Posts Tagged ‘critical theory’

Creative Class Selfie

July 10, 2015

Air cartoon: Mr. and Mrs. Rhino taking a selfie with a selfie stick, one that their grandchildren that will not be will never see.

In the mail the other day came the Yale Literature Catalog of publications. There, on the second to the last page under the heading of general interest “new”, was a book we all have been anticipating, needing to see in print. “Culture Crash: the killing of the creative class” by Scott Timberg recounts “A near perfect storm of change has put countless artists, writers, dancers, and musicians out of work.” For Timberg the creative class is not just the professionals – the architects, musicians, graphic designers, photographers, writers, moviemakers, etc. – but also the demos of de facto curators and savants who owned and clerked bookstores, record shops, print media, etc. Timberg finds culture to be created by “the creative class’ which includes everyone associated in any way with art related endeavors – no matter at what phase of its production/reception. He writes “The arts – and indeed narrative of all kinds – can capture a time, a place, and a culture, and reflect something of the inner and outer lives of its people. “But the tale of our times,” Jaime O’Neill wrote in his piece on the silence of the new depression, “is mostly being told by our unwillingness to tell it.” (pg. 22) Timberg introduces O’Neill’s piece on pg. 17 with “Many of us, said Jaime O’Neill, a writer in northern California, are living in a depression. “It’s hard to make the word stick, however, because we haven’t developed the iconography yet.” He wrote in an essay that asked, “Where’s today’s Dorothea Lange?””

But it’s no surprise Dorothea Lange is not to be found. If you argue, as Timberg does, that the perfect storm of technology, corporate capitalism, and an economy of deliberate income inequality is driving the creative class to extinction, then Dorothea Lange also will be located on the endangered species list and just might not be around to create the needed iconography. And for whom?

Advertisements

The Education Of The Immigrant

January 25, 2014

“Instead, then, of saying either that we tell beginners what words mean, or that we teach them what objects are, I will say: We initiate them, into the relevant forms of life held in language and gathered around the objects and persons of our world. For that to be possible, we must make ourselves exemplary and take responsibility for that assumption of authority; and the initiate must be able to follow us, in however rudimentary a way, naturally (look where our finger points, laugh at what we laugh at, comfort what we comfort, notice what we notice, find alike or remarkable or ordinary what we find alike or remarkable or ordinary, feel pain at what we feel pain at, enjoy the weather or the notion we enjoy, make the sounds we make); and he must want to follow us (care about our approval, like a smile better than a frown, a croon better than a croak, a pat better than a slap). “Teaching” here would mean something like “showing them what we say and do”, and “accepting what they say and do as what we say and do”, etc.; and this will be more than we know, or can say.” (The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy by Stanley Cavell, 1979 Pg. 178)

In his more recent publication (Philosophy The Day After Tomorrow 2005) Cavell begins the like named chapter with
“Such has been my somewhat strained way within the institution of philosophy in our America that I perpetually feel the need to introduce myself intellectually, that is, to provide some sense of the way moments of my work are meant to lead to one another. Call this need my identification with the stranger, even, as Emerson almost says, with the immigrant.” (pg. 111)

Although written at different times, to address different concerns within different contexts, the two quotes are challenging to reconcile. Indeed, the first quote addresses the education of a child, the origins of the extension of language and learning. The second speaks feelings, those of an accomplished philosopher. The first quote could likewise be considered as an accounting of the origin of tribes, of national identity, of the mystery of culture, with its borders, porosity and evolution. The second evokes folks like Said, Auerbach, and Adorno’s “it is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.” (the stranger or immigrant has a home and is at home, where?) Yet Cavell often references Wittgenstein in terms of philosophy being the education of grownups (soon after our second quote he writes “One of my early characterizations of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations was as a work of instruction. Initially I meant this to emphasize the role of the child in that work, a figure one does not expect to encounter in a major philosophical treatise, let alone in a principal role. Somewhat later I turned the emphasis differently, speaking of philosophy as conceived in Philosophical Investigations as “an education for grownups.”” Pg. 111-112). To a certain extent, and understood generously (based on his reading of Wittgenstein) this “education” of grownups differs not much from that of the child assumed within the first quote. Eventually, the educated must choose to be off on their own, hopefully (for Cavell) in the spirit of Emerson’s Self Reliance. All this begs the question as to the education of the immigrant.

