National Scandal

Days 1 – 2 LOCKDOWN & NATIONAL EMERGENCY

Did they act in wartime, like, you know, it was just a good idea? Like it was a good idea to stop people congregating by shutting down things like public communication (wifi) services? (Although loose lips sink ships.) Like, it was a good idea just to stay in your bubble? (Although a bubble’s not a blackout.) And when was it a good idea for an entire population to go along with these good ideas?

Was there, has there ever been, a time when we did voluntarily?

Was it a good idea to go along with these good ideas and then find we were submitting to enforced imposition of what we had previously been going along with because it was a good idea?

Michael Joseph Savage, whose picture appeared behind the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern during her presidential style PM-Office addresses, didn’t quite prepare a peacetime postwar fit for heroes. But his brand of socialism instituted during WWII, soft and Christian-value-inflected as it was, did set the scene for a period of prosperity at least with a bead on egalitarianism (when the word was actually utterable)–doing everything successive political incumbents, after 1984’s Fourth Labour Government, have done their best to undo.

So there was an irony in Savage’s presence behind our PM as she told us about all the things we were being asked to do. A savage irony, in retrospect, after the imposition of Level 4 Eliminate.

Level 4 Eliminate is the point at which we are instructed to stay at home, educational facilities are closed, as are businesses, excepting essential services, at which supplies may be rationed and facilities requisitioned, travel is severely limited, and at which there is a “major reprioritisation of healthcare services.”

The irony is one of omission, since the New Zealand government as agent is omitted.

Government as agent is omitted in instructing people to stay home, in closing schools and businesses, with the exception of essential (to government) services, is omitted as agent acting to ration supplies and requisition facilities, to limit travel, and is omitted as agent directing healthcare services towards its own priorities.

It is a situation compared to wartime but one in which martial law has not been imposed.

Even with the New Zealand government acting like a government, unlike the Australian one, there is no claiming by government of its political prerogative. There is no commitment from government to govern.

What is asked of the population is an accord, an agreement, a contract, and a will to be governed, where government is not imposed.

Where government has not been imposed we have a state of governance in which we are to be the agents of our self isolation. (Its reflexivity may better explain the use of this term than the confusion over whether we are in quarantine or self quarantine before being infected but self isolation upon infection or whether it is the other way around: quarantine, even self quarantine, demands an external agency quarantining or providing the means to; self isolation is DIY, all you need is a home to stay at.)

If it turns out it was not a good idea we, not government did it, in conceding to being governed. And what would the tip-off be?

At what point would we know we had conceded too much to a government that dare not speak its name?

Will it have turned bad when we are asked to go out and catch those who are not doing it properly?

What is going to be today’s or tomorrow’s equivalent of conscientious objection?

At the end of Day 1 and into Day 2 it is an absurd situation.

But it is less absurd than the righteousness of those, and the good humour of those, who are doing it properly, whose righteousness consists in the fact that we are somehow uniting against COVID 19, whose good humour consists in invoking the wartime analogy:

Your grandparents were asked to kill or be killed for your country; you’re being asked to sit on a sofa and stay home. Now, let’s get this right!

I don’t know how we unite in a state of voluntary or enforced social atomisation so extreme we are said to be in ‘bubbles’ of self-isolation.

And what is the connection between these bubbles we are in bodily and those cognitive bubbles we are in digitally, that we are also in voluntarily, in which we are said not to have a single experience that breaks with the continuity of past experience, but to experience the continuous transmission of the same?

What is the connection but that one bubble leads into another (as Peter Sloterdijk has already written, at length)?

Under the ongoing state of exception of a National State of Emergency we seem to have done nothing more than pass through the liquid and diaphanous membrane from one bubble into another. Without there being much difference to note.

In face of a common sense calling on unity against an internal enemy and in the way one good idea leads to another and one bubble leads to another, the recourse to reason outside that of the state, to any reason outside of the state’s, becomes ever slimmer, as do reason’s resources become slighter outside of those to the requisition of which we have conceded. In fact we have recourse to agency not in the way it defers to us or is ours by right but only by reference to the service sectors the state has already auctioned off, those agencies which, although they may be accountable to the state are neither responsible to it nor to us for the supply and provision of their services.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the private realm withdraws from that public realm in which it can of late be said to have lost all faith.

