The radical potential of ‘dead wood’?

A number of the issues raised in various papers that I heard at the 2004 CSAA conference hit home in a very real way; that is, at my familial home. I am writing this the night I am back in Sydney. I am exhausted, but not tired, and have this I want to write before I forget.

My mum is nearing the end of her 31 year career as a teacher. For 21 of those years she has worked at one public high school. Now she is being forced to face up up to the neo-liberalist workplace policies of ‘perform – or else’ (See Jon Mckenzie’s work).

Without going into the specifics of her plight my mum has been stiffed at work for the last time. For longer than I have been alive she has been a Liberal voter. Come next election, I hope very much this will no longer be the case.

Like the worker in the Living End’s song “Roll On” my mum found out the hard way about the biopolitical production of living labour in the meld of the performatively docile worker in this hyper-conformative era (where you conform even when you don’t):

You see you’re all expendable,
And when all is said and done,
You’ll go back to work tomorrow,
Or meet your new replacement son.
Roll on!
Roll on!
We’ll roll on with our heads held high…

The typical 60+ year old baby boomer my fellow members of generation-? (? for ‘whatever’, but generation-W sounds kind of second-wave-feminism-ish) and I dismissively refer to as ‘dead wood’ (or maybe it is just me?). With future security tied up in fat retirement funds and the collective conscience of their once-was-radicality perhaps we will see a return to political engagment mobilised by a shared sense of resentiment triggered from social underappreciation.

Or perhaps the dead wood will remain so and end up being the motor-cause of the grey-dollar consumer society. Then it is a question of the biopolitical potential of whatever enthusiasms the Rich Dead Wood desires. Rather like generation-?, who think raves offer some sort of radical potential by offering alternate images of economic exchange or some bullshit like that. Which leads me to one of my childhood faves – Ren and Stimpy.

The biopolitical potential of dead wood as consumer and of the rave is a bit like Ren and Stimpy’s ficticious child’s toy (and maybe ‘adult’ toy for the kinky folks) “Log”:

What rolls down stairs,
Alone or in pairs…
Rolls over your neighbor’s dog?
What’s great for a snack,
And fits on your back?

It’s Log! Log! Log!

It’s Lo-og, it’s Lo-og
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood!

It’s Lo-og, Lo-og.
It’s better than bad, it’s good!!!

Either way what is left but an ethical commitment? The collective resentiment of boomers is a moment that will flash and then never reappear with the same force again. There is only one boomer generation and, likewise, there is a singular period of becoming-‘dead wood’. Hopefully such a wave can be tapped in a more ethical manner than the collective resentiment ‘captured’ by, for example, Pauline Hanson.

Such dead-wood resentiment will happen and it must be mobilised in ethical ways. Negative affects must be filtered and fed into each other so they become positive affects.

This is the opposite of what happens at Sydney International Airport. As Melissa Gregg and I mention in the hopefully to-be-published paper on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, there is an announcement broadcast continually over the PA at Sydney Airport that begins with: “Due to increased security measures…” This message has been played over the PA for a long time, I noticed it about 7 months ago. It captures the affective of the ‘to-be’ journey in pretension with itself. That is, the futurity of the present is in an affective tension with the eventuality of the future. The word ‘increased’ increases the polarity of the tension across scales of temporality – of coming and going bodies with various anticipations of the future. The anticipating body is in tension.

The future-event is reconciled with the incredibly strong affects (sometimes) of, for example, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The momentum of the present is given a certain weight – the heaviness and slowness of goodbye or the incredible lightness and speed of hello. However, the mobilisation of the lightness or heaviness of the present is always in a particular direction. The direction is bound to be congruent with the announcement about ‘increased security’. The continual repetition of this phrase in the space of the airport is a complex event that has a number of intersecting possibilities. I argue that one such event is the production of particular kinds of departing and arriving travellers.

Anyway, long blog entry, and it has done its job – now I am ready for bed. Last point. I wonder if there is a radical potential in this Blog form of communication? Or is this just another form of ‘log’?