It is all fine and good to say one “identifies” with the immigrant, all while not actually “being” the immigrant, in background, upbringing or survival. The first quote relies on a one to one relationship – teacher/student, mentor/ward, master/apprentice. One could almost say lover/loved as later in Philosophy The Day After Tomorrow he writes “If morals of silence in teaching may be drawn to the effect that the pupil must want to go on alone in taking language to the world, and that what is said must be worth saying, have a point (warning, informing, amusing, promising, questioning, chastising, counting, insisting, beseeching, specifying the location of pain, and so on), then is there some question left as to whether the pupil has to find warning, informing, amusing, promising, counting, beseeching, chastising, and so on themselves to be worth doing?” (Pg. 115). This account assumes the terms of sharing, support, accommodation and endearment that often accompany that of the lover and the beloved. Yet the immigrant mostly finds herself in not exactly that kind of environs. The one to one relationship (with its loyalty and commitment) is for the most part absent, difficult to establish. The “showing them what we say and do” can come from multiple, unrelated origins while a non-existence or direct opposition to “accepting what they say and do as what we say and do” may be the popular cultural response. The immigrant learns by the seat of his pants. Her education comes continuously from disparate sources – others like her, translation of quirky language/cultural differences/similarities, memories or nostalgia stained with the unpronounced certainty that THAT will never be again, keenly lived survival motivations, etc. There is no respite. That is the greatest difference between the education of the immigrant from that of the child/student Cavell recounts from Wittgenstein. There is no point at which “the pupil must want to go on alone” as that is the immigrant’s point of origin, a point from which there is no going back.

It Makes One Think

November 17, 2013

Much to be recommended piece of writing by Peter Uwe Hohendahl entitled Progress Revisited: Adorno’s Dialogue with Augustine, Kant, and Benjamin that appears in the Autumn 2013 Critical Inquiry. The Noose That Is Knot may possess some rudimentary passing knowledge of sorts but can claim no expertise on any of these folks. The essay is incredibly well written and clear given the obvious complexity of the matter (that Adorno could author one outlook and an exception to this outlook less than 20 years later). The substance of the inquiry makes for its relevance to current time. With the 1944 Dialectic of Enlightenment came the possibility that the Enlightenment may have primarily been in the best interest of specific constitutionalities of the west. That it definitely was not in the best interest of human progress or a future to be anticipated by humankind. Later, in a 1962 essay entitled Progress, Adorno appears to take exception with that position.

Warhol’s “Good business is good art”, Madonna’s Material Girl, and Baudrillard have left us with pretty much a surface, if not a screen, as being all there is. “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.” (well, who else? Andy Warhol) Hohendahl suggests otherwise, not so much behind as beside. His interpretation of Adorno’s later essay is intriguing for contemporary raison d’etre. Jamie Dimon may rationalize for what is best for the country, the global economy, and even better for J.P. Morgan Chase in his private meetings with Eric Holder. It is always difficult to accept a separate justification for behavior or activity, a kind of exceptionalism. In a very oblique way, that is what Adorno proposes. Although not beside, he sets aside Benjamin’s recoiling horrified angel of history as well as Hegel’s (and Marx) “progression” of history. This questioning of universal history allows for the equal interrogation of what is best for man, mankind and the future. Enter Augustine and Kant with “best” (or the good) involving something besides reason (and scientific material progression). For Adorno, it is what contributes to the emancipation of the individual, all individuals; what produces and cultivates individual freedom. It is absolutely fascinating how this then opens the door for questions posed by Occupy, those concerned with global warming and the environment, GMO’s and sustainable living. Sustainable living would be the touchstone for this “other” interpretation of “progress”. Such an outlook then creates the veritable double speak that resistance to a materially or scientifically envisioned future (as progress) may be the only real progress. That resistance is the only hope for the future. It makes one think.

