Monday, February 25, 2013
"Chicago school of economics
Lebanon, fracture the metropolis
Send them into disarray with crumbs for the populace
Fortune 500 corporate fascism, feed the rich
Foie gras, white truffles, tender kobe strip
Drizzled in Cognac and diamond chips
Hope you crack a tooth
Hope you cut your lip
US defense budget reflect the size of a little prick
'Cause freedom ain't free
And like herpes we've come to spread that shit." -Bigg Jus
Bourgeois absolutism, or what is known as fascism, is the political dictatorship of the nation-state. When, due to its own contradictions, capital can no longer extract necessary surplus value, it turns to the state as a means of primitive accumulation. Though royal absolutism collapsed with the nationalist revolutions of the 19th Century, national dictatorship emerged from the trenches of the First World War. While the colonies had experienced European civilization bereft of any veneer, fascism imposed colonial discipline on the Continent in order to stave off collapse and revolution. The elimination of parliamentary forms, personal embodiment of the general will, regularization of a secret police, erection of racial regimes, and gradual transition towards state slavery were attempts to regenerate, and extend the national order. By ruling through violence alone, fascism exposed Liberalism's bad faith, mainly that the rule of law is essentially antagonistic to divine right. All the horrors undertaken by fascist regimes were, after all, perfectly legal. When representation has been deemed too cumbersome the bourgeoisie simply stripped away legal fictions, choosing instead cold bureaucratic efficiency. Neither Mussolini, Franco, or Hitler were popularly elected, but all rose to power blessed by financiers, industrialists, and professionals. Though it is sometimes said that the Second World War destroyed fascism, in fact the United States resuscitated the movement for its own post-war ends. Faced with unholy trinity of unpayable debt, declining resources, and climate volatility, the Third American Empire has similarly turned to national dictatorship in order to manage its imperial decline.
The last quarter of the 20th Century, as the transition between the Second and Third American Empire, ushered in the mechanics of absolutist rule. Liberated from the specter of state socialism, corporate latifundia vigorously worked to undo any residual social programs of the New Deal. At the same time both political parties, nominally opposed to each other, articulated identical policies while propagating symbolic differences. As a result the American Empire has effectively been under one party rule despite the semblance of faction. One can postulate the Republicrats will maintain the charade as long as the spectacle remains profitable. Regardless, the consequence of factional decline has been the increasing accumulation of power in the Executive, coincidental to Congress abdicating its constitutional function. The empire, then, has been run by the bureaucracy for quite some time, which is naturally antithetical to anachronisms like Article I. The Kafkaesque Federal code has in turn vastly expanded, so that the average American unwittingly commits three felonies per day. Here one can see the erosion of national and imperial boundaries, for both FISA and Justice Department grand juries operate on the premise of presumed guilt. If the main difference between the CIA and FBI is a territorial dispute, if the NSA is primarily concerned with spying on American citizens, if DARPA fiends are working on insectoid nano drones, then a byproduct of dictatorial turn is the denationalization of the other. Criminality implies political death, leading to a class that needs to be forever policed, and for whom a gulag must be erected.
The War on Terror, as it is ironically known, undeclared and without a defined enemy, numbering twelve or twenty seven years, has been conducted to enhance Executive rule and monopolize diminishing resources. In order to generate support for this conflict, the state and its affiliated intelligentsia have waged a propaganda campaign to generate racial hysteria against those who happened to be Muslims. Admittedly, given Western ignorance and prejudice, the exact target is obscure, since not every follower of Muhammad lives in southwest Asia, and those who speak Arabic are not necessarily Muslim either. Regardless the American Reichstag has given the Imperial Governate carte blanche to overthrow governments, occupy suitable countries, wage counter-insurgency campaigns, fund and arm "freedom fighting" militias, and murder anyone who fits the description of an enemy combatant. In doing so the United States murdered over a million people in Iraq alone from 2003 to 2008, not to mention the untold dead in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Mali. Doctors have instructed women to stop having children in Fallujah, and drones hovering in grimacing skies force their victims to live under eternal house arrest. This global struggle to eradicate a loose network of thousands, most of whom have received some American funding or training at some point, and coincidentally has cost at least ten trillion dollars, has correspondingly enabled legal fictions like preventive war, unitary executive, enhanced interrogation, and enemy combatant. The latter has justified the first torture prison in Poland since the Gestapo recrossed the Oder, along with a secret network of Lear jets and black sites where wannabe Berias enact their snuff fantasies. Though Septimius Severus promised to close Guantanamo Bay, which had been transformed from an imperial military base into a rendition center, in reality he wants to move it to Illinois in order to bring the process home. Given that the FBI randomly rounded up anyone with an Arabic surname after September 11, 2001, it seems only a matter of time before a second internment comes to pass. Whenever it does, the intelligentsia will lock their doors, close their blinds, and read Plato until the "troubles" pass.
If, in a republic, the main recourse for citizens is suffrage, then its transformation into mere ritual evinces a despotic turn. Long ago the plebeians sublimated their alienation with the ballot, so that, morphed into myopic, dependent consumers, they are captive to a distant, disdainful, and empty process. Both factions, veteran dispensers of access to the highest bidder, lead their respective flocks like Jim Jones in Suriname. Similar to the Grand Armee, the party is merely a means of social mobility, for Congress is the only place where blatant conflict of interest is legal. It is instructive that the GOP, which is less an ideology than a guttural, infantile sociopathy, has been the lead faction in the Third Empire. This allows the Democracy to play the role it has always cherished, that of the rearguard of reaction. The never ending bloviations emanating from both factions, like so much white noise masking what is uttered behind closed doors, evinces symbiosis more than a dialectic. Both parties, after all, treat their electorate like hostages. Therefore if one votes for, campaigns, or gives money to the apparatchiks and has a net worth of less than eight figures, you are culpable in your own oppression. Indeed the constant reduction of political discourse to "policy" and "realism" highlight the fact the decisions have already been made, the turbines are in motion, the Death Star is on autopilot. The incessant reminders to invest oneself in the political process, that the pageantry is still relevant despite the seemingly endless coups every two or four years, elides the central contemporary political divide between those who can murder with impunity, and those who cannot. The efficacy of citizenship is called into question when those who call the shots can, with impunity, murder your family for a couple grand, and cough up excuses afterwards. This a country, after all, where if you tell them the truth, they call you a traitor.
