Shame and New Orleans

Human rights are axioms. They can coexist on the market with many other axioms, notably those concerning the security of property, which are unaware of or suspend them even more they contradict them: “the impure mixture of the impure side by side,” said Nietzsche. Who but the police and armed forces that coexist with democracies ca control and manage poverty and the deterritorialization-reterritorialization of shanty twons? What social democracy has not given the order to fire when the poor come out of their territory or ghetto? Rights save neither men nor a philosophy that is reterritorilized on the democratic State. Human rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning is needed by a philosophy of commmunication that claims to restore to society of friends, or even of wise men, by forming a universal opinion as “consensus” able to moralize nations, States, and the market. Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them.
— Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? pg 107-108.

Although we do not discuss it in these terms, Mel Gregg and I attempt to isolate the opposite of this shame in our forthcoming publication on the Unlawful Combatant conceptualised as we call the ‘refrain of the right-eous’. The Right has no shame. The Right can not live with shame; it is shameless. It acts with a righteousness that knows no shame.

The events occuring in New Orleans are truly horrendous. Bush asks his citizens to have patience.

“I know this is an agonizing time, or we all know this is an agonizing time for the people of the Gulf Coast,” the current president said. “I ask their continued patience as recovery operations unfold.”

‘Patience’ in the US context has a specific meaning. It signals that Bush is doubly righteous: firstly, for not having the shame to act in another way to help calm his citizens than to merely say ‘have patience’; secondly, for expecting his citizens to accept his call for them to ‘have patience’. Both are shameful acts (amongst others). Watch news reports closely and any comment that is spoken without shame is guaranteed to be spoken by someone on the Right. We should a collective ethics of dignity in this shameful era, not righteousness. Anyway…

‘Have patience’ is, first of all, a temporal relation premised on the to-come that seeks to quell the anxiety of the not-yet. You would think that most poor people in the US can live with the ‘not-yet’, because, well, they don’t have anything. However, a crucial dimension to popularist US market-based ideology is something like the equivalent of the Australian myth of the ‘lucky country’. “Anyone can make it” in the US. That is a lie. There are structural disadvantages that will never be overcome by those who feel the full force of the radical neoliberal economic policies. Yet, urban myths of ‘making it’ circulate… perhaps that is one for Mythbusters?

Regardless, ‘have patience’ should be considered a key ideological mantra of the righteous neoliberal position in relation to the poor, socially disadvantaged, racially segregated, masses of the US under- and lower-classes. ‘Have patience’ tells people that one day their Saviour/lottery win/life might come in the gamble of postmodern capitalist society. They may live in abhorrent conditions, but at least they have the chance that one day it might change. Embrace the chance: have patience. Patience is a structural mechanism of control. However, in New Orleans people don’t want a chance that they will survive, they want to live; they don’t have any more patience — witness the rage of the New Orleans Mayor.

2005 CSAA Abstract

Here is my abstract for the CSAA conference. I wasn’t very well thought over, but I have been too busy to really nail it. I was unsure how to discuss the Deleuze stuff. I am thinking: “Deleuzian Mechanics” or perhaps “Deleuze’s Speed Shop” lol!

Fixing Up Car(-Enthusiast)s

Although modified-car culture has a long history dating back to the 1930s, its first incarnation as a form of mass popular culture did not emerge until after WW2 with Hot Rodding. ‘Hot-Rodding’ is an event partially determined by the enthusiasm of modified-car enthusiasts who already existed, but was actualised through the performative effect of mass media moral panics surrounding ‘hot-rodders’ and the ‘massification’ of the enthusiast culture by an emergent automotive/pop cultural industry. The Post-War moment in modified-car culture signals the capture or ‘fixing’ of the enthusiasm on two fronts: by authorities through governmental regulation and by the cultural industry through the commodification of desire.

This paper explores the emergence of modified-car culture through Deleuze’s ‘modification’ of the Marxist critical method of retroduction. Retroduction, a Marxist method of hypothesis formation which reasons mechanisms from the appearances of the phenomena which cause them, is referred to in Deleuzian literature in a number of ways including the ‘creation of concepts.’ Marx’s simultaneously inductive and deductive reasoning provides a correlation for Deleuze’s method of mapping the forces at play in the expression of the virtual as the actual. This method is not a science; rather, it is a form of Deleuze’s ‘anexact, yet rigorous’ problematic experimentation that moves “from the problem to the ideal accidents and events that condition the problem the cases that resolve it.” (Smith 2004: 79-80). This paper shall argue that ‘Hot-Rodding’ is the initial problematic actualisation (expression) of modified-car culture as an event.

Cultural Franchise Event, Take 2

Here is another version of my cultural franchise event thesis I posted as a comment in reply to a thread on the decline of cinema to Mark’s blog Larvatus Prodeo. I think am getting there with my thinking and explaining. If I didn’t have this bloody thign called a thesis I would write it up. (Christian, you still keen?!??!!?)

Taking a more philosophical line of inquiry, a trend that I have been attempting to think through (as a side project to my PhD) relates to the ‘event-based’ nature of contemporary cultural commodities (ie ‘franchises’). I have deliberately taken this line of inquiry to avoid cinephilic (academic or otherwise) appreciations of cinema.

There are no longer just films constituting a franchise. In the normal sense of a commmodity there are the computer games, books, DVDs, spin-offs cartoons, and so on. In terms of endorsements (that use the ‘image’ of the commodity, but has nothing to do with the actual commodity) there are fast food chain happy meals, soft drink promotions, mobile phone promotions, and so on. Then there are the more complex commodities produced by the labour of enthusiasts – fan movies, websites, other online paraphenalia, and so on. A subset of this labour of enthusiasm includes the immaterial labour commonly refered to as happening ’round the water dispenser’, whereby people discuss cultural commodoties and talk them up of talk them down. All of this different dimensions of the event add to the force of circulation and therefore at some point (I assume) to exchange.

The movie franchise was perceived to be something special (a ‘blockbuster’), because in every sense it was an ‘event’. It pierced the banal drudgery of everyday life – the ‘escapism’ thesis. This gave the cultural commodity of the blockbuster a particular social gravity in the milieu of popular culture. It had the capacity to suck people in and to send them spinning off into another herd. _Jaws_ was the first blockbuster, but _Star Wars_ was the first blockbuster franchise organised around the event of the blockbuster – the toys, drinks, food, games, spin-offs, etc.

Popular culture has become saturated by these minor actualisations of the blockbuster event, while at the same time the blockbuster quality of alleged blockbusters has declined. I should point out by ‘blockbuster’ I mean not only in the ‘common sense’ sense, but blockbuster status as determined in a relative sense by the size of the market. So Tropfest is a blockbuster event relative to the size of inner-west trendy market, plus it has spinoffs (free SMH DVD, QANTAS in-flight screenings, etc.).

The problem is that proponents of the cultural industry have drawn on the logic of the minor-blockbuster actualisations to produce what they think will be actual blockbusters. Hence the remake. The remake is just another actualisation of the ‘blockbuster’ cultural commodity event that happened 10, 20, 100 years ago. Dukes of Hazzard, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, all the computer game remkaes, etc and so on…

Instead of movie makers exploiting cinema as an artistic medium, they exploit its position within the cultural industry’s ciruits of exchange. The classic example can be found in the recent Star Wars prequels. The race that occurred in the first prequel was purely constructed to make a more interesting computer game, and yet by the time we get to the third movie Anakin/Vader’s rebirth scene seems almost stuck on as an after-thought. Sam Raimi has bucked the trend somewhat with his Spiderman films, which is interesting.