Time For An Updated Caberet Revival

October 17, 2013

I am reluctant since I write stream of consciousness, and some folks read as though it is a directive. I hope you aren’t in the latter frame of mind. Recent events have triggered correlations with my research/study. I guess 10 years ago everyone was all in a tizzy over “connecting the dots”. Since then we’ve taken up twitter and twerking, and left the children’s coloring book puzzles for the unsophisticated and immature thinkers amongst us. The school district here is running a final drive to renew an existing ongoing levy that funds the school. That levy has failed repeatedly in the past. Inside knowledge is that tea party activists, opposed to taxation carte blanche, have been very active with regards to their success at creating failure. My neighbors, in the compound down the road, have stopped in to educate me after I put up a pro levy sign the last election go round. The local paper ran articles on how the levy is a last resort. Cuts, etc. have already been made. The state is threatening to take over. The district has shown incredible, excellent results compared to 20 years ago when it was considered an educational doormat. Etc. Yet these folks claim “We’re broke. Vote no”. The paper ran a disappointing article trying to interview the opponents and get their side. Turns out they couldn’t track anyone down that lived in the district amongst the organizers. Of the people who are involved in the organization that actually live in the district, they refused to name them (though all the levy proponents always provide their names). Etc. That same day Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee led the rambunctious rally at the WWII Memorial. There is a correlation between these events (Palin’s group, opposition to the school levy), the default crisis, and the brown shirts in Europe during the 1930’s. It is very complicated.

We have been actively engaged with a war on terror for the last 20 years. Historians and students of culture will affirm that wars of such duration tend to insinuate themselves on the people of the various cultures involved, morphing them into one, so to say. The crossover and intermingling of things like diet, fashion, or music/literature/art are easy to identify. Not so easy to identify is the subtle change in outlook/approach to political process. The plethora of suicide jihadism may, in a way, have rubbed off on how we conduct our own approach to solving our problems, especially when our own belief in righteousness finds itself in the minority (which is the situation the tea baggers find themselves in). So, like the thugs of the thirties, we create a problem, blame the opposition, the “other”, the despised for the problem, and then turn around and aggrandize our ability to solve the problem, to be the solution. Exactly what Cruz, Lee, et al did in Washington. It isn’t that such folks aren’t true to their stated convictions (to make a smaller government, if not eliminate it altogether). Rather, it is this strategy of destroy it, claim the destruction on the “other” and then legislate, or bloviate, or announce, promulgate that your approach is the solution, etc. (after the destruction has been perpetrated). This is precisely what the brown shirts did covertly as well as in an outright violent manner, for primarily racial reasons. But many would say the opposition to anything Obama is likewise racially motivated. My local school levy renewal opponents embrace the same modus operandi. Alan Dershowitz just blasted his (ostensibly) best student (Ted Cruz), claiming his approach to be not exactly what the founding fathers had in mind (of the senator perverting the constitutional framework established specifically to reassure regarding the good faith and credit of the US government; using it as a means of achieving partisan political ends, rather than what the framers intended – guaranteeing the good faith and credit of the nation as a whole). The latest manifestation of this noxious growth is from the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Reuters reports (10-16-13) that the VW corporation wants UAW representation at the plant (management wants the workers organized). Once achieved, VW plans on adding another vehicle manufacturing line. The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, from out of state, are pouring in money and have filed a law suit on behalf of 4 plant employees to disallow this; in essence to shut down the anticipated growth, if not the facility altogether (one senses a genuine, hand crafted Koch wallet opening here). Our Supreme Court is likewise entertaining the same twisted logic in the recent McCutcheon vs. FEC case brought by the same folks who produced Citizens United. It is to guarantee unlimited individual contributions AND no regulation, oversight or transparency. The logic is based on Supreme Court precedent that those exercising first amendment rights (like the 1950’s civil rights activists) not be subject to regulation, disclosure and transparency in order to protect them from intimidation and reprisal. Today the argument is, after Citizens United, that if spending money is free speech, those doing so should likewise be protected from intimidation and reprisal. It is just a skip and a hop to realize that the disposition, strategy and tactics of the brown shirts lies waiting to expand, completely nascent. It is part of capitalism to rely on “crisis” for the sake of profit (created or otherwise). Without crisis, things become a bit too ho hum, efficient, and the opportunities for “growth” are limited to ones that are real or genuinely new. Tear up the trolley tracks, get rid of the busses and people will buy GM cars to get to work. There’s a brown shirt outlook that has crept into our culture. Social scientists wouldn’t be surprised provided the prevalence of bullying in its unseen underbelly. But this is now bullying which threatens to bring us all down, to damage everyone, those involved as well as those innocent and oblivious – all like the daily news of jihadist suicide bombers to which we, as a people, have become completely inured.