The contemporary draconian turn is not an accident, but a conscious, calculated political movement. With bared teeth and clenched fists, those who run the military-industrial complex have doubled-down on riding the empire into the sunset, extracting every last drop of rent like a vampire at dawn. Violence, then, increasingly becomes the only means to do so. Like so many Thiers, whose only answer was more standardized tests and more colonies, the polity becomes ever more arbitrary, opaque, unresponsive, bizarre, corrupt, and monstrous. Company operatives shooting people in broad daylight in Lahore. A Texan had allegedly been hired by the Revolutionary Guard to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, supposedly revealing a conspiracy between the Ayatollahs and Mexican Cartels. The only terror plots the FBI has uncovered are the ones it has created. Medical abortion is effectively becoming unrealizable. The ATF handed over assault rifles to the Zetas, while Latin American cartels laundered their cream through Wells Fargo. The National Guard is openly contemplating occupying the South Side. The DEA is forcing local governments to close pot dispensaries, because they want you to feel the pain. An ex-cop, motivated by systemic racism and unscrupulousness behind the Thin Blue Line, goes on a murderous rampage against his former employer. Military grunts are more likely to become casualties of suicide than enemy ordinance. The next generation of Hope Drones will be equipped with artificial intelligence and lasers, because they they want to make Skynet fully aware. Like Mara Salvatrucha chopping off limbs in Jesse Helmsistan, the end result is being swallowed up by the earth, after succumbing to cold, calculated steel. For the post-Nazis who run the United States are out to Reagan us all.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.
A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization."
" -Aimé Césaire
For over five hundred years, humanity has been governed by a civilization known as the West. Prior to its world-historical epoch, the West more than did not exist, it was a rough analogy of politically backward kingdoms at the margins of the global economy. Through a series of fortunate events, strategic aggrandizements, a fervent eschatology, and blatant hauteur, what is known as the West emerged around 1450 during the crisis of Late Feudalism. Consonant with the rising power of working peoples due to the Black Death, and conscious of the fact that the greatest triumph of the Crusades was the sacking of Constantinople, burghers, lords, scholars, and Church leaders reconsidered the place of Christianity in the world. The Renaissance forced a recognition of the pagan past, but its secularizing tendencies diminished religious proselytizing in favor of categorical integration. For if anything it was the Renaissance that created Europe by splitting the Mediterranean, and generating an idea of racial unity though a collective religious past, with a present will to dominate. The subsequent half-millenia of political, economic, and knowledge accumulation in the Continent enabled the West to refine, preach, and institute its gospel. Yet Western practice itself, in conjunction with its ideological duplicity, has proven to be bankrupt in every conceivable way. For the universal has only, and can only be realized, in contradistinction to the discursive project of the West.
On the shores of Angola a century after Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good hope, a new belief system was emerging due to a shifting world order. Catholic priests, heretofore obsessed with the devotion of new converts, were baptizing slave coffles en masse prior to their passage across the Atlantic. These dark Africans, in comparison to the Iberians, embodied a periphery in a new world order, whose orbit centered on a constellation of absolute monarchies at the tip of the European peninsula. In the beginning these peripheries served to mitigate European isolation from established Asian-African trading links by productive experimentation, and then attempting to monopolize, the flow of tropical commodities to Europe. In this early modern period, African principalities became labor subcontractors for European merchants and captains, who then shipped these conscripts to the Caribbean Basin, where they would be worked to death producing sweeteners, beverages, drugs, and dies for North Atlantic consumption. At the same time, those who survived the Spanish conquest of the Americas obligingly mined insatiable amounts of silver out of Potosi and Zacatecas, which would fund the Counter-Reformation, and provide the Lowcountry with the capital needed to be the world's greatest power in the 17th Century. Ensconcing the West was synonymous with the expansion of Europe, and its economic correlative, capitalism, has been a giant concentration camp from its inception.
Coterminus with this material ascendancy, the West invented a new ontology for itself which deviated from its pre-Renaissance past, and also justified its will to power. Europeans' interaction with diverse, previously 'unknown' peoples all over the globe, in conjunction with Continental intellectual tendencies against absolute despotism, led to what is known as the Enlightenment. Instead of the Christian ideal of salvation, Enlightenment thought was predicated upon the liberty of the individual and the rights of political subjects against absolute dominion. Left unsaid, however, was the implicit and purposeful limitation of Enlightenment conceptuality to those deemed corporeally worthy. For man, as understood by those who claimed to be gods, was hierarchically ordered by phenotype and gender so as to rationally decide who was more or less civilized, and who was to serve. The substitution of reason for pre-modern faith, then, gave Westerners a civilizing mission, and explained the immense human costs of colonization as purposeful and just. In this light the Enlightenment obsession with slavery was simply a political metaphor, for its authors had no intention of delegitimizing the basis of their comfort and influence. Voltaire, for example, decried human bondage without blacks, and Montesquieu derived his living from the slave trade. One can ascertain that the object of the Enlightenment, therefore, was to restrict the despotism of the West to those who were beyond it. Intentionally hypocritical, the Enlightenment has and always will be a ruling ideology.
