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Re: <nettime> Return of the F-scale
Brian Holmes on Mon, 29 Feb 2016 11:22:37 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Return of the F-scale



This is so true, so goddamned true, Brian.

Geert, I think you have to begin with the idea that societies across
the world are gripped by the Big Fear. It came in a lot of ways,
the economic crash, the realization of accelerating climate change,
Fukushima, Greece, the failed revolutions in North Africa and the
Middle East, ISIS, the refugees... The sense of an unraveling is
everywhere and the old moves of "surf the chaos" or "it's gotta get
worse before it gets better" are out. Latent resistance to social
change is becoming direct hostility to black and female power, sexual
choice, racial plurality and any new rights claims. Gratuitous
transgression throws gasoline on a fire that's already big. It's time
to act but the chosen path matters.

It comes with the question how critical approaches, these days, link
to the world of empirical data. Do we need our own ‘big data’
projects in this respect? Is there enough theory? What would we do
with the empirical evidence today?

I am for more empiricals. The left has no grip on the way the world
works, neither the tonnages on the move, nor the actual software
of coordination, nor the expressed preferences of populations, nor
the use value that a belief system, even the worst one, can have
for a human being. I am for historical studies of major crises that
extrapolate to the present. I am for the expression of these things
in plain English, franc parler, Klartext. Merijn is right about that.
I am also for mathematics, code and twelve-syllable words when you
vitally need them. Big data is vital - but it encourages the desire
and the illusion of control.

Gathering data, and analyzing them is one, but what would be our
diagnosis? Apart from immediate political action, would that also
include therapy for the masses, as was suggested by many, from
Reich to Lloyd de Maus and Theweleit? Is sexual repression also
the main frame in this era? What is a non-fascist life these days?
I am referring here to the debates from the late 1970s (?) that
distinguished between anti-fascist action and non-fascist strategies
aka life styles (Foucault had some valuable contributions here).

The danger I see on the street is that under stress, people who
were centrist can tilt authoritarian, amid a vacuum that emerged
over decades, while both the Old and New Lefts were absorbed into
the state, the corporations, finance and the universities. The
authoritarian turn happened in the Thirties and the Forties when
Reich started out, and by the time you get to Foucault, generations
had built practices against it. Psychologists and their radical,
non-laboratory experiments were important, I agree. There are things
to learn from them, especially from the years of work, the courage,
the suppler equivalents of, or better, replacements for discipline.
But now is a fresh historical crisis and the late, developed, mature
intellectual and aristic responses to the former one are not gonna cut
it. In the Western culture sphere, authoritarianism always involves
a fear of women's independence and of other colors of skin, other
desires and symbolic worlds. Sex is an issue for sure - tell anyone
who's been gender-bashed it isn't - but the autonomy of those who were
formerly subordinated is an even bigger one, and they all converge.
It's time to stand with the oppressed, listen to the indigenous
people, let the women speak, and you can mix those positions around,
queer it. But its also time to learn to speak in your own voice
about the real dangers of the present and how to build a new balance
that's somehow gonna work for societies where everyone will never
agree. Liberalism, even the neo kind, thinks you can destroy both
solidarities and ecologies with capital injections, and then repair it
a little with the surplus. That's the TPP, carbon trading, the Iraq
invasion. It's not working. It's proving suicidal. But they have all
the expertise. And now another faction craves the authority.

You know, by simple math of wealth and access, I'm of the privileged.
But I'm frankly afraid of the liberal future which is becoming equal
to the authoritarian one. Intellectuals should help imagine, plan,
test and build a different present, on all levels from technics to
ethics to affects and back again. It takes some theory and a whole lot
more.

Those are my thoughts,

Best to you, and thanks also to Prem for writing from India, Brian



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