All Too Human

August 29, 2013

USAToday ran an article on 8-29-13 entitled “Chimps battle to be top banana in art contest”. The Humane Society of the United States sponsored a painting competition to benefit the various primate sanctuaries in the US. The artist entrants were the resident chimps, who painted utilizing techniques employed historically (at one time or another) by their more evolved peers (with their hair, tongue, eating the paint, etc.). Jane Goodall (a non artist herself but considered an “artist” authority) judged the entries. The Humane Society (accomplished “artist” administrators) curated the show. The various sanctuaries consumed the award prizes.

“he [Pierre Bourdieu] defines the field of cultural production as an arena centrally and invariably organized by dominant forms, run “by possession of a determinate quantity of specific capital (recognition) and, at the same time, by occupation of a determinate position in the structure of the distribution of this specific capital.”…Every individual instance is “a manifestation of the field as a whole, in which all the powers of the field, and all the determinisms inherent in its structure and functioning, are concentrated.”” (Wai Chee Dimock, Weak Theory: Henry James, Colm Toibin, and W.B. Yeats, Critical Theory Summer 2013 pg. 734)

Award Winning Painting
Cheetah’s award-winning painting. / Humane Society of the United States

Life Is Short

August 26, 2013

Life is short, so one should enjoy it. Life is short, so one should find meaning in it. These two admonitions create a certain tension. Much continental philosophy and aesthetic theory reflects this tension within their discourse. Enjoyment seems to be not enough for a satisfying aesthetic experience. Meaning, as the basis of action and philosophy, elides the mundane, the everyday, the material.

Karl Marx was born in 1818; Ralph Waldo Emerson 15 years earlier. Emerson died in 1882; Marx a year later (roughly as contemporary as Mick Jagger and Jon Bon Jovi). Charles Darwin was a fellow rock star (1809-1882). Both Marx and Emerson were influenced by Hegel and his writings, philosophy and approach. It is hard to believe that Darwin did not know of Hegel. Volumes have been written on these contemporaries. Nothing new here. Suffice to say Emerson evolved Hegel different than Marx. Marx threw out the “spirit” aspect of meaning and replaced it by what makes for meaning within the capitalist status quo of the time – material. Emerson, perhaps much more cognizant of actual human bondage (than Marx) because of his everyday experience of living in a land where humans were considered material within the capitalist status quo (could be bought, sold and treated legally as property), focused on the “spirit” aspect, but without necessarily discarding the material. We all think we know what is attributed to Marx re: religion, but no memory permeates today of Emerson’s disposition to material, what makes for physical experience.

Capitalism’s emphasis on the material as fundamental to value (and meaning) differs little from Marx’s emphasis on the material as fundamental to value and meaning. The how’s and the why’s may differ but the material as foundational does not. Materialism determines value and meaning with either. In that they are brothers. Within continental philosophy this fraternal relationship seems to surface and reify with the thought and production of Guy DeBord and his Society of the Spectacle. The ultimate evolution of this affinity of meaning and value is found with Baudrillard’s writing on our culture, and simulacra (with regard to the values and meaning of materialism expressed as such). Emerson finds meaning and value with what is not tangible. Within his writing he advocates that what is not tangible has a bearing on the conduct of life and the determination of meaning. Early within his essay “The Poet” he writes “The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.” (again the Hegelian influence?). From DeBord and Baudrillard we associate expression today with material – material presence and the material being that accompanies “having”. Even the meaning and value of words and language changes within the hegemony of materialism. Emerson is also known for having been a poet, part of his appreciation and valorization of language (in a Marxist sense?). Language as material, maybe not, but as a material (sensual) experience, for sure, for sure. And therein lies the separation from the tension of continental philosophy, of meaning and enjoyment. For Emerson, to enjoy produces meaning. Within the materialist disposition (capitalist or socialist), the meaning that is material (that material “is”) does not necessarily correlate with or produce enjoyment (Jay Leno may have a lot of “stuff”, but is that what brings joy to his life?). Life is short. One should enjoy it as that is the only way to find meaning within the short span. But what brings joy? For Emerson, this was a (and “the”) philosophic question, something to be considered critically. It would be presumptuous (and flippant) to give the knee jerk answer as a distraction, past time, religious conviction or addiction. Joy for Emerson isn’t automatic, predetermined or guaranteed, but rather involves the half of a person that is not “his expression.”