For nearly three centuries Western hegemony stood unchallenged, leaving colonial powers free to imprint the globe as they saw fit. The first major confrontation to Europe was what became the United States. As a nationalist movement the American Revolution did not challenge the fundamental discourse of the Enlightenment, but sought to fulfill its promise in the nation. If the metropole became unalterably corrupt because it refused to stop treating whites like the colonized, then independence would ideally solve this problem by permanently codifying the Enlightenment under the guise of citizenship. In this vein the United States corrected a contradictory tenor of Western thought, by affirming descendants of Europeans to be equal regardless of locale. Subsequent settler independence movements confirmed this tradition by fomenting their revolts solely in the name of lost metropolitan rights. Contrastingly the so-called Third World revolutions, which by the mid-20th Century enabled former colonies to obtain autonomy from European political administration, but never attained the same level of economic sovereignty or existential respect. This was largely due to the fact that new national boundaries coincidentally reproduced colonial territories, and new national elites strangely comprised the former comprador caste under direct imperial rule. Moreover, given that Western cartels continued to control post-independence economies, the former colonized did not achieve independence in any material sense. In the dialectic between colonized and colonizer, then, the advent of the nation ultimately served to strengthen Euro-American global hegemony.
The reformulation of the world-system in the 1970's enabled the West to refashion its world-historical mission under the auspices of universality. The reduction of national boundaries in favor of a single world-wide corporate market promised to usher in global economic development along Continental lines, and the Wilsonian international ideal portended an end to war. This subsequent realization of the Enlightenment transferred the civilizationist prerogative to the Fortune 500, and transformed the nation-state into its local enforcement arm. If anything neoliberalism has demonstrated Western universalism to be a sham, for one can never achieve being if you are perpetually becoming. Present and degraded imperial powers have not ceased fomenting war in their former colonies, and the world capitalist market has greatly succeeded in increasing class disparity around the world. The continued hauteur of the world's second and greatest narco-state, and Euro-American funding of religious fanatics against secular forces, has elucidated to those in the know that Enlightenment sanction is inevitably nihilistic. The West, therefore, has proved to be an illusion in shepherding humanity out of the darkness, and the continued, parallel subjugation of those within and outside of the nation will serve to highlight this movement. The fact that the Western war against Iran has already started because the latter is simply attempting to obtain the sovereign rights of the former, is proof enough of a dying civilization. Little Boy was dropped for much less, after all.
Bonne année et bonne santé
Monday, July 30, 2012
"Although she feeds me bread of bitterness
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like the tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls not with a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand." -Claude McKay
At every systemic crisis, capital always turns to primitive accumulation in order to maintain itself. The state at this juncture is essential, for it functions to discipline and categorize the body, while generating the juridical boundaries of property relations. Though the existence of wage labor is considered to be the measure of mature, liberal capitalism, capital, in fact, has always been dependent upon exploitation beyond the monetization of work. Cristobal Colón worked the Tainos to death in order to send the first gold back to Seville, witch hunts were conducted to remove the last vestiges of pre-capitalist gender relations, and Leopold II's policy of terres vacantes led to the eradication of at least five million people, notwithstanding innumerable severed hands. Terrorism, therefore, is necessary to politically insure surplus value during desperate times. Whereas those historically subjected to primitive accumulation were intrinsically considered to be beyond the body politic, the 20th Century disintegrated this assumed separation between the colonized and the colonizer. Broadly speaking, one understanding of fascism is the salvation of corporate capitalism by totalitarian means. Though neoliberalism inflicts social trauma under the aura of a social contract, it similarly depends on arbitrary institutionalized violence. For without it, degradation would be impossible.
The reconfiguration of the world system in the 1970's accentuated the deep politics that had increasingly characterized the United States since the end of the 19th Century. The corporate reconstruction of American capitalism, installed simultaneously with the new empire, made permanent Federal activities that had only existed during wartime, namely a secret police, suspension of habeas corpus, show trials, and an increasingly centralized, war-oriented economy. By the termination of the Second World War, the military-industrial complex did not just expand these activities, but inaugurated a shadow government global in scope, over time subsuming the tripartite charter into banal procedure. Though the Dauphin was kind enough to admit that the Constitution is nothing more than a scrap of paper, late republican political culture inconvenienced a burgeoning unnacountable and covert bureaucracy. One way to interpret deindustrialization is the intentioned defeat of whatever effective politcal clout the working class had, as it frustrated the opacity of empire. In this light the 1960's was a decade of immense contradiction, the height of postwar Liberalism coternminus with the efflorescence of parapolitics. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution turned Indochina into a free fire zone for nine years, but its reverberations have been felt long after Watergate. The Golden Triangle, Air America, and covert counterinsurgency in Laos and Cambodia, alongside the official deployment of draftees to South Vietnam, generated a lucrative narcotics for weapons economy beyond the scope of Congress. People often forget that war, at its most basic level, is a business, and with the outmigration of manufacturing the United States produces little else.
Since 1980, the North American political economy has been based upon the extraction of primitive accumulation. This change necessitated a restructuring of domestic political relations, since niggification rests upon the elimination of any constraints to state violence. The War on Drugs, instituted at the tail end of the War on Communism, initiated what can only be properly understood as a moment of transition. The Just Say No campaign, which really instituted full-scale criminalization of the underclass, was predicated upon fears of Pablo Escobar overthrowing the American Way of Life with a twin-engine Cessna full of kilos. In the beginning this contemporary obsession with narcotics had little to do with the Homeland's urban ghettos. Initially ex- Somocista Guardia Civil, later known as the Contras, and their allies in the Bonzo Administration had difficulty obtaining weapons from the United States government due to the Boland Amendment. In order to circumvent Congressional oversight, American intelligence officials protected Contra officers who contracted with Colombian cartels in order to market cocaine in the United States. People forget that, until the 1980's cocaine was a rare substance in the United States, confined to chic discos and bathrooms of the wealthy. In effect, Federal policy transformed lello from a luxury good into an item of mass-consumption, by discovering how to reverse-engineer cocaine into a cheap, easily transportable, and maddeningly addictive substance. The cocaine trade, really the employer of last resort for the devastated inner city in the 80's, became the equivalent to several large auto plants or several hundred McDonalds. Freeway Ricky Ross, the illiterate head of the South Central cartel, was clearing as much as $2 million a day during the Crack Era. In the interest of national security, therefore, American intelligence injected the black ghetto with rock, for as Danilo Blandón astutely observed, no one cared what happened to them. If the Drug War became a stunning example of flexible accumulation on a hemispheric scale, it was also a social experiment that became generalized throughout the United States.
