Posts Tagged ‘Occupy’

Begging For More

February 18, 2013

The Licking County Concerned Citizens for Public Health and Environment held a meeting on February 17, 2013. The 2-18-13 Newark Advocate reported on the meeting and quoted committee member Carol Apacki as saying “We want to raise public awareness on this issue, and people can take that information and do what they want with it.”
How many times have we heard that? Is it doing any good? If not, why not? What alternative approach could there possibly be? Why can’t we imagine it?
We all know (ala knee jerk reaction) that taking “that information and do[ing] what they want with it” can span the spectrum of responses—from creationist fundamentalist religious ones, to economic conservative or liberal ones, from I’m-aware-of-a-lot-of-things-let’s-not-rock-the-boat to radical activism. Providing information for the recipient to “do what they want with it” doesn’t work. It fails because it does not produce the intended response– folks actively engaging in the “cause” to produce the demanded change. Sounds reasonable and liberal enough. I give people a plethora of information. They can’t help but conclude with the hoped for response. And yet repeatedly THAT is not occurring. Why not?
Upton Sinclair writes The Jungle. Readers are outraged that this is what is involved with the food they eat. Because it is not good for the public health and environment there is a demand for change. Change occurs. This is the historic narrative approach. The narration, as all narrations do, follows a this, then this, then this time line model. Repeating the narration repeats the time line model. The historic approach (implicated by a time line) leads through the present into the inevitability of the future. Being inevitable creates some urgency—resist (facilitate change) or be overcome by the anticipated march of history. This was the approach with regard to most matters leading up to the end of the twentieth century. A simple but effective logic that contributes to the formation of what Ranciere regards as “sense”.
Previous posts of this blog have been investigating video in contemporary culture, especially the aspect whereby video performs memory, producing time and difference. Here’s a time lapse video of a glacier disappearing. Want to see it again? Here’s a Michael Moore film on the easy accessibility of guns in our society. It is filled with a lot of information. Let’s replay the Michael Moore film. Video performing memory, as opposed to narrative (re)constructing memory along a “first this, then that” basis (narrative always begins and inevitably ends, even when repeated), dispenses with the inevitable and its implication of urgency. Want to see that glacier disappear again? There is no connection between this performed memory of the glacier disappearing (which we can repeat ad nauseum) and any inevitable outcome of this memory, with any urgency to act on some (nonexistent) inevitability. “We want to raise public awareness on this issue, and people can take that information and do what they want with it.” And many things are done with this information, as many things are done with videos.
So what works given that the obsolete narrative approach and the contemporary assumption that creating awareness will produce an inevitable intended response don’t? Video as communication of ongoing event seems to be especially effective in generating the desired inevitable response and its needed urgency. Whether natural disaster, victim account, covert filming of illegal activity, etc. video presentation becomes akin to Sinclair’s presentation in terms of ultimate outcome. But this brings us to privacy concerns, Occupy and eventually, the current ongoing discourse on “the right to look.” Occupy seizes on the “public”-ness of public space. An analogous scenario could be made for the various “public” rights of expression, freedom of the press and dissemination of information, universal internet access, etc. Privacy rights and laws are becoming ever more a priority for the 1% determining our governance. The right to look is not found anywhere in the document drafted by the eligible 5% who governed the land, serfs, indentured servants, and slaves in late 18th century America. Please, oh rulers of our great land, we beg of you, let us look (and see), and communicate (via digital media) what is going on around us right now– not “to raise public awareness” but to communicate and act immediately, which is what we already do when we drive our cars and perform at work.
Hmmm… Somehow that last line doesn’t look just right. Wonder why that is?

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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”.

Freedom And Technocracy

September 16, 2012

“Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption crusader and a popular blogger, remains the rock star among the protest leaders. When he took the stage, young people in the crowd held up their phones to record the moment.” (Anti-Putin Protests Draw Tens of Thousands, Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov AP 9-16-12)

The moment was recorded, then what? For posterity? Tens of thousands of images, each from a minimally different perspective, all of the same thing. Then they shared their individual perspective with another “individual perspective” of the same event. Maybe took it home to share with those without access to digital media. Who are they (those without access to digital media)?

According to Berry and Isachenkov, when Navalny got up to speak the unwitting response, the unconscious response, the spontaneous response was “to record the moment” on their cell phones (new larger screens, sharper image).