Racism

May 5, 2013

In his complex analysis of Colonialism, Albert Memmi recognizes a final stage of colonialism where the colonized shed the colonizer, primarily categorically through a process of resistance, revolt and reclamation. Although a fundamental establishing principle of colonization, racism inevitably (and inescapably) manifests itself within the colonized themselves at this later stage. As Memmi writes “Considered en bloc as them, they or those, different from every point of view, homogenous in a radical heterogeneity, the colonized reacts by rejecting all the colonizers en bloc.” Ending the paragraph with “If xenophobia and racism consist of accusing an entire human group as a whole, condemning each individual of that group, seeing in him an irremediably noxious nature, then the colonized has, indeed, become a xenophobe and a racist.” Memmi extends his thought with a definition of racism itself: “All racism and all xenophobia consist of delusions about oneself, including absurd and unjust aggressions toward others.” (The colonizer and the colonized, 1957 pg. 130)

Albert Memmi was a philosopher and contemporary of Camus, Sartre, Arendt, etc. Coming from a man who himself was “the colonized”, this is a very curious appraisal of what racism is. During this same time, within the US, racism was primarily defined by the color of skin and the purity of blood. This outlook was based on contemporary “scientism”, reasoning associated with polio vaccines, atomic bombs and evolution theory. Memmi’s definition makes no mention of that. Ranciere’s political interpretation stretches the practice outside the one embraced by scientism (or religion) and establishes it within the distribution of sense — racism being just another of the ways that “the police” maintain this sensibility, part of their arsenal. This “exclusionary” methodology (without being specifically named as such) appears to be pretty much the present day rendition of racism, invoked whenever exclusionary practice is uncovered and highlighted (given a name). But Memmi’s insight is much more active than Ranciere’s passive, after the fact definition. Ranciere’s approach is almost like Aquinas’s definition of evil as the absence of good (where good is what is considered to be real). Ranciere’s political expression of racism would find itself a posteriori the experience of colonialism rather than a priori its establishment. Once “an entire human group” becomes part of the distribution of sense, it would appear that racism is not for Ranciere’s political aesthetic. But Memmi, as a colonized who needed to reconcile himself to a very active and real injustice, resists theory with the realization that humans experience delusions, and act on them, often forcefully. This interpretation opens tangible possibilities for change within the highly polarized politics currently growing evermore so in the US. Descriptions of many of the current polarizations regarding wealth inequality, gun issues, immigration, and health care parallel being “Considered en bloc as them, they or those”. Ranciere’s interpretation leads to the inevitable possibility of wholesale, mass societal delusion; something in itself embodying the definition of racism. Memmi offers a way out by giving us the opportunity to initiate our own complicity (“about oneself”), giving each of us individually the ability to resist, revolt and reclaim a non-delusional engagement.

Colonialism

April 21, 2013

Whatever became of colonialism? What is colonialism? How does one set it up, run it? Is there a business “how to” manual for doing that? Dutifully, a library search found me busily inquiring. Just “colonialism” was met with “see colonies, subdivision colonies under names of countries” and “see imperialism, subdivision foreign relations under names of countries” and “see world politics”. Well colonies gave scads about everything from the early American colonial diet to life in the Indian sub-continent under the British. “Economic colonialism”, “contemporary colonialism” and “present day colonialism” yielded nothing; likewise “theory of colonialism” which found itself wedged between “Theory of Collective Behavior” and “Theory of Constraint Management”. No texts on the business economics of colonialism, its strategy, marketing or management! “Neocolonialism” revealed some disparate titles (NAFTA & Neocolonialism) while “Post colonialism” revealed a plethora of works. Alas, they all implicate an end to the colonial (hence “post” colonial). I was interested in how colonialism had reinvented itself within the 21st century. “Urban colonialism” and “city colonialism” fared no better.

