It’s Saturday night(1), and the people who are supposed to be the experts on this have not got a clue. And they don’t even know that they don’t have a clue. I at least know that I don’t have a clue, which puts me ‘ahead’ (but on the same burning platform, on the same being-murdered planet).
This is bullet points because I can’t be bothered to articulate more clearly because nobody is listening and even if they were, it would be too late for “us” to do anything(2).
- The media is full of “think” pieces about the bloody soup protests. Editor gets hack to do a phone around to some academics. Academics give quotes. Academics go on radio shows. Other journos write rebuttals. Academics respond. And everyone is happy because it is cheap and easy and in everyone’s comfort-zone/echo chamber. There are clicks for the advertisers and the protesters feel they’ve been seen – they look in the Sun and they look in the Mirror, they’re on the right track, they’re onto a winner.
- Nobody I have seen yet frames this around – well, to quote myself,
“IF YOU DON’T HAVE EFFECTIVE RESILIENT RADICAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT ORGANISATIONS HOW CAN YOU EXPECT TO HAVE A SOCIAL MOVEMENT THAT MOVES SOCIETY (& policy, economy etc)?
3. I know the critique of icons goes way back (further than I know). Islam is not big on it, for instance. There’s all sorts of suspicions about the power of images over the souls of men (yes, men) (3). You get all sorts of austere cults. Plato is into this as I recall (it’s been a while- 30 years – since I slogged through the Republic. Something about a cave and flickering images, iirc.
4. Daniel Boorstin, pseudo-events and the Power of the Image blah blah. Then Baudrillard and the coming of all that French stuff about post-modernisim. Lyotard, and Lacan and all that crowd that I was “into” for about five minutes (also 30 years ago). Probably should re-read Freddie Jameson’s NLR article and the big fat book.
5. Meanwhile, the war on society – the colonisation of the life-world, as old Jurgen Habermas would have it continued apace, thanks to deliberate action by those alarmed by the assault on their power and privilege during the “thirty glorious” post war years (I BEG you to read a very good – if incomplete – piece by Cory Doctorow). Yes, attacks on unions, sealing off policymaking processes, the rise of “neoliberalism” etc etc
6. BUT it wasn’t all hunky dory before this. Two key (for me) books about the critique of the pre-1979 period – Friendly Fascism by Bertram Gross and What Went Wrong by Jeremy Seabrook (see also The Pursuit of Loneliness by Philip Slater, though.)
7. And until the coming of web 2.0, many of the comms technologies were about increasing atomisation, increasing separated and faux=bespoke experiences (see Ken Gergen’s 1991 book “The Saturated Self” on this).
8. And in the midst of this, as the Great Acceleration began and continued, the slowly rising awareness of limits, of climate doom (as per my painful vanity project “All Our Yesterdays“).
NONE of this long history gets talked about, that I see. We get the horserace stuff instead, the carousel. And – most importantly, I will repeat myself – if you don’t have functioning social movement organisations, that can endure, that can resist capture, exhaustion and repression, why are you EVEN BOTHERING TO YAMMER ON ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PROGRESS? BECAUSE YOU NEED TO HEAR YOUR OWN VOICE BEING REFLECTED TO KNOW YOU ARE ALIVE OR SOMETHING?
Social Movement Organisations.
And that means all the jaw-flapping and electron smearing about whether this or that action or tactic “works” or will “have traction” is nothing more than a circle jerk. Because without effective social movements, why are we expecting the neoliberal state and those who own it (the corporations) to suddenly change their habits?
(1) Saturday evening rant, when I should just be watching one of the super-cheap DVDs I bought (after feeding the bloody cats and making sure Thomas gets his thyroid medicine, obvs).
(2) Yeah yeah, “every tenth of a degrees means x or y or z”, whatever you need to tell yourself. Learn some physics. Especially around “terminal velocity.”
(3) LMGTFM – here.