Occupy and What It Means, and Why It Matters

I have liberal friends who don't get it. Mostly young liberals, people committed to the Democratic party and progressive causes; they don't understand it.

The World As I See It In Pieces: Part 3

I'm sympathetic. I'm also empathetic. I have both of these feelings for the purveyors of standpoint theory and the project they claim to be working on. I'm less empathetic to the project they appear to be working on, but more sympathetic than they might actually be willing to admit. But I have no patience for standpoint theory, and there are two reasons for that that have nothing to do with their various philosophical problems. The first is strategic. The second is textual.

The strategic objection is as follows: 1.) Standpoint theory holds that knowledge from a specific standpoint in a socially situated universe of all knowledge is necessarily delineated by the social privileges that a person enjoys by their relative position "in" or "out" of the dominant power positions in that society. 2.) As such, it contains with it a claim that empathy and sympathy are impossible generally, and in particular are not possessed in sufficient quantities by members of dominant social groups BECAUSE OF THE FACT of their membership in dominant social groups. 3.) This amounts to a claim that all members of dominant social groups are deficient in the nature of their being in a very important way. 4.) When members of marginalized groups advance this theory it feels to members of the dominant group like an insult and an attack, because it is one. 5.) Tactially speaking, it's unlikely to win many converts when every conversation begins with a cutting insult directed directly at the potential converts very soul.

Dispatches From Occupied Tucson: Week 1

So I'd been meaning to write something about Occupy Tucson for a little while now, and the hope was that I could blog some about it on a day by day basis. Turns out that hasn't really been possible. Between school and some clinical stuff I'm doing and the Occupation, I haven't had a lot of time to reflect on what it all means. Now that it's Friday and I have some free time before the working group meeting I need to attend this evening, I feel the need to let the theorist in my brain run wild for a little bit and there are a few things that have struck me that I'd like to make a note of. Here they are in no particular order.

Sometimes I Publish Things Elsewhere

My thoughts on Occupy Wall Street and the spread of the movement can be found here:


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Notes From Underground: First Fragment

Here's some stuff I believe:

You can accept Marx's diagnosis without agreeing with his cure. I'd rather live in a laissez faire hands off communist autocracy than a laissez faire hands off corporate plutocracy. But both of those are not good options, and I see no reason why we can't just have a democratically regulated mixed economy and a tax system that punishes greed.

At the end of the day it's not about some theory of economics or another, it's about basic fairness. The idea that if a person wants a job, he or she ought to be able to find one and that job ought to pay for the true value of his or her labor. That if someone wants a good education, he or she shouldn't be priced out of getting one. That if you break the law and end up in a really bad place, you can do your time, clean up your life and we'll give you a clean slate and a second chance. The idea that we're lucky to have been born in the United States and we can therefore be gracious to those who were not but who wish they were and help them find their way to share in our bounty. the idea that no man woman or child should have to go to sleep hungry tonight. The idea that if you get sick you can see a doctor without having to declare bankruptcy. The idea that if we built a railroad across a continent in the 1860s and put men on the moon in the 1960s, we ought to be able to find a way to fill up a car in 2011 with a renewable energy resource that produces no greenhouse gas. The idea that it takes all of us coming together and agreeing on a common purpose to do some of the most important and fundamental jobs that need doing in our society.

The simple truth that we're all in this together, and so we ought to be able to talk about how to get out of it without calling each other names.

I don't see this as radicalism. I see it as common sense. These are values that we can all agree on. So why is it that it's so hard to get it done?

The World as I See it In Pieces: Part 2

It's increasingly apparent that what could once have been said about the privilege of place generally afforded by speech over writing being inverted in the normal mode of cultural production in the United States has at this late date completely collapsed. We are now living in a post-scribal politics where the authenticity of the word has been replaced by the authenticity of the sign, and that has itself been subsumed by the authenticity of the sensation. This is what lies in the middle of Stephen Colbert's celebrated "truthiness," which is an illusory ascription of truth values to bodily sensations which are neither public nor propositional and therefore paradoxically denied any kind of involvement in the semiosis of sentences. If what is true is what cannot be expressed, and also if what cannot be expressed is located temporally post-hoc to the dialog of democratic politics, then the assignation of truth values to sentential reasoning no longer exists and we have finally found ourselves living in a post-rational environment in every sense of the word.

The world as I see it in pieces: Part 1

I don't see much point in psychedelic drugs anymore. We are now living in the future and hyperreality has taken such firm root that we now appear to be models of models that never existed in the first place that were themselves reflections of shadows of an irreal void-space and that likewise have been completely consumed before they could be produced. In such a world, why bother cooking acid and possibly going to jail for buying it and taking it, let alone the tedious process of hanging out with all the hippy drug-culture people that a serious psychonaut has to spend time with to get the tools of the trade, when you can blow off the back of your skull and get yourself twisted as far down the rabbit hole as you're willing to go just by watching CNN?

Ahem, is this thing on? Testing? One, Two, Three?

As the world teeters on the brink of true stupidity, I would just like to take one moment to state once more from my little soap box that seriously folks, the federal budget deficit is not a fucking problem right now.

On Liberty and Civil Society

As far as I've been able to tell from my reading of various right wing political critiques of late, the fundamental fear of socialist policies seems to stem from a concern that socialist policies are a curtailment of liberties. The placards and talking points of the right seem to hover around this idea of loss of liberty and for me, as a socialist, I find that very confusing. The easy answer of course is one I suggested in a previous post, that this stems from false consciousness. That's easy, but on reflection I think it isn't the whole picture. To be sure, there's an element of being misled by ideology in the tea party movement, and there is definitely an aspect of manipulation in the various astroturf groups that have worked to organize people who are involved with the tea party movement. But that doesn't explain all of it. Because for any of that to work, there has to be a fundamental, basic fear that's being tapped into and manipulated, and more to the point I do believe that there are honest, intelligent people who support this right wing movement who are not being manipulated but who genuinely see in socialist policy a threat to liberty. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in a sense, there is something true about the critique. There is an element to socialism that is a curtailment of liberty. But what sound bite politics of the moment miss is that liberty is such a loaded term that when one speaks broadly about liberty, then one actually says very little at all.

War is a Meaning That Gives Us Force

If you haven't read Chris Hedges's book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning you should do so. It chronicles Hedges's experiences as a journalist in the former Yugoslavia during the NATO action to protect the Kosovar and Bosnian populations against Slobodan Milosevic's genocide against them after the fall of the Soviet Block. That conflict was clearly a war. Although I'm not sure it is at all clear that every state actor in that conflict was at War with the Serbian State. Today, as a coalition of state actors including the United States moves to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and cripple Moammar Ghaddafi's ability to carry on his civil war with the rebels seeking to overthrow his regime, it is only natural for USAmericans to be asking whether we are now at war with Libya. It is a question that seems simple. Simple it is not. A brief resume of the last 70 years of warfare shows that the task of determining when the United States is at war is fraught with arbitrary distinctions and political posturing.

The Constitution of the United States of America gives Congress the power to raise and sustain an Army and a Navy. The power to declare war on another nation belongs to Congress and Congress alone. At the same time, the President of the United States is named Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. This bifurcation of the war powers of the Federal Government, separating military policy from command and control, serves an important role in the system of limited powers given to the Federal Government in that document. It prevents the President from using the military in whatever way he sees fit, and prevents Congress from micromanaging the most urgent affairs of national defense. However, it also makes it difficult to determine whether or not the United States is at war at any given time.