I never seem to have an answer to these questions. I have read plenty of authors and have a plethora of literature I could quote to try and understand these questions, but what purpose does that serve. None of these people have experienced death. Now I like living, right now things are going great and I don’t plan to hit up the death thing for a LONG time, but I am still curious, what is it?
I know this post is brief and rambly but I find it hard to capture my thoughts in writing. Please feel free to share your opinions. I know writing may be hard so feel free to discuss this with me in person, I know many of our readers personally and I hope this leads for some interesting dialogue.
I will write about different scholars on death during the winter break. Until then have fun reading my rambles.
November 1, 2011
After writing my Occupy Wall Street post I have put a great deal of consideration into their motives and goals. Upon my first thoughts I began to regret labeling them as an Anti-Capitalist movement. I felt like they are not a marxist struggle, however, after a few weeks of reflection I agree with my initial categorization. I intend now to explain ,y justification for labeling them a Marxist protest and why I believe that is now a hollow branding.
My was first step was re-reading the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement (available online at http://occupywallst.org/forum/first-official-release-from-occupy-wall-street/)
It was my initial re-reading that first prompted my belief that I had essentialized the participants of Occupy Wall Street. Upon second reading and some historical analysis I determined my categorization was spot on. As the Occupy Movement states in their demands:
While on face these demands may not seem to be a scathing critique of the capitalist system, it is in fact the epitome of a modern Marxist revolution. If we may let us travel back in time to a few earlier marxist movement. Let us begin with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Marxist portion of the Russian Revolution, while initially criticizing socio-economic disparities and barrier devolved into a criticism of all things government and all things societal. The true marxists stuck to their goals and attempted to change the economic conditions but the movement acquired free-riders who attached their criticisms of government, foreign policy and societal norms. The Bolsheviks instead of achieving their marxist heaven were left with a plethora of demands and issues and an overthrown government. It was theses side issues that doomed the marxist movements potential and lead to the totalitarian state that came to epitomize marxism for years.
Fast forward in history fifty-one years and move west towards Paris. May of '68 bears a shocking resemblance to those occupying Zuccotti park. They were young and they wanted the government to stop dabbling in individual affairs. They wanted to stop Laissez-Faire economics from influencing the educational system and the government structure.
If the October Revolution and Sixty-Eight both fit the categorization as being a Marxist revolution. I will venture to say so does Occupy Wall Street, in all its themes and locations it is the closest we have to a modern marxist movement. If Occupy Wall Street is the best crack current society can take at revolution and Marxist/ Anti-Capitalist uprising then I can only ask, what hope is there for Marxism now and in the future.
The designation as a Marxist movement rather then being the catalyst for anti-capitalist action seems to be a death knell to the fight against capitalism. The categorization of social movements now as Marxist is a signal for co-option or free-riders. Marxist movements now seem to be a vehicle for carrying all other social movements, it is this reason that they lose all effectiveness at attempting to bring down global capitalist systems. We see these free-riders in Occupy Wall Street. The movement has shifted from a reaction to corporate influence and economic corruption to a movement focused on the idea of a movement. I recently saw a photo of an Occupy Wall Street protester holding a sign that read "Do Not Confuse the Importance of This Movement With Chaos." My question to them is why not? Does Occupy Wall Street care anymore about corporate greed and economic influences on politics? I personally believe the answer to be no. I believe Occupy Wall Street has now only become a movement to gain the right or emphasize the importance of carrying out movements. Like all other "Marxist" protests Occupy Wall Street has lost its Anti-Capitalist fervor and devolved into an amalgam of individuals spouting their own demands, destroying the central focus of the movement. Every time I listen to a member of Occupy Wall Street speak on T.V. News it seems each one has a different goal or notion of what to achieve from the protest, often not benefiting the initial trajectory of the movement.
So what is left for the Marxists today? I believe the answer is still revolution but not the revolution we have seen. What is needed is a new conception of revolution that breaks with all of our preconceived notions of protest and uprising. Sylvere Lotringer writes in the introduction to Forget Foucault:
No wonder French post-'68 thinkers, Baudrillard included,
looked somewhere else for revolutionary alternatives. Failing to enlist their allies, they resolved to sleep with the enemy. It was a bold theoretical move, outdoing Marx in his analysis of capital. All of the "children of May," revolutionaries bereft of a revolution, turned to capitalism, eager to extract its subversive energy they no longer found in traditional class struggles. Updating the theory of power and the fluctuations ofsubjectivity to the erratic shifts ofthe semiotic code, they assumed that they could redirect its flos and release in their wake new "deterritorialized" figures-psychotic cre ativity, desire, nomadism, becoming revolutionary-in spite of the abrupt "reterritorializations" that the system was bound to impose in order to insure its own survival. (Deterritorializations result from the absolute decodification of capital).
I think his words are wise. In order to avoid co-option and acquiring strange bedfellows, the Marxists must learn from their past failures and create a movement that breaks with the old notions of protest and sticks steadfast to its goal. A movement that is unwavering in its desires whole heartily pursues them without accepting tag alongs or free-riders. Only in this pursuit and in this new to take Zizek's term "leap of faith" can the Marxists create a movement capable of producing true resonance and political efficacy.
October 10, 2011
“They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.”—Slavoj Zizek, October 9th 2011.
The fact that prominent Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek came to speak at Occupy Wall Street is no surprise, in fact I was surprised he had not come out to Zuccoti Park earlier. Zizek and the Occupy Wall Street movement share a defining character trait, they have both been commodified. Zizek is right, we are all losers in the system of global capital however, him and the members of Occupy Wall Street are the true losers in the system for when they awaken to the nightmare they simply do nothing.