The War on Drugs generated the political capital to transform the United States into a carceral society, whereby one's status is predicated upon criminality. Contrary to 'common-sense' assumptions, there is nothing inherent to being a criminal. Becoming felonious, rather, is a matter of political will. Even though the 13th Amendment generated the legal conditions convenient to public slavery, aside from a few decades after 1877, free labor impeded its implementation. The advent of deindustrialization eliminated the confluence of work and class, ostensibly excluding a large number of people from capital aggrandizement. The Drug War compensated for this vacuum, as it generated the conditions for accumulation by larceny, as well as post-industrial class formation. Prohibiting all substances aside from alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals gave the state juridical excuse to violate the 4th Amendment by confiscating the property of the guilty, and selling it to the highest bidder. Moreover, narcotics interdiction transmuted workers into convicts, degrading the laboring class into a servile caste, and reproducing segregation. One of the most important, but unheralded, gains of the Civil Rights Movement was the Federalization of lynching, where they put angels like Troy Davis on the electric chair. The Supreme Court was quite cognizant of the fact that if it accepted the petitioner's claims in McLeskey v. Kemp, the entire foundation of the American justice system would be destroyed. Equal protection of the laws, therefore, has become synonymous with a rather curious socio-political project, being that the United States currently has a larger prison population than under Stalin. Where as a rule CO's scream out 'Fight or Fuck,' so that for the first time since Rome, the number of male sexual assault victims approaches that of women. After all the casino gulag economy could not exist without normalized appropriation, making sure that the freest country ever known is flooded out like Wackenhut, ridden by spooks. As if the Feds could ever find all the books, freebase, and hollow heads.
The contemporary War on Terror, which if taken seriously is about as winnable as its predecessors, is an intensification and geographic extension of the Drug War. In this age of globalized subjection, the body supplants physical evidence as an admission of guilt, so that one's fate is that much more predetermined. To the Homeland's south, the Division del Norte imposes itself as a selecting agent, ensuring that only the fittest can work for below minimum wage. What is conventionally known as the Arab World, but in actuality refers to the geographic expanse between the Himalayas and the Mediterranean, has been cordoned off as a free fire zone. Internally people stuff ballot boxes for admitted torturers/serial killers, who follow every protocol in orchestrating the proper assassination of American citizens. For the advent of Hope Drones inside the United States signifies the collapse of the colonial/metropolitan divide, bringing the war home to us all. There is, in fact, no way to escape the incessant dread, this haunting that life's most important relationships are on the verge of being severed or lost, where our fate is the prison yard, leaving no corpse to bury, no trace, all for the
pursuit of purity and will that turns us all into cowards and thugs, underwritten by a contract.
The gallows are hungry.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
"Straight shots of the Sterno plus, wick stuck in the bottle empty
3 blocks to the target we light it and lob it hard at sentry
4 pigs of the oinking variety guard the market entry
5 minutes of flames and then aim the whistle my father lent me
6 o'clock we meet up and divi the shells among the youngins
7 continents in the shit and smoke like it's fuckin' London
Just before they 8 up the funds our harmony love was bumpin'
Now government issue 9's are pointed where your blood is pumped in
Ten(d) to mop up these muttering zombies talker pieces
El'll vent on you harder than Fukushima breezes
In the end when a dozen or so adjourn to reason
You'll find the verdict return corrupted in murderous seasons
With inverted 31's and other unlucky omens
That's why I chug 7 and 7's 'til I'm fuckin' homeless
And every time you think my 15 minutes of fame are up
I spit another 16 and prove to the world I fuckin' own it" -El-P
Intrinsic to Western civilization's claim to exceptionalism is the universal. A product of the vaunted Enlightenment, universality stresses the common humanity of all over particular, divisive differences. The advent of the universal, in fact, emanates from the emergence of Europe and the historically-derived integration of the globe on Continental terms. Whether coming from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the United States Constitution, or association in the Commonwealth, universal assertions have traditionally derived from political membership. In theory, at least, all citizens embody inherent, unequivocal, and commonly enforced rights connoted with a particular polity. In practice this universality is undermined by the assumptions of the Enlightenment itself, both internal and external to the respective political spaces. A will to power premised on the hierarchical division of humanity will inevitably instill superiority to some particular group of humanity over others. The beauty of modernity, at least to those who fashion it, is its claim to universality while representing a select few. With a view to our current epoch, neoliberalism has integrated the globe like no prior world-system, under the guise of a free, fair, and universal capitalist market. The fact that neoliberalism has failed every single one of it's promises must be comprehended as intentional. The current, on-going revolts against neoliberalism should be seen, in their own way, as a claim to genuinely instill the universal into daily life. Regardless of their locales, they are assertions that a decent society, structured on the commons, can only come from below. They are proof enough that rights are taken, not given.