The entire search reminded me of youthful days, on a philosophic lark, trying to “uncover” texts with directives on Witchcraft. Plato and his ilk are just full of one vast exegesis on “the good”, but not much on what is not. Balance was found lacking in my search. Like colonialism, many accounts of the experience of witchcraft, in different countries, and history, but no theory, no directives, no “how to” manuals. I began to sense that colonialism, as part of Ron’s sinister “Evil Empire”, may just still be lurking out there, and very active. Only today it has been rebranded under a different guise. How many companies and products have done just that over the years? Why not colonialism?

Going through back channels, subjects associated today with colonialism (like human trafficking), I stumbled on some works. One very curious one, Prospero and Caliban (1950) is an exposé of the psychology at work with colonialism — Hegel reconstituted through a Freudian/Jungian blender. The book’s perspective has an almost Tea Party logic to it– colonialism works just fine, it is that damn human nature which causes the project to ultimately go awry; so let’s look at the human errors in hopes of getting it back on track. The other, a rough contemporary, was one that I had missed when reading the likes of Fannon’s Wretched of the Earth or Said’s Orientalism – The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi (1957). It even has an intro by J. P. Sartre himself! Memmi writes: “I have been criticized for not having constructed my portraits entirely around an economic structure, but I feel I have repeated often enough that the idea of privilege is at the heart of the colonial relationship — and that privilege is undoubtedly economic. [I know the feeling, babe] Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm my position: for me the economic aspect is fundamental.” (Preface, page xii) Sartre’s contribution in the Introduction (page xxiii) further fleshes this out by humanizing it (or rather de-humanizing it): “In fact, racism is built into the system: the colony sells produce and raw materials cheaply, and purchases manufactured goods at very high prices from the mother country. This singular trade is profitable to both parties only if the native works for little or nothing.” If after Bhopal, Union Carbide could quietly redefine itself as a wholly owned subsidiary of the ever respectable Dow Chemical (now engaged to Monsanto, see the society page announcement “Monsanto And Dow Cross-License Biotech Corn Traits” AP, 4-11-13) thus legally absolving itself from responsibility for the devastation wrought, then it is apparent what became of colonialism after the curtain of Post colonialism came down, ostensibly ending the show.

Climate Change Problem/Solving Aesthetics or How I’m Tired of Having This Machine Determine How I Think

January 6, 2013

Part 1
The January 4, 2013 Moyers & Company found Bill’s guest to be Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. This appearance was remarkable in that he wasn’t on because of some book he was promoting, or some enterprise or past accomplishment/experience. His reason for being there was totally performative, in the language of today’s aesthetic. The only clue as to how and why he ended up on the show was his résumé position. It was practically a monologue on Climate Change, with Bill asking a few incidental questions as devil’s advocate, etc. From the transcript:
“BILL MOYERS: What you’re saying is that a big powerful industry controls or affects the outcomes of perception in this country disproportionately to what most people think?
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: That’s right. And in part they’re able to do that because this issue is a low level issue, because we don’t talk about it and because there is no what we call issue public on the other side.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Okay, so an issue public is basically an organized social movement that demands change, okay. And we’re very familiar with this term. It’s the pro or anti-immigration movement or the pro-gun control or the anti-gun control movement–
BILL MOYERS: The Civil Rights movement–
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: The Civil Rights movement.
BILL MOYERS: –the Suffragette movement, women’s rights, you’ve got to be organized.
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Absolutely. You’ve got to be organized. And what we see, remember that 16 percent I identified as the alarmed? Again people who are very concerned and think this is an urgent problem, but they feel relatively isolated and alone. They say, “I feel this way, some of my friends and family feel this strongly.” But they have no sense that they’re part of over 40 million Americans that feel just as strongly as they do.
They’ve never been properly organized, mobilized and directed to demand change. And I mean, that’s what the political system ultimately responds to. If you basically have a vacuum of people who are demanding change, and I don’t mean that truly. I mean, there are of course many great organizations that have been advocating for change for a long time. But it hasn’t been a broad based citizens movement demanding change. In that situation a relatively small but well-funded and vocal community that says no can absolutely win the day.”