In The Parallax View (pg. 86) Slavoj Zizek references an essay by Patricia Huntington (“Heidegger’s Reading of Kierkegaard: From Ontological Abstraction to Ethical Concretion”). He writes: “On the one hand Kierkegaard’s insistence on authentic personal engagement emphasizes the need for concrete ethical responsibility, for me to behave as if I am responsible for what I am, but leave intact the traditional ontological frame of reference which sustains the unauthentic mode of existence.” Zizek focuses on the reliance of this self-same frame of reference by both Heidegger and Kierkegaard, though outcomes differ in the end. He asks “What, however, if this lack of an a priori universal frame – of a frame exempted from the contingencies of the political struggle – is precisely what opens up the space for the struggle (for “freedom,” “democracy,” and so on)?” (pg. 87) And what if this universal frame was much more concrete, material (and housed within a rather petite object at that), like the one established for an image by the cell phone maker?

Earlier (pg. 82), Zizek quotes from an essay by Dominick Hoens and Ed Pluth (“The sinthome: A New Way of Writing an Old Problem”): “to refuse the symbolic order within the symbolic order”. Berry and Isachenkov’s report makes it sound like this is exactly what happened in Moscow (“The Moscow organizers had spent days in tense talks with the city government over the protest route for Saturday, typical of the bargaining that has preceded each of the opposition marches.”). Writing: “Huge rallies of more than 100,000 people even in bitter winter cold gave many protesters hope for democratic change. These hopes have waned, but opposition supporters appear ready to dig in for a long fight.” they insinuate that this particular occurrence evidenced the duration of the struggle (“for “freedom,” “democracy,” and so on”). Given the spontaneous, unconscious response by the crowd to what appeared to be substantive communication (“”We must come to rallies to win freedom for ourselves and our children, to defend our human dignity,” he said to cheers of support. “We will come here as to our workplace. No one else will free us but ourselves.””), the fact that some of the largest and wealthiest global corporate interests are around the production and service of communication technology, and Zizek’s insights, it becomes curious to imagine what the trajectory, the future of such a struggle just might look like. It is very difficult to imagine the powers that be giving up the emphasis, enforcement and efficacy of continuous and omnipresent mediation (the frame). Maybe the achievement will be freedom and technocracy.

The Empty Chair

September 8, 2012

Re-reading Lacan in order to re-read Zizek. Cod only know why. I couldn’t help but be struck by the cover art for The Parallax View.  Of course, being the cover art for a parallax view, the front side articulates with the back (though it is not “the fold”). Together they make up the painting of a furnished room. On the front is an arm chair covered by a sheet (either the home owner owns pets as I do or this is a museum room) and the back has ditto but with Lenin seated on a likewise covered armchair taking notes, much as one would imagine Freud to have done (Zizek’s short circuiting).  But wait, there’s more! On the back inside book jacket cover is a photo of an installation by Rudjer Kunaver and Miran Mohar entitled Slavoj Zizek Does Not Exist. It shows, again, an empty chair positioned before a mirror and within the mirror is Zizek seated within the reflected chair. And so the empty chair, again, brings us to the recent clichéd popular empty chair of Dirty Harry and the RNC. And why did Mr. Eastwood do that? What could he be thinking?

The man with no name gives improv reasons for doing improv. But could that be all? Perhaps the folks from Occupy have told us more than the man looking for a few dollars more. What have they told us? That there’s not a rat’s ass difference between the candidacies for president proffered by the two major parties (“”Romney and Obama,” he added: “They’re two peas in a pod.”” Occupy Movement older, wiser By Karen Aho, MSN Money 9-5-2012). That, in a sense, they are two sides of a coin, two backs of a book cover (“Adam said he has never been under the illusion that Obama would be able to remake Washington, because of the corporate influence on politics. “It’s not his fault that to be elected president that you have to live within the existing paradigm. The existing paradigm is the problem.”” ibid.). Which brings us back to The Parallax View, and Zizek’s gap revealing more about “What could he be thinking?” than a hundred speculative commentaries. This election, with all its emphasis on what makes little difference, turns on the “objet petit a” (Were the survivors of the Titanic better off four years after its sinking? Are all the numbers and statistics factual? Are wealthy people, to reference F. Scott Fitzgerald, really different from you and I?). Each side is proselytizing what is “in you more than yourself.” Talking to what is “in you more than yourself” makes Clint Eastwood’s day!