It is tempting, as many in the West do, to comprehend the so-called 'Arab Spring' as an exercise in imitation. The masses in Tahrir Square, those who overthrew Ben Ali, and the unknown tortured in Bahrain have merely been parroting the nonviolent tactics of a United States political science professor in their quest for participatory democracy. From this perspective, the uprisings in the Middle East are an attempt to reach political perfectibility of the Western model. Yet, a view beyond the Ramses Hilton portends a disparate impetus. Namely, that the brunt of popular resistance in the Arab-speaking world to overthrow the terms of Euro-American colonialism erected upon the grave of the Ottoman Empire. If the regional revolution initially aimed at the overthrow of imposed dictatorship, systemic resistance and the evident frivolity of the elections have pushed things beyond the ballot box. Perhaps, if events continue on their course, Egypt in the second decade of the 21st Century will be spoken of in the same terms that late 18th Century France is remembered today. The overthrow and likely execution of Mubarak, the decay of martial rule and its economic attendants, and the renunication of Camp David allude to not just a resurgence of autonomy, but a complete overthrow of the imposed regional status quo. When natural gas pipeline to Israel is habitually bombed, people throw themselves in front of trains to aid fleeing protesters, and the untermenschen are at war with the police to the point where women are beaten with metal poles and dragged through the streets, an entire political culture has changed. Because of this phenomenological emergence, the United States, European Union, and the Saudi-Israeli alliance have aimed to crush it any cost. Thus Saudi tanks were sent to Bahrain to ensure state repression, goons were ordered to massacre Al-Ahly supporters, the Ikwan is recieving unprecented Gulf financial support, and the United States and European Union hijacked the revolt against Ghaddafi to install Al-Qaida affiliates who have resurrected the African slave trade. Yet in its secularism, anti-imperialism, and neoliberal rejection, the Arab revolutions have, in fits and starts, delegitimized Western consensus.
Since before the Act of Union England has, if anything, been historically defined by its metropolitanization. Once the world's largest landowner, the biggest defense spender, and its wealthiest and most productive country, England was above all phenomenologically understood as a land of colonizers. In barely a century, however, Great Britain has transformed from being the world's greatest industrial power to its most indebted country. The Tories and New Laborites conspired to break the unions, help invade Afghanistan and Iraq, send the factories elsewhere, keep the troops in Northern Ireland for some reason, introduce a police state, and make England reputable as a haven for war criminals and oil sheikhs. Dominated by the City, this shadow borough serves as the center for money laundering, accounting fraud, and grand larceny in the current world system. When the real estate bubble collapsed the English government, like its North American overseer, decided to make the creditors whole. The consequence, rioting that spread throughout England in the summer of 2011, was advertised as a surprise, though anyone with an ear to its vast lower class would have augured the opposite. For while the posh and well-connected insult the lower orders by partying like it was 1999, those who were fired, dropped out of university because they couldn't afford it, imprisoned in a mortgage, or stuck in Brixton live a different reality. The descendants of the Windbrush generation have, in particular, understood Rule, Britannia to mean they can never be truly British. Given that economic repression has only given the ruling class greater incentive to derogate the chavs, immigrants, and darker ones as state policy, the whole thing has merely demonstrated the right of the ghettoized to burn what they wish. The Royal Wedding, after all, cost more than all the disembowled buildings, broken glass, insurance claims, and boostered merchandise combined. And it is quite much, really, for David Cameron to call for the maximum punishment of a teenage "looter" given his government's locale, and that for every 500 million pounds given to Richard Branson, the same amount is deducted from the health or education budget. If, in essence, the colony has invaded the metropole, there is this seeming realization on the island that the curtain has fallen, and they're all wondering now, what to do, as if there has been some apparition of the end.
From Fall 2011 until early into the following year, the Occupy movement captivated the United States, and locales far beyond Rome. Partially inspired by uprisings and protests in the Middle East, Southern Europe, leftists manqué, and massive political alienation, Occupy initially attempted to reclaim space as a declared, common alternative to neoliberal praxis. Though the vast encampment centered around Zuccotti Park was movement's locus in the inchoate public imagination, Occupy had no organizational vanguard, and no capital. Rather in cities large and towns small, imperial citizens donated their money and time, pitched tents, and freely discussed their shared problems beyond the realm of the political duopoly. The general assembly's failings, controlled by the highly educated with a patriarchal tendency, and mechanics that eventually ran out steam, should be seen as part of the learning curve. For it was unclear at the outset what exactly Occupy was going to do outside of being there. Perhaps the movement's lasting effects are the reactions conjured from the powers-that-be, revealing to Americans their real station in the lost republic, and what their elected officialls actually think of them. Innocent, white, college-aged women being gang-tear gassed, police bashing heads on the Brooklyn Bridge after lying to the marchers, people being arrested for withdrawing money from Citibank, and the public goon squad evicting squatters from their supposed First Amendment rights. For the NYPD admitted, after all, that it was nothing more than a gang for Jamie Dimon. Regardless of the lack of press coverage, the transition from protest to resistance has been a necessary one for Occupy, as its relevance has obtained a previously absent materiality. Whether helping the foreclosed stay in their homes, assisting in wildcat strikes, or attempting to shut down the Port of Los Angeles, the movement has obtained resonance on the terrain of production. Above all, Occupy has demonstrated that those who seek resolution within the Consulate will inextricably have their request denied.
If the West has always justified itself by instituting itself under the guise of universality, the myriad and ongoing constestations against domination inevitably undermine such claims. For if the universal was truly ensonced in daily life, then there would be no systemic crisis in the first place, nor so much uncessary suffering. What is evident is that the struggle for the commons will not be defined by a single event but by a general tendency, where discourse will lag behind action. The continuous demonstrations against austerity in Spain, the Oakland Commune's mayoral Jacquerie, and the abrogation of civil marriage amidst the fires in Athens are a testament to this vivifying process. Because there is no alternative.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
"One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken." -Leo Tolstoy
The essence of modern society is humanity's disciplining of nature. In contrast to prior epochs, the emergence of capitalist millenialism enabled the eradication of environmental constraints on production. The cutting down of forests, draining and dredging of waterways, elimination of inefficient species, construction of vast road networks, and separation of people from the land were all necessary for enclosure. Not merely satisfied with increasing the output of its menage, humanity developed a system of exchange dependent upon constantly increasing rates of domestication. The galactic expansion of the market economy has raised living standards for many, generated a cornucopia of inexpensive consumer products, and even led to an outbreak of obesity. Science has awoke from its ecclesiastical slumber to categorize and refine mankind's understanding of nature, so as to further the species' engrossment of God's Kingdom. Yet this material utopia is founded on an impious discrepancy, that eternal economic growth is possible in a world of fixed resources. It was in search of this vain fallacy that mankind erected the monsters of the 20th Century, whose ghosts will haunt the earth long after we are gone.
