An essay of mine appears at The New Inquiry, an upstart journal out of New York City that’s well worth checking out and sticking in your rss-feed reader. The essay discusses the massive earthquake one kooky geologist, Dr. Iben Browning, predicted would demolish most of western Illinois and eastern Missouri, including my then-hometown of St. Louis.
Voltaire once wrote that if God didn’t exist, He would have to be invented. Apparently the same can be said for bureaucracy — and for the rent-seekers who manipulate its levers. You need only loosen up your conception of bureaucracy. The “take a number and we’ll be right with you, but first make sure you have completed the following forms” model of bureaucracy? That’s so “old economy.” In the world to come, bureaucracy, like everything else under the sun, will be miniaturized and digitized, so you can take it with you wherever you go. Now that’s convenience.
Not to be outdone by the boys, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, The Jersey Shore‘s sample-sized sexpot renowned for bitch slaps given and received, has gone decidedly more highbrow than Pauly or Sitch, penning A Shore Thing, a roman à clef detailing the Jersey shore’s many sweaty pleasures. Author Snooki’s protagonist is one Gia Spumante, a café au lait party girl on the prowl for “gorilla juiceheads” and good times.
Even Mr. End-of-History himself, Francis Fukuyama, admits (albeit in a cautious, highly qualified manner) that the great political experiment our founding fathers set in motion has essentially devolved into a plutocracy. This means goodbye social mobility, liberty, sovereignty, and just about everything else Idaho militia men find so sexy about the constitution. Money obeys only one imperative: to make more of itself. On its way to doing so it will trample everything you and I hold dear.
The seasonability of reading certain books is certainly a curious notion. But when you consider it closely, it makes sense. This doesn’t simply owe to your being insufficiently advance in terms of language skills (though this may be a factor), so much as it does to your being insufficiently mature, sophisticated, or experienced. Incubated in the bulb-forcing hothouse of the American education system, we tend to lose sight of the fact that some subjects of study demand that we be prepared to engage them, and not simply in the conventional manner of having satisfied a curriculum’s prerequisites.
There’s something undeniably appealing about American conservatism, like a sweater that, though comfortable and cozy, doesn’t really look all that flattering. I’m sure it’s great, the urge socially and culturally to circle the wagons and gather the brood around the kitchen table to dispense lessons on young earth and the divine origins of the second amendment. It offers certainty in spades, something altogether in short supply in these days of global financial upheaval.
Whether run along a conveyor or embedded in a network, a human serves the same end: the resplendent valorization formerly reserved for objects. Only when human beings become sympathetic objects will objects become sympathetic. Only then will guillotines be embraced as readily as fond relatives or long-absent lovers.
Whether the crisis is one of hyperinflation or intractably deep recession, the result is the same. You need only recall the words of Überbanker Andrew Mellon: “In a depression assets return to their rightful owners.” He certainly wasn’t talking about the poor schmucks manning the teller windows.
The various strikes around France, each an instantiation of this countermovement working in an inverse direction in law and in life, do indeed seek to loosen what has been artificially and violently linked, whether that be the state itself and its power or the various conceptual assemblages to which the state, in its present position of power, lends articulation: that profligacy at the highest echelon of society necessitates further austerity and privation at the lowest; that regressive revenue-generating or -saving measures are always to be preferred over progressive. This latter form of power, which for all the bland anonymity of its apparatuses — its various councils, bureaucracies, gendarmes, and prisons — are no less violent as a result, one can only meet with the ostentatious, pluriform violence of the strike.
It may not be altogether hyperbolic to say that, if the turn of the twentieth century belonged to The Culture of Time and Space, the turn of the twenty-first belongs to The Culture of Slime and Waste. In The Culture of Slime and Waste, environmental crises have grown so acute that metaphors of depletion, imbalance, and destruction proliferate to such a extent that toxicity becomes more than a state or condition. It becomes a discourse, a representation of a Foucauldian web of relations out of which precipitate objects who share a common metaphoric tenor. Today one hears mentioned not only toxic areas or habitats, but toxic assets, toxic people, toxic relationship, toxic ideas, and toxic language. The poisons to be encountered in the wider world are so multifarious and omnipresent that it’s a wonder one ever leaves his house — which doubtless contains toxic drywall.