Royalty

September 2, 2012

A crown presentation (and installation) followed recent close encounters with my dental clinic. It is a small office consisting of the hygienist, assistant, receptionist and dentist. Previously it was a father/son operation but dad retired some years ago. This is one of the few establishments I patronize that plays the blues as background music, and we’re not talking B.B. “It feels so good to feel so bad.”

Midwest growers have been likewise experiencing the blues. Because of the drought, it has been a lousy year for honey. Given the crisis, it makes more sense to share what there is than to try to recoup the loss of an entire year with some kind of convoluted marketing strategy. So I left 4 one pound jars of this spring’s exceptional offering with the officiators of my coronation. How do you think they divided the prize?

Later I thought of all the statistics and economic data from the late 90’s and early 2000 that spawned the 1%, 99% consciousness of the Occupy movement. These are easy figures and ratios until one thinks of them in terms of 64 ounces of honey. Corporate CEO’s today are taking home 100 times what their average employee has to live on. If my dentist considered himself on a par with these CEO’s (as a private investment “small business” entrepreneur), he would be taking home 62 ounces of the honey I left while each of his three employees would have only two thirds of an ounce to sample (not much to share with one’s family). Those who deal in numbers, statistics and ratios claim that during the Eisenhower presidency, it would have been more like 5 ounces per employee with 49 ounces to the boss. Of course, CEO’s didn’t wear the mantle of “job creator” then. Why are they considered such royalty now?

Analysis Of Benefit

June 24, 2012

            Moyers and Company had the usual suspects on last night. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone was on for his perspective of The Scam Wall Street Learned From The Mafia. Yves Smith concurred with views expressed in her latest book Econned. More grounds for appeal by the Occupy folks. The second half of the program was a conversation between Moyers and one of his peers: Peter Edelman who just released his So Rich, So Poor filled with statistics, charts and graphs and 8 x 10 glossies showing the stagnation and perpetration of lower wages, poverty level existence in the midst of incredible wealth. The rich get richer while the poor remain – poor, and grow in number. More fodder for Occupy. Of course, spanning the half century of study and involvement that these two old warriors contributed, the big picture, the long term solution was the only focus. Can anything be done? In the late fall of 2011 the Republican Governors Association was instructed in the manipulation of language to further the conservative agenda in the face of (at that time) growing Occupy influence in the economic conversation. Frank Luntz promoted seizing control by using “free market” instead of “capitalism”, “careers” instead of “jobs” (what happened to that one? Romney certainly isn’t promising careers for the unemployed!), “job creator” over “entrepreneur”. Just as the conservative solutions of mandatory jail sentences to be tough on crime, and waging “war” as a solution to addiction proved unsustainable and counter productive, we need to stand up and insist on fairness, transparency and economic justice when the “redistribution of wealth” is denigrated by political aspirants. The emphasis needs to be on what applies to and improves our country over the long haul, programs and policies that cultivate growth and sustenance. So recommended Peter Edelman. Moyers rhetorically asked how this is possible when we live in a society, an economically obsessed culture, where immediate returns and outcome determine policy/program decisions (whether last quarter showed a profit or not). In the face of what Taibbi and Smith presented, and Edelman confirmed, the short term outcome of any resistance or argument for alternative will always be deemed ineffective. And there’s the rub.

            Recently, a small group of loosely affiliated individuals intent on calling attention to the corrosive influence of big money on government and politics, exposing this inequity, this lack of transparency and justice within a constitutional democracy, found itself in disarray. By definition, this disparate group was filled with various interests and demands symptomatic of big money’s reach; be it environmental issues, lack of housing, pervasive hunger, etc. What fragmented the unity of intent that initially made up this community was not the plethora of interests but rather the insistence on efficiency, on projecting limited resources and membership exclusively on the basis of what would be most effective. No one noticed or recognized that such an approach, such methodology is precisely the same methodology and operational schema of that which the group was challenging and seeking an alternative for. As Moyers pointed out, the capitalist business emphasis is increasingly on instantaneous gratification, on what is most effective at showing a profit in the immediate or past quarter. This small group of patriots, intent on exposing the disastrous consequences of such a “get rich quick” approach on the good of our country, embraced the mode of operation, the very standard (of effectiveness and efficiency) that it wished to critique. Is it any wonder that such methodology produced eventual fragmentation? Insisting on short term effectiveness and efficiency in the face of long term major overhaul is a recipe for collapse. Trying to compete, let alone competition with late term capitalism, is like trying to out swim sharks. Swimming is what sharks do. Competition is what capitalists do. If the alternative is cooperation and consensus, the analysis of benefit cannot be founded on effectiveness and efficiency.

