November 28, 2011

An Idiot's Tale

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

What is Left for the Marxists?

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
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:

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. 

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.