Tag Archives: Sahil

Where is the left? – One hand can’t find the other as Capitalism Collapses

Okay. A current conversation with the lovely PaulGrahamRaven on twitter is goading me into writing a piece I wanted to write a while back. This is going to get messy. And maybe it should.

Also, first up. A confession/analysis regarding the amount of research actually collected for this article. Basically, it is about the osmosis I’ve received from the mainstream press (which mostly consists of the Guardian, the BBC and a million random and variously significant web sources). I’m not massively diligent in my news scouring, but I grok the hypothetically left leaning dead tree Guardian cover to cover between once and four times a week and flitter around the website daily. Then I’ve got twitter news feeds and all sorts of bits and bobs. The point here being that I may (I hope) be missing a lot of the stuff I’m complaining about not being around, so I hope people can link me to the things I should be reading.

Anyway, the sum total of actual specific research rests on a text exchange with the delightful Sahil ‘I only like economics because it means I get to use tenuous cricketing analogies’ Vaughn from over at that there unlearned.

Basically, I asked him for an explanation of the current financial crisis and how it might represent the fundamental flaws of capitalism. Here’s his response (I haven’t asked his permission, but I’m pretty sure he won’t mind:

Well the millions and millions of consistently poor people suggests it [capitalism] doesn’t work. And in terms of economics, since the 60s there has been a decline in productivity, so in that sense it stopped working a while ago. Finance [as] a system has built in failure (its enabled by speculation). Socialising the finance through co op owned fund which we pay into and secure loans against would be useful.

I asked for clarification of some point (I don’t have the message to give details, sorry) and he responded again:

Finance works faster than production, so downturns become crises, which is what opens space for normative debate. I finish my exams today so chat we shallx

Last bit included despite irrelevancy merely so I can point out that he has not held his promise. The bastard.

Anyway. that is literally the sum total of my research into this piece. I just thought I’d kick off with that so that everyone can help me with the holes in my argument. I also read an issue of the New Internationalist on the subject, which was technically useful and proposed solutions, but it’s so niche and I can’t remember the details.

I am a shit journalist (or rather, I am simply not a journalist).

Right.

So.

Financial crisis, as vaguely explained above, means that the world economy is pretty damn fucked. We can all see this, and we are all hearing it.

The most striking part of it for me is that people ahve genuinely described this as the utter failure of capitalism. Proof positive that the system doesn’t work.

Now, as a dyed in the wool (whatever that means) socialist, all this doomsaying kinda got me excited. I know this is rude, as real people are really suffering, but I can’t help it. As Sahil points out, some people have known and seen for years the problems inherent in the system, and the inefficiencies, and immoralities it has a tendency to at best allow, and at worst promote. And it’s been at it’s worst for the last x number of years, where x is somehow proportionate to your propensity for nostalgia.

We’ve seen this coming. To some extent or another. We’ve known that it’s fucked, and now everyone can see it. Banks are being nationalised, governments are trying to salvage the system by giving vast sums of money to the people who fucked this all up in the first place. Jobs are vanishing and businesses are closing.

It’s visible, it’s real, and it’s everywhere.

But what can I not see anywhere?

Lefties. That’s who.

I’m not reading or hearing people talking about changing the system. I’m just hearing people despairing, or hoping it’ll all turn around in a few years and we’ll be on the up and up again. Nobody is calling for revolution or even devolution on the back of this. Nobody is calling on the bankers and bourgeoisie to get their backs to the wall and face the music. Nobody is revolting.

I don’t understand it.

Where’s Marx’s inevitable march towards Communistic utopia when we need it?

There is no antithesis left.

Seriously.

Okay, quickly for those not hot to trot on this. Dialectics states that a thesis (dominant ideology, in this case capitalism) contains or creates, inevitably, and antithesis or opposite. The two struggle, and eventually combine to form a synthesis, which is the new thesis. And so on, marching ever onwards towards perfect, state-free communism (according to Marx). Or just onwards (according to me).

But it’s not here. We’re reaching the crisis/tipping point where things could genuinely change, and as Paul points out. The press is covering the right wing ‘solutions’. Anti immigration policies are on the rise, and the press attacks the government for letting in foreign investors and workers.

And that’s the trade unionists. Ie, the grass roots left (again, hypothetically).

Now, I do appreciate the plight of skilled workers losing out on jobs, but I don’t like the idea of the proletariat mobilising on nationalist grounds, when they could be marching on socialistic ones. Whatever happened to ‘Workers of the world unite.’