Citizens United

June 4, 2012

            Here in the US, when the Citizens United ruling first came out, there was a huge brouhaha over the enormous influence that money would play in upcoming elections. The Occupy movement seized on this Supreme Court decision to further emphasize the imbalance and inequality of American governance. It seemed that the only thing the news and information media could concern its self with was speculation on what impact all of this would have on life in these United States. Tsk. Tsk. And like last week’s long term weather forecast, all this has had no bearing on, gives no account of how today is experienced. Today the news is different. Occupy is where? Citizens United, like the gay movement, was simply big money coming out of the closet. It had always been present in American politics and governance. Now it is not considered impolite or shocking to encounter it or discuss it.

            Occupy has been closeted. Citizens United has had much more far reaching and undermining effects than simply how elections are run and paid for. Big money not only determines candidacy and issues, but discourse. Occupy has disappeared not because people are no longer involved, but because the big bucks plied into purchasing votes is spent somewhere. And that somewhere we all witnessed with the Rupert Murdock Sky News extravaganza in Britain. Media is out to profit from its corporate control of information (and that includes you newly wed Mark Zuckerberg, gatekeeper extraordinaire of the internet). If the ever shrinking sources of media stand to benefit so significantly (and so continuously) from the political Wimbledon pairings of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Romney and Obama, it only stands to reason that what doesn’t pay, doesn’t play. And so Occupy has vanished.

            A more insidious infection disseminated by the Citizens United ruling is the unobserved, and (now) impossible to be publicly noted, perversion of language. All of the match ups in the upcoming political games will liberally (conservatively too) make use of such terms as citizens, individuals, people and their families. I don’t know of a single corporate structure (for profit or not for profit) that doesn’t pride itself on being family. And now with Citizens United they are people too, as well as citizens and individuals. Individual liberties, people free to pursue their interests and passion, families secure in their communities, and citizens taking back control of their country (and government) can now likewise be read, be heard as corporate liberties, corporations free to pursue their interests and passions, corporate enterprise being secure in its surroundings, and corporations controlling their country and its governance. In the final appeal (which in this country is the Supreme Court), corporations are people. Citizens United confirms this identity relationship. Unless some political aspirant specifically mentions mortals of a limited biological lifetime, or flesh and blood human beings, it is pretty safe to assume that she or he is talking about where the money comes from when speaking of people, families, individuals or citizens.

Why Write?

May 27, 2012

            May 24,2012 AP article by Travis Loller, DNA Study Seeks Origin Of Appalachian Melungeons reports on a “scientific” account of a separated group of Americans. Melungeons, like various other separated groups (“In recent years, it has become a catchall term for people of mixed-race ancestry and has been applied to about 200 communities in the eastern U.S. — from New York to Louisiana.”) strove mightily to distinguish themselves from African ancestry, primarily through creative narratives, historical accounts of their uniqueness. “Estes [Roberta Estes, lead researcher] and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery. They conclude that as laws were put in place to penalize the mixing of races, the various family groups could only intermarry with each other, even migrating together from Virginia through the Carolinas before settling primarily in the mountains of East Tennessee.” Legal cases (both before and after the elimination of institutionalized ownership of people), intent on establishing distinction, are cited by the article. Ultimately, a present day Melungeon is reported to have paid for three separate DNA tests in order to negate the results of the study. He was very surprised that they all came back the same.

            “Separate but equal” was a big part of the warp and woof of the writers of the Federalist Papers, the framers of the US Constitution, the early legislators and jurists who established our country’s outlook on democracy (and the laws “put in place to penalize the mixing of races”). Property ownership was fundamental to that separation. Every school child knows that the US bicameral legislature came about to reinforce and underwrite the priority and precedence of property ownership within our representative democracy. The recent Citizens United ruling certainly maintains that original intent. The Melungeon myth making allowed folks access to capitalist enterprise that otherwise would have been denied them. On the other hand, Jim Crow laws, in the north as well as in the south, maintained the sanctity of the myth built up around the authors of the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, and early amendments and laws. “Separate but equal” has never left us.