From the entirety of Anthony’s Leiserowitz’s performative address, particularly the line “They’ve never been properly organized, mobilized and directed to demand change.” It’s clear that Leiserowitz imagines organization pretty much in a top down, vertical manner (who is the “they”? and why are they “they”, and not “we” or us?). What just took place this past week end in Steubenville Ohio does not enter into his imaginary (yet the “issue public” actually appeared, almost spontaneously). On the one hand, he articulates, quite eloquently, a very reasoned and nuanced approach to communicating solutions to what appears inevitable (Climate Change). On the other, he relies on the mechanism and methodology that propels and fuels this inevitable nastiness to solve it. Obviously, when it comes to the social/cultural aspect, Leiserowitz lacks imagination much as some of his groupings of people do with regard the consequences of Global Warming. Once again we find an appeal for leadership resulting in an eventual appeal for followers. All this has not been working. How can I say this? The census bureau reported in 2012 that approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 18 (the voting age) have a Bachelor’s degree. The colleges awarding this degree all pride themselves on forming and producing “leaders”. So we have a bunch of leaders out there organizing on the basis of finding followers, but not considering themselves to be one of them? That doesn’t work. “Some Occupy members suggest that the movement is not so much leaderless as leaderful— that everyone in the Occupy movement is a leader. That’s a charming move, but the essential point of course is that there is a horizontal, nonhierarchical, and rhizomic quality to the leadership rather than a vertical hierarchy, a party vanguard, or elected or self-proclaimed leaders.” (Political Disobedience by Bernard. E. Harcourt, Critical Inquiry Vol. 39, No. 1, pg. 38) Steubenville was not an anomaly.

Part 2
“If in “painting like a camera” Richter attempts to render the author-function passive – “letting a thing come,” as he put it, “rather than creating it” – the effect, present in Atlas snapshots and the large, mechanically generated abstractions, is intensified in the overpaintings, articulating an ethos of production fundamental to the critical value of Richter’s greater body of work. Here photography, as avatar of the unforeseen outcome, is a radical palimpsest for the artist as a producer outside both ratiocination and imagination, a model for critical art production in its mechanicity, its contingency, and its other-determination. By Richter’s own estimation, “I’m often astonished to find out how much better chance is than I am.” (As Photography: Mechanicity, Contingency, and Other-Determination in Gerhard Richter’s Overpainted Snapshots by Susan Laxton, Critical Inquiry Vol. 38, No. 4, pg. 795). Maybe it’s time to question the actual value (critical or otherwise) of “the artist as a producer outside both ratiocination and imagination”, as a “model for critical art production”. Picasso used to boast of how he and Braque had created camouflage, eventually used by most armies (and now by a lot of fashion). Art, within culture, was not only a determinant and creator of culture but also of political economy. The Suffragette Movement (Feminist), Civil Rights, Chavez’ Farm Workers movement, Black Power and much of the other social organized change referenced by Moyers and Leiserowitz had artists as a major contributor of the movement’s created imaginary (without which the morning after would not have been possible). The artist functioned as a producer within both the ratiocination and imagination of the actual culture and political economy of which she/he was a part, a member. Post Modernism claims that Art has reached its end, no longer functioning within such a role, now independent of its ties to shared ”reality”. Recognizing that machines are creations that in turn also create, artists as diverse as James Brown, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter (with his machine process of “painting like a camera”) have decided to emulate this mode of creativity. It sells. Considering what Anthony Leiserowitz has to say, one wonders about the value and benefit of being “astonished to find out how much better chance is than I am”. I don’t believe this is the time for “letting a thing come”, “rather than creating it”.

