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Re: <nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation
t byfield on Thu, 5 Jan 2012 19:20:37 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation

jhopkins {AT} neoscenes.net (Wed 01/04/12 at 12:41 PM -0700):

> hei tim --

[Ted, thanks.]

> From what I've looked found, those vets who return to police or
> other public/private sector law enforcement/security-related
> positions are around 1:8. That does not include ones who stay in the
> military as a career move (but have reached their battlefront
> deployment limits). [...] "However, there is concern that regular
> law enforcement academy or in-service training curricula do not
> contain course material specific to the needs of returning combat
> veterans. ... current curricula do not address the heightened
> reactions veteran officers develop in combat to enemy threats and
> how to temper these reactions to appropriate levels in policing
> environments.")

This mostly seems like hand-waving; and, in any case, my $5 says a
nontrivial number of those jobs are for rentacops -- an alienated,
lonely devolution of the figure of the extended-household dogsbody,
and a far cry from the Terminator-vs-DFH visions you painted.

The occupational_therapist posted a thoughtful analysis of direct-
action maneuvering, but your response dragged it in a direction I'd
call 'pessimistic strategery.' If people want to read military field
manuals as you recommended, fine. But, militarist fantasies
notwithsanding, those manuals mainly describe past events rather than
prescribing future ones; as such, the theories and practices they
describe have, yes, social histories (cf., e.g., Michael McClintock's
superb _Instruments of Statecraft_). Personally, I'd much rather
people read (for example) substantive discussions of how the police
are part of the 99%: that's more likely inform how they engage with
thin blue lines -- which, in turn, will inform future generations of
field manuals.

That's in part why I found your dismissal of the Portland posting so
dissatisfying. It accepted, indeed *mongered*, arbitrary distinctions
between 'tactics' and 'strategy' as though they were decisive
ontological categories rather than hapless efforts to structure how we
think about the implications of an event or dynamic. This seems
perverse on several levels.

To my mind, the OWS movement feels in important ways like a late-
medieval pietistic movement, shaded of course by any number of
subsequent 'awakenings.' I very much appreciate sharp analyses like
(shout-out!) Jodi Dean's and Marco DeSeriis's recent critique of the
'demandlessness' of OWS. At the same time, though, I see real virtue
in OWS's emphasis on, to lift a line from Mauss, techniques of the
body -- the ethics of the voice, of the gesture, of the body, all of
which are conceived in communitarian terms. This is a direct and very
viable challenge to the cult of individualism that underwrites so much
neoliberal 'theory.' Lots of OWS is disastrously naive mummery (for
example, the 'building our own infrastructure' nonsense puts a bee up
my butt). But if that mummery staves off predictable organizational
pathologies for a time and, in doing so, allows people to explore and
articulate the ethical potential of a very different conception of
their respective an collective 'selves,' I think that could be very

It's in that sense that the occupational_therapist posting seemed a
bit pretentious. In tone and gist, it was deeply earnest; but it still
suffered from its emphasis on engagements with the police in military
terms. The next step -- which I think has been happening -- is to
develop alternative idioms for describing these engagements, idioms
that carry as much force as militarist descriptions.

> And I'd be mighty careful to connect the terms POW-MIA and lunacy if
> you are actually moving around the US outside of coastal urban
> centers...

You really are drawn to macho fantasies, aren't you? 

> > Remember, the G.I. Bill, which spoke very much to constructive
> > aspirations, was central to America's post-WW2 prosperity. Iraq
> > and
> But that 'prosperity' was constructed primarily on hegemonic,
> militarily-controlled access to a hydrocarbon energy glut, not on
> 'human' resources (well, of course there had to be bodies and other
> resources to take full advantage of the glut -- engineers and M-I-A
> Complex centers like MIT and their training of a whole new cadre of
> Military-Industrial-Academic proles to chart the course of the
> complex through the '50s, '60s, & '70s (and later))...

This is a hopelessly impoverished reduction of the last seventy-odd
years. I appreciate the fury of your criticism of the mil/intel/etc
complex, but when that criticism crowds out every other consideration
it's just an easy negation. If indeed "'human' resources" (as you put
it) are central to your values, I think you'll have to admit that the
last several decades were kind of important... To quote what's got to
be one of the finest footnotes ever, from Klaus Theweleit's _Male 
Fantasies_ (Vol 1, "Biographical Traditions," fn 1, p 444]: "I am not 
about to use literature to make this point. Anyone who is interested 
can discuss it at length with actual women." 

> Returning warriors are as multifaceted as the population, to be
> sure, although you have to acknowledge the 'you-had-to-be-there'
> difference.  Right, I was not addressing the full range of possible
> humans returning from these wars. But there are plenty of historical
> accounts of the patterns of instability that ensue in the social
> system when warriors return from campaigns, and those definitely
> include the 'use' of those veterans in the domination of the
> 'peace-time' social system.

The word "warrior" is getting a bit tired, don't you think? Not that
long ago its use was restricted to historical and anthropological
accounts of distant societies. With good reason: it smacks of caste
and, as such, is antithetical to most 'western' ideological
development of the last few centuries. (Hence the word's atavistic
appeal to -- yes, Mark -- aspirationally *neo-monarchist* social
forces.) But, really, what's your point? Yes, war can distort almost
every aspect of a society, and the process of stepping back from it
can be very complex-as-in-uncertain. But you didn't say that; instead,
you invoked an abysmally negative and very *certain* image of legions
of "battle-hardened" robo-vets crushing "disorganized quasi-squatters." 
And that image seems to be in keeping with your pessimistic account of 
the postwar period outlined above.


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