My Last Excursion into Resistance, I swear

Perhaps I've been influenced by McLuhan but I feel like change comes from a) jamming circuits in order to b) expose the "environment," that is, the very structures of exchange and behavior, in order to c) discover, and enact, new ways of doing things.

Self-righteousness, unquestioning ideology, collective adherence to a position: these, to me, are the ills. I don't care who the fuck is performing them; it's the very behavior that I find, uh, troublesome? Distasteful?

This is why I like using aesthetic categories — "distasteful" — to make sense of seemingly ethical scenarios: it jams the circuit, at least for a moment. And jams me up socially, too.

I remember the early days of ACT UP — there was no orderly march, no heart strings being pulled, no hand holding or candle light vigils. There were explosive, guerrilla actions. It was the event, the spectacle, that mattered — not the group. They didn't want you to feel good; they wanted to get in your fucking face, put a bit of fear up in you, force you to think, to react. I don't know what they're up to, anymore. But at least for a bit they were challenging the paradigm of activism, of resistance.

And then there are truly radical models, ones that don't seek to resist anything per se but rather proffer alternatives. I'm thinking of Burning Man. Now, I'm no burner — I'm too misanthropic and too dainty, perhaps. But I thoroughly and absolutely dig what it's up to: no money, just play and the playa.

But what I really respect about Burning Man is that it's not just an event. If it were — if it were just a few days of frolic — it might be cool but it would just reinforce the madness of the weekend logic: work work work for a few hours of play. Which drives me insane. No, Burning Man takes its ethos to heart and carries it through everyday life in cities and communities across the country and across the globe (I made that last part up: is there an international Burning Man community?)

I truly feel that activism — what an odd and sort of beautiful world; it makes me think of the Futurists — is reorganizing behavior.

Of course, a little legislation could help, too.

Here's the law I want passed: the work week is 32 hours. Anyone who works more than that must be paid overtime. Man, that would fuck things up gooood. We'd probably starve for a while. And not have enough gadgets to go around. But think of all the time — parents could parent! Parents could fuck! Non-parents could fuck! We could move more slowly, reduce stress, make our youth happier.

That's the main behavior, I suppose, that I'd like to change: I want to slow everything the fuck down. Because this endless will not only to speed but to acceleration is literally killing us.


Jeff M. said...

I'm a public sector worker.

I think the government could save money by just paying me to stay home. Why add another car to the morning commute? Why send me to one training seminar after another (I'm going to do things my own way anyway)? Why keep pretending that the world wouldn't go on perfectly well without me punching a clock five days a week?

Moreover, I've been tamed. Set me loose and all I'm going to do is stay in my house, go to the library once in a while and take walks by the river.

Sure, I'll keep smoking my medical marijuana. And in the summer I'll probably hike way out into the woods and do magic mushrooms with my brothers.

But even so, I'm not going to start any trouble. I hardly do now, though when my union went on strike a few years ago I joined the cause. I set up a website and fed my journalist friends documents. I'm tame, but that doesn't mean I'm harmless.

dustygravel said...

This is your last excursion into resistance? I shore hope not. I for one have really enjoyed this recent political turn.

but its true I think you have us all baffled, all the more reason to forge ahead I suppose.

when reflecting on what you've been telling us about your ideal revolution a few things stand out to me.

1. a new net work individualism
2. micro resistance
3. the outcome of action must be enjoyable

The reason this is so hard to understand is that revolution is usually a group effort, a big deal, and requires sacrifice.

But what good is revolution if you lose who you are, the methods are more oppressive then what your fighting against, and you wouldn't even enjoy an actual victory.

The first time I read your reimagining environmentalism I thought you where just shifting the appeal from ethics to enjoyment, maybe rangal in a few more for the case of the environment, but now I'm starting to see that what you'r doing is a critic of the fundamental modes of residence used by modern activism. They where already co-opted by the powers that be.

what usually comes to mind when one thinks of political resistance; get off the grid, start a collective, be a human bomb. these don't solve the problem that your posing in the least. If the powers that be only wanted to steal our enjoyment these actions couldn't possibly be conceived resistance. And as it is the powers that be do seem to wish us to be miserable, just think of the way bad people seek to stop the good jokes, or how so many good jokes are actually coercive actions to stop some other form of enjoyment. Its true the up tight fucks don't want us to be happy.

So what can we do to enjoy ourselves in the face of all this? Is that you're question?

Oh and I can't get over the idea of introducing individualism into multiplicity, trips me out, is that you're move?
So crazy, I like to see how it works.

Chad Lott said...