The Deer Hunter

November 25, 2012

Tomorrow is the start of deer gun hunting here in Ohio. Killing deer by other means has been taking place for some time.

Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies, an essay by Susan Fraiman, appears in the recent Critical Inquiry (Vol. 39, no. 1). In addition to an introduction to a history of ecofeminism, she ranges part of the spectrum of what makes for knowing- both the cerebral (theoretical) as well as the tactile (emotional) depictions. Within this history, there is another spectrum that ranges between the contributions of Carol Adams and Donna Haraway.  Adams’ “I do not value animals because women are somehow ‘closer’ to them, but because we experience interdependent oppressions.” (pg. 111) results in her commitment to veganism. Haraway’s approach differs, as Fraiman puts it: “All of which is to say that, while for Adams, no one should be considered meat, one lesson to be drawn from Haraway’s story is that we are all somebody’s meat – even before we are food for worms.” On a totally different spectrum we find Bill Moyers’ guest from the Nov. 23 airing. Karl Malantes is the author of What It’s Like to Go to War. He speaks of our culture and how we are taught the golden rule not to kill others from an early age but some of us are then trained to do exactly that as soldiers. He also talked about killing. What he spoke of was not pretty, and yet he was quite clear that we are all implicated in it, only the soldier pulls the trigger at the end. For doing what his country asked, being a soldier, being the one who pulled the trigger for the rest of us, Karl bears some pretty heavy scars. In another part of the same Critical Inquiry appears an essay entitled The Audio Unconscious: Media and Trauma in the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies by Amit Pinchevski. Pinchevski links today’s “trauma” (whatever meaning is ascribed to that word) with the development of technology which could only make such an understanding possible. A video documentation performs an event as opposed to a written literary narrative that relies on a timeline structure (this comes before that). A video can be replayed incessantly (at different speeds, stop action or even in reverse) while the literary narrative always lapses into the same structure when repeated. One outcome is our ability to sling the word “trauma” around relying on meanings more described by video than represented by the written word. Malantes is haunted by trauma (PTSD), though other generations of combat survivors suffered it under different descriptions. He confirms Pinchevski by mentioning the devastating effects of second generation trauma (like second hand smoke) on those absent from the initial events. Fraiman states that both Adams and Haraway were initially incentivized in their studies by early “traumas” involving animals. Marlantes even goes on by saying that making the opposition (the enemy) out to be animals, a sub species, anaesthetizes the activity of killing others, makes it doable by those brought up to consider it an abomination. In this he parallels the ecofeminist affinity with animals on the basis of their relegation to a (sub) species that allows for interaction unacceptable within the patriarchal Law (but deemed appropriate in relation to an “other”). All these cerebral savants enter into a discourse founded on the unseen shadow aspect of being human (as described by Marlantes), of killing (and eating). One wonders what psychic scenario crosses their mind as they go grocery shopping. Adams must close her eyes as she passes the repugnant fast food eateries hawking burgers, steak fajitas and roast beef sandwiches on her way to the whole food grocery store. Haraway probably muses over the Eat More Chikin commercials as she drives down the strip. Pinchevski (like Derrida) finds shame creeping in as he drives by; unable to forget what he “knows” goes on behind the façade (by being required to remember). Zizek links fundamentalism with an unshakeable belief in what one knows through revelation but this is a knowledge based totally on required memory (“You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss…”). Why else would the Yale University Libraries Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies be in existence if not to always repeat the performance of memory? And Marlantes? Maybe he stops in for a bite. And once at the grocery, with its long aisles of displayed meats, frozen meats, processed meats, etc. well, I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagining.

This week’s deer hunt is not a ritual, nor some religious ceremony. It certainly isn’t about putting meat on the table (the BS a lot of hunters will spread as if justifying themselves in court). No, it is about something undefinable, whether by archive video, Michael Moore film, cell phone digital imaging or literary narrative; something foundational to us all that must remain discrete if we are to function socially. Lacan says the Real always returns to the same place. Maybe, just maybe, the return of the yearly deer hunt creates discomfort by annually informing us about the nature of “trauma” and utopias (including the utopia of nature) more than anything we’d care to know in a cerebral or tactile manner.