            In What Was Contemporary Art (ArtMargins vol. 1, issue 1) Octavian Esanu writes about the impact and influence of institutional grants, residencies and fellowships in forming the characteristics and quality of what we’ve come to know and recognize as contemporary art. He describes the role of the Soros Centers for Contemporary Art network as moving art away from the Modern, to the post modern “democratization” of art. Anyone could apply. Those granting the funding were not necessarily practicing or accomplished artists (being instead professional institutional administrators). The end result was Beuys’s, “everyone is an artist.” Esanu describes the funding grants as financial leverage. Although always far short of any kind of individual sustainability, they are used as leverage to form the present day artist entrepreneur (written about too often in this blog). A small amount of financial commitment yields enormous ideological clout. Within American culture and governance, this same outlook could be broadened to include the many “service oriented” involvements meant to address community problems throughout the US. A large bank, energy company, or retailer can boast of its substantial and significant contribution to some food bank or summer camp program. The funding is never large or significant enough to even cover the program’s yearly administrator salary. But the goodwill certainly is leveraged into generating a belief that the capitalist enterprise is genuinely interested in addressing and solving this problem, this need within the community. As Esanu points out to be the case with the SCCA funding, it ultimately creates a “separate but equal” situation within the arts – those generating art independent of any institutional funding, and those reliant on these resources to generate art. “Everyone is an artist.” Within the “service oriented” approach (the one lauded by all the current crop of graduation commencement speakers) the same “separate but equal” culture is promoted and reproduced regarding food, shelter, health care, education and self governance.

            In today’s Newark Advocate (May 27, 2012), Rental Registration Committee Seeking Feedback From Renters, Ann Sudar reports: “An ad-hoc committee is looking for more feedback on the possibility of bringing a rental registration system to Newark [Ohio].” “Although several landlords and property owners attend the meetings to voice their opinions, more participation from those renting properties is needed, said Lesa Best, committee chairwoman.” “Renting properties is one of Newark’s biggest businesses, and more than 42 percent of the city’s housing units are rentals, Best said.” “At the end of each meeting, there is a half-hour session for public comments. About 90 percent of the people who speak at the meetings are landlords, Best said. “I understand we are talking about landlords’ livelihoods, (so) of course they are coming,” she said. “Landlords are vital to the economy of Newark. That’s why we always want their input.” Best said she has not heard many comments from people who are renters. She encouraged more people to attend the meetings.”

            Why write?

The Managers Have Failed, Long Live Management

May 20, 2012

            In the past weeks Jamie Dimon made a preemptive announcement of failure, and kept his job. The rhetorical move exemplified the brilliance of management that makes Dimon the model of emulation for folks like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mitch Daniels and other state governors across America.

            “These processes manifest themselves in an increasing concentration in NPM [New Public Management] on the supervision and regulation of the public sector through mechanisms such as audits and inspections. The emphasis on control brings to light the first hidden substantial aspect of NPM managerialism that is reminiscent of state Communism. Like Communism, NPM is totalitarian because it leaves no institutionalized room for criticism, which it always sees as subversive:

            Because managerialism sees itself as the antidote to chaos, irrationality, disorder,            and incompleteness, there are no spaces within such a social order in which           autonomy can be contested legitimately. Managerial definitions of quality,             efficiency, improved productivity or self management, construct a particular        version of autonomy. Those who do not desire these managerial constructs of           autonomy are simply defined as absurd, as under managerialism, these notions     appear as self-evident “good”

 

            The German sociologist Ulrich Beck recently coined the term McKinsey Stalinism in this context.

            The introduction of permanent control over faculty – which is unprecedented at least in the history of universities in democracies worthy of the name – is nothing other than the introduction of a culture of permanent mistrust. That is the second attribute that NPM shares with state Communism.

            The qualispeak of NPM exploits the indisputable fact that in Europe, North America, and Australia higher education is largely financed by public funds and founded on the idea that taxpayers – the shareholders in the state – are entitled to know that their money is being spent efficiently and transparently. NPM is VFM [Value for Money] and thus the best of all possible worlds. In this respect NPM is the privatized heir of state Communism. Managers who make higher education “efficient” and “transparent” by exercising constant control over the faculty are represented as the form that “accountability” to taxpayers and consumers takes in the former public domain. “Accounting,” that is, the dual process of counting and being required to account for what one does, is central to this process (“MU,” p. 325). The management itself in NPM, just like the party in state Communism, is outside all control and accountability because the management by definition represents both efficiency and accountability. That is the third attribute that NPM shares with state Communism. The question of whether managers really do spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently and whether they are more reliable than faculty cannot be asked in NPM. Nor may one ask whether the cost of the management controls are less than the money saved on inefficient academic personnel. The fact that there is not a shred of evidence for these two crucial assumptions of NPM – rather the opposite – makes abundantly clear where the blind spots lie in NPM. That all the recent economic scandals – from Enron, WorldCom, and Barings to the Lehman Brothers – happened despite constant audits furnishes some extra empirical food for critical thought on both management and audits.

