new year thoughts on the 42%

stan vanderbeek, stills from ‘Science Friction’, 1959

being something of a ‘news junky’, i read several journalistic sources daily. though, i should point out, never naively, always with great skepticism. i always keep close to the surface of how i read, pierre bourdieu’s various critiques, such as those in his ‘little books’, as his trenchantly critical book on TV, presented on TV. and his short 2 volumes under the cover of the title: Against the Tyranny of the Market (ATM). these three works are particularly useful when one realizes when they were written: On Television, 1999; ATM vol 1, 1998, and ATM vol 2, 2001.

in the first entry in ATM 1, ‘The Left Hand and the Right Hand of the State’, an interview, Bourdieu is asked:

Q: So if one wants to define an ideal, it would be a return to the sense of the state and of the public good. You don’t share everybody’s opinion on this.

he answers:

PB: Whose opinion is everybody’s opinion? The opinion of people who write in the newspapers, intellectuals who advocate the ‘minimal state’ and who are rather too quick to bury the notion of the public and the public’s interest in the public interest… We see there a typical example of the effect of shared belief which removes from discussion ideas which are perfectly worth discussing. One would need to analyze the work of the ‘new intellectuals’, which has created a climate favorable to the withdrawal of the state and, more broadly, to submission to the values of the economy. I’m thinking of what has been called the ‘return of individualism’, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy which tends to destroy the philosophical foundations of the welfare state and in particular the notion of collective responsibility (toward industrial accidents, sickness or poverty) which has been a fundamental achievement of social… thought. The return to the individual is also what makes it possible to ‘blame the victim’, who is entirely responsible for his or her own misfortune, and to preach the gospel of self-help, all of this being justified by the endlessly repeated need to reduce costs for companies.

On Television, New Press, 1999

it is the view of this writer that individualism is the scourge of all progressivism, and as mentioned below, academia is one of the greatest proponents of that scourge, is a force that relies on journalistic stardom and celebrity, not on, quality of research, writing, exhibitions, or the like. as long as it gets a lot of journalistic attention, then it will pass any academic review. in previous eras, this problem as been called, ‘decadence’, and/or, nihilism.

be that as it may…
in a rare, forceful article in the Nation on 30 November 2016, Bill McKibben, has made a parallel critique, quite powerfully:

referring to, Jonathan Schell’s book, The Unconquerable World, published in 2003, McKibben comments:

in [that book], Jonathan writes, in his distinctive aphoristic style: “Violence is the method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” This brings us, I think, to the crux of our moment.

while McKibben/Schell may be right to a degree, it seems to me problematic just how many of the ‘active many’ are driven by the very kind of ‘individualism’ Bourdieu laments, when they are not on the activist battlefield, when they revert and tend to succumb to the systems of individualism.

to not succumb in that way, requires a high order of commitment and sacrifice few can, or, are able to live up to. and mostly for completely understandable reasons. those who are able to, as those at Standing Rock, are able because they are already completely disenfranchised, oppressed, othered so completely that they have no stake in the systems of ‘individualism’ that the native americans, in this case, have abandoned, and replaced with their own cultural systems opposed to individualism.

thus, what McKibben/Schell have overlooked with their on the surface, trenchant aphorism, is the large percentage of what might be called, ‘passivist-activists’. i put it that way to challenge the view that those who don’t participate, in protests or through voting, are necessarily ‘passive’, or, ‘apathetic’. a large percentage of the whopping 42% who don’t vote, for example, don’t for perfectly good reasons, most of them from the black ‘community’. their non-participation, is, i suspect in the majority of cases, no different that the strategies of a union strike, or, a boycott. it’s non-participation as a conscious, activist, political choice/act.

so if there is ‘organization’ to be done, then it would be particularly powerful to get these 42% ‘on board’ in some way, that doesn’t mean getting them to turn out for protests, or to donate to sanders’ ‘our revolution.’ it would mean, wouldn’t it?, acknowledging their acts of resistance and protest, and joining them. why wouldn’t any serious group resistant to the status quo join the vast majority?



new year thoughts on the 42%

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