Monday, October 31, 2011

Conversation II and the representational content of "99%"

I had another excellent conversation today, this time with some men I met in Dunkin Doughnuts. They were each commenting on the economy, on its causes and on our general lack of understanding of esoteric content of politics. For the sake of those in need of an image, these were two older black gentlemen, one with a slight African or Carribean accent. Just before I had been spending time with a friend, talking about certain things while remaining silent about others, it was a consistent sort of speaking. When he left, I sat in Dunkin Doughnuts nursing a coffee until my 8:30 train came, next to these two men.

One was quite astute about absent average understanding of tax laws. He laid out a clear set of ideas surrounding the tax laws. His thought was that we take necessary loans, the FED sets interest rates and the government and banks collude to produce a surplus. 'There is never not enough money, have you seen those sheets of money coming out one on another, they can just print it.' There is a direct materialism in this. Money is an actual object whose representation is modified by its actual circulation; this creates inflation wherein a set of necessarily independent institutions take this real circulation and abstract it into a revised value. The transition between these abstractions actualizes itself as a new relation between money and goods. Given the apparent closeness of goods, especially necessary goods to the West, is consistent with his disregard for 'economics professors...a load of bullshit.'

But soon his conversation diverted; it was not simply the economic situation at hand and its modulations in history, but the Jews that produced this fact, whom for him have a direct coercive relationship with black people. He points to the music industry, to banking, etc. The basic sentiment is true. Banking and business in general have enacted racist, or at best socially indifferent methods--predatory lending, loan offices; and the racism of the music industry and its use of blacks to reproduce American economic principles, trapping artists in crippling contracts and a lack of protection for its cash cows--everyday I miss Sly Stone--equally involves the culpability of the industries.

Nonetheless, I had to intervene, which is rare for me outside classes, given my shyness. I said something like, 'there is nothing Jewish about what you describe, if there are a Jews behind this, they certainly don't do it out of their Jewishness. Blacks should identify with Jews, these are races who have both had repeated violence enacted on their being of some origin, and before that they were not even recognized as humans. And what about Martin Luther King? He was steeped in rabbinical studies.' Then the other man chimed in, 'now you can talk about it being about being everyone's problem, just money, like you're the 99%...' to which I responded, "I have nothing to do with that movement." And immediately the conversation opened up, he spoke of TIFF funds, needing about 10,000 bodies to stop G8, various changes in income laws, Rahm's destructive relations with Unions.

For this reason the 'Occupy' protest methods are implicitly flawed. They produce a transcendental category, the "99%" by which they bestow upon themselves an inhumanity which had previously been forced upon others. There is an appropriation of a visceral and violent experience which most never get, now worn as a badge of pride and moral superiority. However horrific things are in Oakland, its use as material for political transformation is plainly self-contradictory. The violence is very easily taken into a narrative form, identical to media practice. Take for instance the image of the beautiful young woman bruised by whatever object, the 'two tour veteran wounded by the police'. These are methods used by the most base media outlets to coerce viewership and interest, but only in the mode of entertainment. The movement has shown the media savvy of a corporation.

This is in no way a justification of the police behavior in Oakland. Every non-violent political practice has protection from violence Quid Juris. However, the police are an essential function of public life, and the range of their authority is explicit and extensive. While these images of police violence may initiate those who are unaware of its extent and essential force; those who have direct experience of local politics, of discrimination, of the prison system, and of most of all, of police brutality will find it more difficult to experience themselves as part of a 99%.

Heidegger says that a thing or truth is 'unconcealed' as it 'presences' itself; as one intuitively experiences an object, the object autonomously presents an aspect of itself to the subject. The economic reality was unconcealed at a time after it had been machinating below the surface, concealed or appearing only in prophetic flits. It was unconcealed in a natural way, as the abstract concepts of corporations began to fall in on themselves--Enron, the "dot com bubble" among others. But Heidegger also notes that any unconcealing includes a concealing aspect. A way in which some aspect of the thing is hidden, or, worse yet, simulates the appearance of something else. The media conceals extensive economic thought because it is itself corporate, and therefore a large portion of information is effectively hidden. But the "99%" simulates the actuality of our political situation. While the media is the consistency and form of concealed truth, the "99%" is the representational model which acts on this plane, and alters the consistency of the media. The media requires an object to create narrative content; the notion of the "99% "and its implicit problematic, resign its concept to being a simple representation in collusion with corporations, all the while reducing the basic proposition about our political situation. That there is a huge economic disparity between different groups of people in the country is the natural predisposition which justifies the "99%"; but time, history and empirical account demonstrate a much more heterogeneous and singular form of discontent that is outside of our present.

The police first and foremost should be asked to change their tactics, quite simply. The "Occupy" movement has a much more difficult task. How to find a sign immanent to the motivations and histories of the movement; one which opens the movement to more heterogeneous participants as well as acknowledging its own finitude and crisis? How to convert passion and desire into planning and enacting? These are difficult questions that will likely take many more articles to begin to answer, but we all must start if we aren't interested in playing the game that we naturally critique. There is no good protesters and evil police, backed by evil corporations an evil politicians. But instead indifferent subjectively motivated protests related axiomatically to a police presence. The result is dependent on specific factors by which one can assign blame or goodness and badness, to whatever degree they wish. What separates corporations and politicians from the evil, aside from its impossibility, is that American democracy and world capital operate in a corrupt way that is natural to power. Natural corruption is implicit to natural freedom, but we must end our own freedom, ex post facto, the moment at which we realize our own dominance. The end is in simply affirming our right to police politicians so that they may police corporations. We must destroy the stupidity of the media first and foremost so that we no longer sit idly as the problem develops, and can have the foresight to predict the next fall of our economy, be it capitalism or any given name.

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