I would like to agree and affirm this period for the good that the public realm needs to be assessed on the basis of this withdrawal from it and from the fact that we have conceded to it.

What this means is a “major reprioritisation” of the political, of the role of government in the public realm.

It is a global TIME OUT.

To do it properly means to reverse our concession to withdrawal from the public realm at the very time we see it can get by without us as if we were never really part of it.

To do it properly means to claim the political prerogative entailed in our concession, that government fails to claim, entailed in the suspension of all economic activity except for the services essential to public life. At the very time we see a reality that is the political reality, we see money and markets can get by without us.

It is a political reality, not dictated by the commercial reality, of economic activity, as if after all we did for it, after all that work and all that study, we were never really part of it.

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on resistance and naming the enemy

Focus-on..-diddly-do1

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say, fear…

… is underestimated as a political risk. As soon as afraid, for loss of position, simple social advantage, or political status, the most primitive opportunistic intuition sets in–as if the limit condition for responsibility, in individual, social or political dealings, was accident aversion.

Safety culture is then symptomatic of a fearful society. Health is too: whether it is the health of the planet or of the foetus.

Fear does not drive career politicians or political usurpers to seek advantage, status and power. Fear drives them to avoid its loss.

Fear is the more forceful driver for those selfless ones on the left; and not because they have advantage, status or power but because they do not find in advantage, status and power as much meaning, while these are goods in themselves, in principle, for those others on the right. Still, for the ones on the right, fear prevents them from easily relinquishing advantage, status and power at the promptings of democratic process or change in political economy. They hold on: fear has them holding on; while the others on the left are fearful of taking hold.

The goods in themselves those on the left are fearful of losing are those based in the communicative realm, of consensus, or of the show of consensus, democratic principles, middleclass principles of fairplay, equality, and values called qualities to contrast them with the quantities of financial economy. This is the area where the left most needs a Nietzschean critique–an analysis that gets down and pulls up their servility by the roots.

What is called populism procures for the value of popularity a newly elevated status: but at the cost of those who care about it, who may even have gained most from it, becoming fearful for its loss.

What drives compulsive gamblers? It is a strange psychopathology, and a sociopathology when something large like global human ecocide is being gambled on: it is not fear of loss that compels the compulsive gambler. Loss can always be denied.

Loss can always be denied if it is seen to concern the future. A compulsive gambler lives inside the present moment of the gamble being made. This moment can be called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is inversely symptomatic. It diagnoses from within the pathology annulling the future for the present gain to be had from it. Mindfulness is not mindful of fear. It should be.

Fear is more basic than being mindful of what we have to lose. It is more direct and basic than any reflection on our own advantage, status or power. Yet fear is discouraged, except when dealing directly with our own personal welfare. A fear that is mindful of the risk of global human ecocide is discouraged. It is thought that this fear would be paralyzing.

The abjection of safety and health cultures consists in their continued reverence for what is to the advantage of the individual. The abject reality of safety and health cultures is the level of control they exercise over the individual, for the good of the individual.

The fear is not seen that drives people with power, status and advantage. In fact all we see of it is their paralysis.

They are paralyzed in the face of fear even while their faces attain a strange mobility and their actions acquire a character strangely hollowed out by hyperactivity. Their faces turn away, on the inside. They twitch. Their actions run in circles. They follow the same route as the traumatised, covering the same ground with a compulsion to repetition which resembles that of gamblers.

Fear in the case of those in the public media is of the nature of ongoing stagefright. It is visible in CEOs and in local and global leaders. But privately many experience the same stagefright.

Fear is the friend, the best and most reliable friend, to the one in whom it takes the form of the most primitive opportunistic intuition: it enables success through its utter lack of regard for consequences of any kind. It even makes the person in whom it is allowed to govern appear fearless. Fear then lives in an endless now where the one in whom it governs is only scared when he or she is not afraid.