Zizek is a prolific author well known as an eminent Lacanian scholar and revolutionary extraordinaire, the problem is Zizek has lost his revolutionary zest. His academic stance within the university has only allowed him to become a pawn within the system of global capital, he too with Occupy Wall Street is a failure at leftist revolution. The countless books on revolution and the crisis of modern capitalism written by Zizek is the exact same as the thousands of scantily clad people yelling in Zuccoti Park, they are examples of co-opted dissent. Since the 1970’s the political right has deployed cultural hegemony to establish conservative think tanks and institutions that privilege and preserve conservative beliefs, these institutions have also allowed open public protest. During Vietnam the Nixon administration chose to allow the protests to continue and to affirm that those protests were examples of democratic deliberation that this country was founded on, turning those movements into mere support blocks for the system they so desperately wished to oppose. Occupy Wall Street finds itself in the same place today, a movement co-opted and commodified. The dissent of Occupy Wall Street only affirms the system of globalization and capital that it opposes. Capital takes the very protest and glamorizes it, creating T-Shirts, Bandannas and Ipod accessories all fitting the theme of revolution. We see the protesters of Zuccoti park heading towards the same direction as Che Guevara, merely a face on a T-Shirt, no longer a revolutionary but a material object for every hipster to go out and buy. THAT is the trick of global capital, it commodifies the aesthetics of dissent by allowing to occur, destroying all political efficacy of the movement. So how does Occupy Wall Street fix their paradox of dissent? They pick up bricks.
Instead of becoming Facebook statuses with a million “likes” the protesters need to end this allegiance toward civil disobedience and take over the system by force. In the May ’68 protests the city of Paris was turned upside down, streets were blockaded and protesters were seen writing Graffiti one very corner, but this too was co-opted. Those who stick to civil disobedience when given lip service by the elites in power accept even the slightest hint of reform and go home thinking they have brought down capitalism, waking up the next morning to the same nightmare. As Zizek says :
What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.”
No statement could be more true on how the revolution should be carried out.
So my message to the people of Occupy Wall Street who sit daily in Zuccoti Park, start the revolution. Grab a brick and throw it through the window of the first Taco Bell you see. Storm Wall Street and tear down the stick exchange monitors, take control of the levers of power by eliminating those levers. The task at hand is to do wake up tomorrow not to a nightmare but to a new world, one without a blueprint but one free from corporate domination. Occupy Wall Street must do what they say they will do, that is Occupy Wall Street, and not leave or take no for answer. If this means violence, so be it, bullets change governments far surer then votes do. The people of Occupy Wall Street have to be willing to get their hands dirty in order to fight global capitalism and it’s influence on politics. The expansion of capital to every aspect of our lives was not clean so neither must the revolution be.
To effectively carry out their movement Occupy Wall Street must not take the reforms that doomed ’68. It is time for people to stand up and say no, not with their voices with their actions. The people of Occupy Wall Street must be ready for political insurgency or they should stay at home and let real revolutionaries fight their battle.
September 29, 2011
Fate is a wonderful phenomenon. Not only is it the order by which all things guide their behavior(the most immoral of morals) it is the gracious gift that provide us with our everyday experiences and interactions. Although fate is an elusive subject for humanity (predestination is a common theme of various ideologies, religions, and ism's,) it is always immanent and unavoidable in the wake of our unfolding path of existence, that is to say it is always already about too happen. These interactions and experiences gifted to us by the uncanny force of fate inherent in our universe.
Although philosophy has struggled with this problem for centuries. What is the human will? What has allowed us to receive our world as it is(social constructs, cultural traits, and mainly concepts that inscribe meaning onto everyday manifestations(ontic) that literally produce our actions)? Science, religion, philosophy, psychology have all had their say in the issue with varying interpretations(yet so similar in nature). For today's purpose I wish to intersect two thinkers that I believe have the ability to better acquaint us to this stranger in our own home. Nietzsche and Heidegger Both men obviously having similiarities in both nationalism and thought Heidegger took much of Nietzsches analytic of existence and adapted it too his own analytics later in his magnum opus "Being and Time"
First, we must borrow a quote from Nietzsche to begin our discussion
“Love Your Fate, which is in fact your life.”
Nietzsche tells us subtly that the guaranteed path of experience for the subject is life. If this statement is true* then we have to immediately answer yet another question. The question that I seek to aid and supplement with analysis here is how do we define life? Although both thinkers mentioned offer many characteristics and explanations of our life there is a common thought in both that emphasize certain aspects of our existence. Nietzsche would tell us that humanity is predetermined to play in the great cosmic game. We are determined to participate in the great spectacle of antagonisms, life has defined its struggles, crueltys, joys, and pleasures we are ensured to return to eternally.
Heidegger build upon this decry. For Heidegger and Nietzsche death is this inevitable force that is the fate of all of humanity. Heidegger understands death as the most impossible possibility for Dasein(beings). He comes to this conclusion by asserting that it is impossible to think the unthought, because in in reaching and searching for the unthought you are simultaneously thinking. In this inability to 'think' death humanity is shown the finitude of their seemingly unbounded existence. Heidegger addressed this fate as "being-towards-death". He attempted in his existential analytic to disavow the understanding that death is something evil and opposite of life but to understand them as integrally related to one another.
Even though LoF makes an attempt at a theory/politics blog, all of us being academic debaters, not only is it impossible to completely ignore that aspect of our lives but also just silly. That being said. fellow LoF authors Max and Adam deserve a huge congratulations for already qualifying for the TOC (the tippy-top of high school tournaments). You two make our group of degenerates here look good, keep up the good work.
[side note: LoFs own Chris Leonardi also deserves a shout out for currently being in the octofinals of his first college tournament as a freshman. kick more ass homie]
[side note: LoFs own Chris Leonardi also deserves a shout out for currently being in the octofinals of his first college tournament as a freshman. kick more ass homie]