While the capitalist world-system was initially powered by the wind, water, domesticated animals, and human exertion, the utilization of carbon-based fuels greatly intensified the power of the market. Wielding coal initially, and then petroleum, decreased distance and augmented productive capacity. The sheer number of mass migrants throughout the globe in the 19th Century, the emergence of electric looms, the discovery of tourism, and speed in which Euro-American states divvied up Africa and Asia would have been unthinkable without steam power. Even the last slave island, Cuba, constructed railroads and steam mills to process and transport sugar beyond the Caribbean. Burning coal not only led to new, more energy intensive forms of production, like with the Bessemer process, but new ways of human life. Harvesting electricity liberated humanity from its subjugation to the night, but also paved the way for the myriad conveniences which make living more enjoyable. Because of its sheer energy density, processing oil into a fungible commodity merely exacerbated the process already set in motion by its geological counterpart. Every aspect of contemporary existence, from basic movement, to the construction of space, to the importation of chachkas from China, and even simply growing food, is structured on easy access to petroleum.
Modernity's fundamental weakness, and our adherence to its mode of production, is the reliance on cheap, abundant fossil fuels. No other source offers the same energy return on investment. However, its narcotic embrace is doubly catastrophic. Even the most optimistic prognosticators believe that there is, at best, a few hundred years left of coal reserves. As for petrol an oft-maligned consensus has emerged that humanity has achieved a peak extraction rate, and that barrels of crude will henceforth be furnished on a downward curve. Despite using a wide array of technologies to find and mine new petroleum reserves, collection has held steady for a half-decade. Moreover, the most fecund oil fields are petering out, albeit at rates unknown. The Saudis are having difficulty with Ghawar's precedence, and it is no coincidence that the stability of the Mexican state coincides with the output from Cantarell. The gods of oil mining have contemplated erecting wells above underwater salt layers and the Arctic Circle, and are busy pumping fresh water into tar sands. Moreover the pollution consonant to the utilization of fossil fuels damages the physical environment and, if burned forever, is species suicidal. When Macondo blew it felt like the earth was bleeding, its reddish slick covering all in the sheen of progress. Yet, Royal Dutch Shell orchestrates little ones in Nigeria every few weeks or so. Given that human beings, and the ecology on which they depend on, have evolved to live in a certain climate, dumping carbon into the atmosphere for two hundred years, exemplified by the bubbling of methane clathrates, portends to make earth uninhabitable for its most intelligent species. Those born on the downside of Hubbert's Peak can be comforted that fossil fuels sources will be emptied, eventually.
Not so long ago, nuclear power was touted as the definitive energy source of the future. Reactors were fixed to power grids across the planet, the military went nuclear, and Ford planned to market the Nucleon. What was foreseen but unspoken, at the time, were the consequences of harvesting suns in order to boil water. From the very outset storing spent fuel, whose radioactivity lasts longer than any human civilization has ever existed, has posed a particular quandary with no solution. The final industry, uranium mining, poisoned groundwater, and its tailings perhaps provided a consummate insult to North America's original inhabitants. As the domestic progenitor in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, containing radioactivity in live reactors has been the industry's most urgent problem. Any release of radiation, or meltdown of the reactor core, would not simply kill those in the immediate vicinity and create unwanted publicity, but would leave the surrounding area uninhabitable. The Soviets, in their infinite wisdom, concluded that their graphite reactors would never reach criticality, and therefore did not construct containment vessels around these reactor cores. Possibly the greatest horror unleashed by Chernobyl was the defeat of this arrogance, that the world's most advanced countries had constructed their livelihoods on poisonous fuels, which could only be disciplined for so long. The meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi demonstrated that what happened at Pripyat was not an isolated incident, but likely a portent of things to come. Given TEPCO's corruption, the regulatory capture of the Japanese state, and the brilliance of constructing twenty nuclear reactors atop the world's most seismically active locale, if it was not the tsunami it would have been something else. Irrespective of the lies of the Japanese government and global media blackouts, three reactor cores have melted through containment, the land surrounding Fukishima is carcinogenic for the foreseeable future, TEPCO has released untold gallons of radioactive water into the sea, and the defunct reactors are spewing hot particles towards North America. And everyday Tokyo residents get faint wind of the metallic taste of radiation, harrowing like the clink of Cisplatin vials.
While modernity has furnished material comfort to most who have touched its grasp, prosperity is not a moral consideration. For over two hundred years humanity has used the earth as a dumping ground for industrial waste, and the recent increase of environmental catastrophes implies that the process is speeding up. Even with this knowledge, the priests of capitalism continue with their salvation of economic growth, regardless of cost. Full-blown apocaloids, in their view there is no recourse except a billion internal combustion engines, strip-mining mountains, or having the state protect a "private" industry that would never be able to find insurance on the private market. For our age is one of catastrophe, where bull markets will depend solely on the price of light sweet crude, species will die at an accelerating rate, and the government will no longer be able to afford maintaining live nuclear reactors. Amidst financial crisis, the European Union cannot even come up with the billion Euros necessary to retrofit the 'sarcophagus' over Chernobyl, which was never built to last two decades in the first place. And the emigration from eastern Honshu has only begun. If Maggie Thatcher famously proclaimed there is no alternative, it was uttered dogmatically, and its adherents will pursue their Counter-Reformation until the very end.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
"Don’t be deceived when they tell you things are better now. Even if there’s no poverty to be seen because the poverty’s been hidden. Even if you ever got more wages and could afford to buy more of these new and useless goods which industries foist on you and even if it seems to you that you never had so much, that is only the slogan of those who still have much more than you. Don’t be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there’s no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretense of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they’ll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces."