I bartend at parties in SF thrown by the Space Cowboys (an old Burning Man Camp) and those events are pretty mind blowing.

The feeling isn't so much resisting as clearing, like an explorer cutting through forests, they machete the cubicle life and set up a space of absolute revelry.

I've been around many of them outside of Burner events and the ethics of the space leach into everyday life.

This is the tribe you'd want to belong to if you think Hunter S. Thompson should be on Mt. Rushmore and Terrance McKenna should have been the Surgeon General.

I have never been to Burning Man, though.

dg said...

I beseech the not to leave this topic. You should be flattered as I've never besought anyone.

This is THE topic for anyone paying attention. I believe things are bad enough we should be in the streets forcing collapse, but demographics is against me here: militancy?

How can the French and Greeks be in the streets so quickly and be so organized. I emailed the Greek Commies a while ago. They said any donations should go to the militant arm of the main Union.

I hope you can come back to this, maybe in different ways

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Jeff M: the point about being tame is fantastic. It's what I think whenever I see people slogging to work each morning: they're all so tame. That's what's become of us. And, well, yes: we may still not be harmless. That still waits to be seen

@ Dusty: Your summary of my position is better than anything I could do. Thanks. I'm gonna steal your notes for a short talk I'm giving next week. I'll give you your due props.

@ Chad: perhaps it's better to draft on BM — avoid the dust and the drive. But that might just be my dainty misanthropy talking.

@ dg: I've wondered about this, too: what drives them to the streets and us to Google?

So maybe this is not my last post on the matter....

drwatson said...

I thought I just posted but I think something went wonky. So I'm going to try this again.

The department I'm in now is full of pragmatists - Rorty, and Donald Davidson are popular.

I like those guys well enough, but I come out of Heidegger, Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, and Camus, so I can't quite agree with them.

But I'd imagine people in my department arguing that Greenpeace, to use your example from a few posts ago, is justified because its means aren't really evil and its ends are good.

Kind of like the way in 2004 leftists argued that Nader shouldn't run, even though they liked him better, because it was decided that he couldn't win. Therefore one should be pragmatic and vote in a way that could influence the world, unless you lived in a state that wasn't up for grabs - then you can actually vote like an individual. (This was basically Noam Chomsky's argument,)

So to form this into a question: to what degree do you stop idealizing means?

I mean, there seems like a line somewhere, but it's been hard for me to respond lately because I basically agree with your argument. So I'm trying to imagine a logical disagreement as a way to think about the issue.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ drwatson: you inspired my latest post.....hope that begins to address your comment.

dustygravel said...

@ drwatson: IF every one voted their heart, a true statement would be made. Nader might not have won but people would have lost there bondage to the package deal, and the things that we blindly excepted as necessary would be reviled as the bull shit they actually are.

Do we have to choose between low taxes or clean air?

Do we have to choose between domestic job opportunity and open borders? no we don't.

Politics are full of these false dilemma because we refuse to pick the losing side.

Understanding that my particular examples are probably too idiosyncratic for any collective support, I think we're all basically on the same page with this, resist the pragmatists until what they say affirms freedom, and transformative possibility.
(I like names from both those lists)

I say a vote for a democrat a vote for a republican, is a vote for the dichotomy. multiplymultiplymultiply tell the dichotomy has no support at all.

@Coffeen: you really think my summary is that good? Thanks. I was only trying to reflect back your words, you know as feed back, see if i was hearin' you right.

drwatson said...

@dustygravel - I agree totally with your sentiment, though sometimes the choice is between a backwards democrat and a dinosaur. And in those choices I can understand the pragmatic argument. Though we could call it other things. Like I live in a swing state, North Carolina, so in my state, voting at least potentially could matter. And I think I feel about the same way most people on this thread do about our political system. But given a choice, I'd take Obama, who feels much like Bush to me over McCain.

I feel like the left needs to take rhetorical theory classes. Charlie Sheen has been better at controlling his message than the democrats. And that says a lot.

drwatson said...

@Coffeen - Glad to hear I inspired the comment - this blog is always more interesting than what I'm reading for my PhD. Academia feels more and more ridiculous the higher you go in it. I feel like I have more students at the community college I teach at thinking in ways that are exciting than I do in my grad classes. I mean the people in grad classes are more sophisticated obviously, but they are also more burdened by accepting dominant ideology. There's an incredible boringness to most academic thought.

And I've been starting to read more Deleuze and I love it and am frustrated by it all at once. At some point i'd love to have a back and forth on your take on his thinking and it's breadth.

Thanks for being interesting.