We’re getting a step to the right when we need a jump to the left, or whatever the transvestite vampires like doing.

This troubles me, and makes the recession much gloomier. People aren’t taking this open space, to debate new possibilities, they are falling back on old prejudices.

So come on internets. Renege against this all. Start hanging out and discussing and challenging the media institutions that are failing to represent our honest reactions to this. Shout and scream and blog and tweet.

The world is at a point where revolution is possible. And technology has evolved to the point where people can actually connect fully and wholly across the world (ignoring the technological have nots, which happens to coincide with what could possibly be the new proletariat).

We have the forum to discuss this. We have the power to change. Hell, theoretically we’ve got at least one person in power who might be tempted to listen.

Let’s tear open our government to scrutiny, using the technologies of transparency we have before us (I mentioned in a tweet the other day that I’d like to see laws being written on a wiki, okay, probably a closed one that only elected representatives can edit, but where all edits are visible to everyone, so we can track who is being lobbied by who and what they are changing. The technology is with us, we just have to make it happen. Demand it).

Let’s be the left we want to be.

Lets change the world.

Did I shoot Andy Warhol?

Of course, I didn’t shoot Andy Warhol, at least not in this life.

But I’ll get back to that later.

First, a warning. This is going to be another of my long rambling rambles. I am not going to restrain the free wandering nature of my mind. It is also potentially a very controversial post. I’m going to be discussing Feminism (and Cow Vaginas) as honestly and openly as I can. This is a dangerous thing to do, as may become clear. I am also intentionally not linking to a couple of posts and discussions that sparked possible elements of this post. I don’t want to target individuals and bring upon myself a torrent of abuse and hatred…I get enough of that going home for Christmas (only kidding). I expect I’m going to get trashed if certain people read this. I am writing in the spirit of free expression and thought. Also I may contradict myself, forget what I’m talking about and be entirely wrong headed idiotic and random.

Welcome to my head…it’s a horrible place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here. But I do. I do live here. This is my head.

Hold on tight Sahil, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

And we’re going to start off by saying that I do generally consider myself a feminist. I am also a man. An online test tells me I’m a revisionist Feminist, 100% Gender Abolitionist, 80% sexually liberal (honk) and 60% Socialist. By my reckoning that actually makes me240% feminist. I think that’s going a bit too far.

Anyway, the quiz pissed me off quite a lot…it was very leading and a lot of the questions didn’t make sense. Also I couldn’t answer loads of the questions the way I wanted to. This is why I hate online quizzes. Also double negatives aren’t not bad y’all.

Or something.

Anyway, This is really not the point.

Lets go back a bit.

I’ve had several dreams involving Andy Warhol…the first one involved a journey on the Megabus (a cheap coach/bus service that I have never used) up to London. We spent the whole journey discussing the relative merits of cost of varying forms of transport. This was not really that interesting, but I did think it quite cool that the wig wearer was present. I assumed he was cool and therefore it was rubbing off on me. Well…I didn’t really think about it that much at the time…I was in dream mode. Whatever, we got to London eventually, and we made a film with Lars Von Trier called the five obstructions. This was the day before that film was shown on television (not precognition, I had just read the TV guide before going to sleep and had decided to watch it the next day), go out and watch it, its a damn cool film…especially if you like film making theory. Basically, Von Trier sets Jorgan Leth a series of challenges, all kind of the same. It’s just to remake one of Leth’s first films, the Perfect Human (which I’ve never seen) under the conditions of a series of ‘Obstructions’ set by Von Trier (should that just be Trier?). The film takes the form of a series of chats between the directors, and the new, obstructed versions of the short. It’s absolutely incredible to watch if you’re into films as basically it shows you how great director’s minds can work. If you don’t mind watching artsy documentaries then watch this and your eyes may well be opened to some of the more interesting things to think about as you watch films.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted. The dream version of the film was nothing like that…and to be fair I can’t remember much of it apart from a few images that are hard to explain…needless to say, the sets of the film we were making were kind of living and I kept slipping from the perspective of Director to Actor to Character and back. Though under constant watchful guidance of Andy Warhol. Oh…and there was something to do with the American Civil war…but I’m not sure what.

Ok…so that was Warhol dream number one. I thought it was pretty cool, I rarely dream about famous figures, mostly just people I’ve met. Also it remained vivid for long enough for me to tell someone about it, meaning that some of the details solidified. This is handy, as I often forget my dreams.