— Jean-Paul Marat
Classical Western political theorists, be they Hobbes, Rousseau, Voltaire, or Jefferson, assume that unitary power is a social given. The differences between such thinkers, and among their historical interpretations, emanates from their shared understanding as to the embodiment of national authority and for whom state power is executed. Political theory views government as contractual in nature, whereby individuals exchange autonomy for protection under a hierarchical authority. Conservative political thought negatively considers this relation, that people should simply be glad they are allowed to live. In Liberal parlance, the concept of citizen implies that political subjects should be accorded positive benefits emanating from their consent to be governed. The emergence of nationalism, particularly in Europe and the Americas, was by the 19th Century generally Liberal and afforded democratic rights to persons considered to be citizens. By the 20th Century the strength of labor parties, cyclical economic crises, and the fear of communism led to state-mandated social insurance for the masses. If the latter transformed the laboring citizen into a comfortable and secure member of the middle class, then the demise of the Liberal state consequently transformed the nature of political relations. Whereas neoliberalism relegated citizens to the mercy of the "free market," its political function is the restriction and perpetuation of exchange values. Under this contemporary regime people, uncitizens or legal persons, are simply objects from which to extract resources, to strip mine unto their graves.
The longue durée of Liberal nationalism, primarily due to the limited historical development of capitalist relations, was typified by the developmental nation-state. Developmental in this sense refers to the function of government as quintessentially protectionist, where the limitations of citizenship coincided with the bordering of economic flows. Navigation Acts, tariff schedules, and customs duties served to financially favor domestically-produced commodities over imported goods. This discrimination naturally decreased the cost of goods produced within national borders, providing the means of capital accumulation within the world-system. Contrary to neoclassical economics, this was how agrarian societies transformed into specialized, urban-industrial complexes. As the bourgeois mode of production built upon itself over time, the role of the state became ever more interventionist. From holding a monopoly over currency, to subsidizing canals, roads, and railroads, to issuing grants for post-secondary education and research, government acted as a reverse sink for modern economic development. By the fin de siècle of the 19th Century, the increase of state power furthered wealth creation by artificial redistribution. The vast array of worker protections enshrined into law not only shielded the bourgeoisie from revolt, but ushered in the era of consumerism when war rationing was not in effect. Thus the strengthening of political society simultaneously liberated the costs of business and insured the purpose of capital itself.
While the developmental state reached its zenith during the Second World War, in the form of Keynesian-Speerian unlimited demand economies, the postwar order portended its demise. The victors' creation of the United Nations ushered, for the first time, a global bureaucracy that could enforce contractual Liberalism the world over. Though beyond the public eye, the economic arrangements hashed out amidst the ruins of Europe and Asia authored the structural limits of the developmental arrangement. The Bretton Woods programme, controlled by Euro-American capital, created a stable financial environment necessary for resurrecting the industrial heartlands of Japan and Europe. By creating a supra-national credit market, it fashioned a template for ordered capital flows across heretofore tightly regulated boundaries. That the IMF and World Bank credited reindustrialization in the 'Free World,' above and outside of the scope of Liberal nationalist tenets, augured a new era of productive relations. If Bretton Woods defended Western Civilization by funding the welfare state via (neo) colonialist dependency, by subjecting member states to the dictates of a transcontinental arbitrageurs it founded the conditions for a truly boundless system of accumulation. The contemporary global playground for the transnational corporate overlords is a direct, systemic consequence of this Liberal transformation. Though the welfare state reached its height until the 1973 OPEC embargo, its evident decay was only a matter of time.
Contrary to common conception, neoliberalism is not simply a return to the laissez-faire dogma of the 19th Century. More than simply an economic approach, neoliberalism upends political relations to the detriment of a supposed social contract. In contemporary society, a citizen is a juridical entity from whom rights are extracted rather than protected. In fashioning class apartheid, the political system necessitates a strata who controls and aggregates the flow of power ever upward, while composing and enforcing a universally applicable body of laws. The beauty of neoliberalism, for the oligarchs who direct it, is the privilege to execute this living contradiction with impunity. After all, the contractual foundations for the current world system emanated from, and were erected above, the legal principles of Liberal nationalism. Debt is the fundamental mechanism of this subjugation, for it ostensibly projects a legitimate public/private obligation. However, debt in this day an age is a weapon to enforce obedience, where fake economic growth is temporarily financed for permanent servility. In an era where economic policy is simply centrally-directed enclosure of the hard-fought public commons, neoliberalism instills political subsidence to the point where citizens are on a parallel legal plane to that of uncitizens. And the 'market' unto which it serves, that pagan force to which we sacrifice body and soul, is governed by tranches of regulated rackets underwritten by public largess. The SEC went after Bernie Madoff not because he operated a Ponzi Scheme, but because the wrong people lost money.
The financialization of everyday life, that reduction to complete alienation narrowly critiqued by so many, is the material side of a vulturine politics. The extant body of law is a confusing, opaque verbiage that entraps anyone in criminality at the slightest mistake or slip-up. The return of the prison industry, so essential to the debasement of blacks after Reconstruction, provides opportunity for the outsourced working class. Narcotics, the most profitable enterprise of them all, is so pervasive that drug dealers don't realize they work for the government. The inevitable austerity, the fiscal discipline signifying permanent crisis, is demanded by the shadow banking system to repay loans only politicians asked them to make. After all, the contemporary capital flight out of Greece would be no different if the Nazis had been victorious. And the debts, whatever they may be, can never be discharged. For neoliberalism is a living violation, a calculated imposition of a permanent burden that is the basis for human bondage. It is, one can say, the verification of Hobbes' commonwealth. For if government can be reduced to a generalized protection racket, then the question is for whom.