[illustrated with images by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes]

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courtesy of Plug In The Street

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for Raymond Boyce, 19 May 1928 – 1 August 2019, presented at the tribute held 10 August 2019, Hannah Playhouse, Wellington, NZ

some-lines-from-the-Russian-school-for-Raymond-Boyce-2

some links:

“this building”

“is a masterpiece”

“of theatre” “design”

see also,

under the lefthand margin heading

TAYLOR ARCHIVE,

which is of course

the TAYLOR | BOYCE ARCHIVE

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“The problem is not to create a better story, but to make it sufficiently performative to make it build its own reality.” – Wim Nusselder

the title, citing Wim Nusselder, is from comments on the video at Kate Raworth’s website.

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end of dreaming

I don’t want to be the one who lives here
     but the alien
I want to visit your beautiful country

I don’t want to speak this tongue
     but the alien
I want to hear your beautiful language

I don’t want to share the words used
     to be the one who understands
     but the alien

I don’t want to be able to explain
     who we are
     what is said
     how we do things here

I don’t want to be the one who asks what you think
     of our beautiful country
     but the alien
I want to understand nothing but your laughter

I don’t want to be the one who knows
     who we are
     and who they are
     but the alien

I don’t want to be the one who knows
     what we are
     and what they are

I don’t want to give them the words
     to take out the words they use
     to share the words in their mouths

I want to share in your beautiful laughter
     and to understand in your smiles
     your good will to strangers

I don’t want to be the one with dreams of leaving
     anymore
     but the alien

I don’t want to be the one who hears
     from your beautiful mouth
     you are leaving
     but the alien
who leaves who just leaves who lies down
     and leaves

I don’t want to feel this grief on anyone’s behalf
I don’t want to feel this shame on anyone’s behalf

but I want this grief
but I want this shame

     and the shame of grief
     and the shame of shame

 

 

[written on the occasion of the shooting

Christchurch 15 March 2019]

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Tamsin Shaw on “The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops”

Reading Shaw’s article in the New York Review of Books I reach a point where the question seems to be begged. This is not the same as raising questions.

Shaw raises questions around the ethics of dual-use research: research that has a potential military application as well as an application in civil society. She cites Martin Seligman’s research into “learned helplessness”, electrocuting dogs into a state of obliviousness to repeated shocks, and the psychological theories of depression and resilience that came from it. She cites the positive psychology movement Seligman founded and its research into love–and resilience, and other positive personality traits. She cites the turn funding took, under Seligman’s initiative, after 11 September 2001, to diversity research as a counter to the tendency to contract and magnify diverse viewpoints into the single worldview of extremism. She cites the boost given this strain of research, ostensibly concerned with human well-being, by the datasets available from social media–the Big Data enabled by machine surveillance.

Shaw also cites the net benefit of research with a potential for and with real high human cost–hence net in cost-benefit terms, that undertaken into tumours and the effects on the human body of radioactivity in military weapons, with its payoff in cancer treatments. The same sort of net benefit can be seen from research into diseases caused by military-grade bio-agents, in the manufacture of weaponised viruses, which she cites.

Citing these reversals and their reversals, from resilience under psychological torture, to resilience as a personal survival technique, from biological weapons to techniques of resisting infectious disease, from love technique, to love technique, and back, Shaw shows there is an assumption at work about the capacity of humans for rational thought: “a great deal of contemporary behavioral science aims to exploit our irrationalities rather than overcome them.” The dual-use research concerned with technologies of behavioural modification, persuasion, influence or nudging, assumes a constituency available to be so directed, controlled, even to their benefit, and manipulated. It assumes, for our erstwhile democracies, a nonrational constituency–the community of those who do not know better; the community of those who do not know at all.

The question-begging comes down to this notion of the individual rational agent, the responsible voter, as a presumption of the democratic setup and as being presupposed by the positive ethical field of political democracy. (It need not be pointed out that economics, as the science, pseudoscience, developed under the auspices of such as the Chicago School, support the assumption of nonrational choice, but is that economics then anti-democratic?)

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Shoshana Zuboff defines:

Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.

  1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.

see also: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jan/20/shoshana-zuboff-age-of-surveillance-capitalism-google-facebook

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highly unlikely

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