            This brings us up against a fourth interesting similarity between neo-liberal managerialism and state Communism: just as the Party by definition represents the interests of those who are led by the Party, so according to NPM management represents the interests of those who are managed. That is why NPM management models allow no place for representative bodies, which are only seen as a hindrance to administrative efficiency. And were undeniable irregularities in management practices to occur, then an individual manager eventually may be criticized or dismissed, but management itself can never be challenged. Neither the NPM nor the state Communist discourse will accept any criticism of their core practices and key personnel as legitimate because criticism is identified with lack of loyalty to the organization and so is seen as fundamentally subversive.” (pgs. 608-610, Critical Inquiry Spring 2012, essay entitled If You’re So Smart, Why Are You Under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management by Chris Lorenz)

And So That Is How It All Works

May 10, 2012

            The May 6 Columbus Dispatch reported on a massive honey bee die off in central Ohio.  Thousands of lifeless bees were found piled at the entrances to hundreds of bee hives in several central Ohio counties. No one can live with the bees. Though they communicate with each other, they don’t communicate with us. However, finding piles of bees in front of a hive usually indicates the outcome of a pesticide application that the insects came in contact with. Bees are very clean. They prefer not to defecate, let alone die, within their colony. They exit to do both. Hence, field bees returning after being contaminated or while carrying contaminated accumulations exchange the poison within the ungodly crowded conditions of a built up healthy hive (trust me, worse than a claustrophobic/agorophobic’s most extreme nightmare). Voila! Beaucoup bees sicken, exit and die. In Ohio, bees must be registered with the state which costs a fee. This falls under the state department of Agriculture. There is even a state apiarist and an additional official bee researcher through the Ohio State University with an exclusive bee research lab in Wooster for study and experimentation. The state’s response has been that we don’t know what killed these bees (““We are trying to figure this out because we don’t want it to happen again,” state apiarist Barb Bloetscher said.” Four days in April deadly for bees Cols. Dispatch May 6, 2012). Researchers say more research is needed! (what else would they say?) The involved beekeepers, not entomologists with phd degrees per se, but folks who make it their business to stay abreast of what is going on world wide with regard to bees (after all, bees ARE their livelihood) claim it is the use of the new neonicotinoids by grain farmers. “Jack Boyme, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience, one of the largest manufacturers of neonicotinoids, said the company has been in touch with Ohio officials, and Bayer thinks something other than pesticides might have caused the bee deaths. “It’s been kind of an unusual weather pattern with a mild winter and an early spring,” Boyme said. “Some of the reports that we’re hearing is that the bees are coming out earlier and that there is not enough available food for them.”” (Four days in April deadly for bees Cols. Dispatch May 6, 2012) Local beekeepers are curious to see those reports Mr. Boyme. April 2011 and the state of Ohio was under record amounts of rain. Yes, bees go hungry then. This year’s mild winter, early and incredibly fine spring has not only left plenty of residual honey stores but also generated nectar flows from mid March on. Besides, no commercial beekeeper of any experience would allow their hundreds of hives to go hungry, let alone starve. Finally, overwinter bees that do starve are found dead in a tight cluster inside the hive, regardless of outside weather conditions.

            We’ve all seen this movie before. Credits at the end usually contain names like A. Gore, etc. The people involved intimately with the environment know first hand that some manufacturing process or something manufactured has had an enormous and detrimental impact on their livelihood, and the world around them. Those who manufactured the product or process blame mother nature for anything going awry, and not their thumb in the pie. The state officials in charge can’t really say (or do anything) for the most curious and unspoken reasons. In Ohio today, there is a big push for all state agencies to be a public /private collaborative (see previous blog posts). Agency logos will soon be “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” with three seated monkeys as an icon. Eventually, all this will appear before the legislature with the lobbyists for Bayer, Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, ethanol producers and other large corporate interests fighting to keep this as part of “jobs creation” and the (non existent) lobby for the honey bees, along with various disparate environmental concerns arguing for “more regulation”. And so that is how it all works.