Monday, May 30, 2011
If fails us now
Come, let us
Seize the time" -Jon King
Though many observers have previously claimed their era to be such, the current iteration of the capitalist world-system is likely to be its last. Premised on marginalizing the laborer to the greatest possible degree, in its present form capitalism has more or less succeeded in foisting its means of production across the globe. The divergence from prior global integrations is that industrial production is not relegated to certain areas of the world, ie the "West," but moves to whatever spaces that offer requisite subsidies and wage controls. The bourgeois mode of production, then, has succeeded in tearing down all political obstacles to its rule, and either circumvented, incorporated, or subdued prior forms of social existence. Indicative of the current state of things, wealth has never been so concentrated, nor have so many people on earth have been relegated to penury, at any prior epoch of human history. Such derivative social alienation is manifested in the dominant expressions of surplus value that are inherently false, from corporate-structured investment vehicles to neoclassical economic theory to the material value of fiat currency. This speciousness belies the fact that the bourgeoisie, as a class, is existentially parasitical, and requisitely profits from its antisocial relations because, to obtain timeless acquisitive growth, it has no choice. If capital is simply transmogrified dead labor, than our entire society is based on a glorified death cult.
Perhaps nothing epitomizes the bourgeoisie's complete alienation than their contemporary transformation of the capitalist mode of production. Prior to the 1970's, corporate capitalism consisted of harnessing the manufacture and distribution of real, material goods. A long-standing truce between managerial capital and labor, together with cheap fossil fuel prices, led to the wealthiest societies in human history. However with the colonized natives getting uppity at the petrol beneath their feet, the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in manufacturing, and the emergence of new technologies in communications and control, the bourgeoisie reconfigured the system of accumulation in order to sustain the essential need for growth. Ever since Nixon abandoned the Gold Standard so that the United States government to pay for obliterating Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos, money, that store of value whose circulation is an end in itself to capital, lost its connection to any tangible relation of value. Rather currency, and the capital invested in it, became a confidence game dependent on the manipulation of interest rates and the bourgeoisie's ability to fire sale everything. Divorced from material reality, this "new economy," structured on debt, premised on nothing, is the triumph of exchange values over use values.
The transcendence of finance over production meant an economy structured on securitized rent-seeking behavior. The erosion of banking regulation, combined with Federal subsidies, necessitated the concentration of a financial sector whose main object was the extraction of various fees and bonuses. The advent of de-industrialization heralded capital's essence as destructive, concentrating the surplus capital extracted from leveraged buyouts into ever larger pools. In return for destroying the industrial working class, the bourgeoise offered debt as a means to sustain living standards for the masses. Debt, in this instance, was both a financial obligation and a tool of class warfare, for interest payments and inflation outstripped the declining value of real wages. Patterns of Wall Street-machinated cycles of boom and bust in rated papyrus substituted real economic growth. The cocaine-fueled Reagan Era, the Dot-Com bubble, the greatest real estate swindle in history (prices never go down you know), and the present overcapitalization of near-worthless IPO's have all simply been swindles to transfer more wealth to the investment banks. The economic collapses that follow every debt fueled boom, it should be pointed out, are not necessarily detrimental for this cabal of parasitical capitalists. As a wise man one observed, with crisis comes opportunity. Indeed the process whereby one percent of the population possesses a quarter of the country's wealth, or less than one percent owns half the stock market, is as destructive as any NATO bombing campaign. One merely needs to glance at the living ruins along the Ohio to see the consequences.
The bourgeoisie's panacea of market fundamentalism is the social philosophy of the New Economy. Given that the "markets" are really the protected investments of the ownership class, what this really means in the retreat of the state from any function besides plutocracy. Parasitical capitalism, therefore, is free to issue infinite debt across the globe in order to print profits. The total amount of outstanding derivatives worldwide, mainly issued by notables like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Société Générale, Deutsche Bank, and Barclay's, is something like 900 trillion dollars. The NYSE is regulated by supercomputers of the major investment banks, who set price levels so that said financial institutions don't post a single loss in a quarter. Like Detroit Red observed, any gambler who doesn't take a hit isn't lucky. It just means the game is rigged. Not a single banker has been indicted for ruining the lives of millions of people, but a former Goldman employee has been imprisoned for stealing their software. Fraud, which is the essence of post-industrial economic growth, is taken so seriously that the Federal Reserve gave these worthless institutions sixteen trillion dollars, and debt imprisonment has returned for their fucked solution. In this era of massive structured violence and dislocation, hedge fund managers such as Larry Fink advise that the "markets" desire totalitarian governments, as if they don't have them already. Is this your homework, Larry?
For a class that is no longer parvenu, no longer becoming, consumption legitimizes the social function of accumulation while eliding the fact that such materialized surplus value is premised on increasing global immiseration. The bourgeoisie, famous for destroying all barriers that stood in the way of its acquisitive machine, necessarily erected new boundaries in order to isolate itself from the labor it exploits. Islands have been bought as exclusive destinations, neighborhoods have been colonized and neutralized, walls lined with paramilitaries are raised, an entire culture has been manufactured to propagandize appropriative phenomenology, and limousines, helicopters, and Learjets ensure that the monied don't have to mingle with the canaille. Conspicuous consumption such as million-dollar weddings connote belonging, while Laura Blankfein loses her shit because she has to shop with "those people" in the Hamptons. Yet, like the most expensive house in the world being erected over a Mumbai slum, despite the illusion of consummation the bourgeoisie cannot escape its own existential contradictions, for a few may be in, but most of us are out. They have, after all, taken the means of production from us, and dangled cheap exchange values in their stead. Fuck them, let them lose their souls.