Anyway, the second time he cropped up I can only really remember I tiny segment. I was in a Cherry Blossom tree (I don’t know what the symbolism of this might be, but what it makes me think of is a song by the Manic Street Preachers, a band I thoroughly enjoy, though the song itself is from one of their lamer albums…the first three albums all remain high in my esteem, (does that even make sense) after that its mostly just nostalgia for my teenage years. Anyway, they become relevant again later…though some of you may have made the connection already) with a sniper rifle, I looked through the sights to see that I was aiming at Andy Warhol. Holy crap..I thought…I’m about to shoot Andy Warhol. Anyway, as I pulled the trigger and the bullet started heading for the artistic Christian King of the Factory. I shifted perspective (this bit of the dream was very visually impressive) and pulled out of the scene to see that in fact I was just sitting and watching the film ‘Who Shot Andy Warhol?’. My brother found the film amusing as poor Andy died on screen…I wasn’t aware of his biography at that time as this was pre the endless hours spent on the internet. Anyway, bro laughed, I laughed nervously to conceal the fact that I was actually really freaked out by coming that close to shooting someone. Even if it was only a film.

Anyway, I can’t remember the rest of that dream, but I figured it might be significant. I have occasionally explained to people that Andy Warhol may be my ‘spirit guide’. New theories are emerging. And my mouth hurts because I just ate some hot chili sauce. For those of you who are visually minded, I am wearing my favourite stripy jumper and my green corduroy trousers. My T-shirt is poking out from underneath my jumper (which was found in the street on my birthday two years ago…woo). It is also stripy but smaller stripes and different colours, it used to belong to my friend Will. I’m at work.

This is mostly irrelevant information though.

So anyway, recent clues are actually pointing to a different conclusion. I no longer think of Andy Warhol as a source of spiritual guidance.

Let’s come back to that later though, first let me assure you that there is going to be some feminism stuff here eventually. In fact…lets do a little now.

Since starting blogging and reading more peoples discussions and chatting with people, not least of which is my current Significant, I’ve been reading a lot of feminist stuff from a lot of different sources. My eyes have been opened and pretty damn wide. I’ve always considered myself an equalicist/feminist/whatever term it is that applies to me. I fell into a lot of traps though. I did things and held beliefs that would be considered to be the subtler side of patriarchy. I still do sometimes, but I really do try to be otherwise. I find this is a constant struggle and it is difficult.

Aside: I just had an argument with a customer who got banned for saying the c*t word. Now…I say that plenty at home among friends who know I don’t attach significance to it. Anyway, he shouted it at the computer, and got told off by Mr I a friend and co-worker. We decided to ban him once his time was up. He came back and started arguing the toss. Trying to defend himself (bear in mind if you think I’m being harsh on him that he is quite a young kid and we have other young kids in this place). His argument mostly consisted of ‘I didn’t say it it just came out of my mouth. It’s not offensive anyway…nobody was offended’. My responses should be obvious, when he said that nobody in here was offended, I told him I was…he then asked if I was a girl. Now…face to face, my beard usually settles that one. But it really riled me and seemed relevant to this post. Just thought I’d mention it. I told him that my gender was irrelevant, but was interrupted and didn’t finish my chain of thought. I was intrigued by his point of view and thought I might have a chance to teach some kind of equality lesson. I don’t like preaching though…and I was interrupted.

Anyway, I do keep on struggling to improve myself. A hell of a lot of the socialised and peer pressurised stuff is hard to get rid of though. I’m far from perfect. I do honestly try though. As has been made clear in previous posts gender equality is a big deal for me, something that I consider a lot. Among people I love and trust (most people I meet…I’m pretty damn full of love you know) I often make jokes and similar comic statements, I even conform to certain stereotypes in the knowledge that my good friends generally know where I stand on these things. I feel bad about this as I do think that it damages causes that I hold dear, but fun and jocularity is something I hold dear to. What I hate about myself is when I engage in some of the sexist gags of people not so enlightened, or in the presence of people who might not detect the irony. This is similar to something I’ve discussed before (the Computer Abuse Language, I can’t be bothered to find the link as work is ending in an hour and a bit and I haven’t finished discussing all this and I have to prepare the place for locking up) so I won’t go into too great detail. Basically, I’m criticising myself for falling for the jokes and the subtler side of this patriarchy thing. I even used to hold the good old fashioned ‘everyone’s equal already’ and ‘feminists are kicking up a big stink over nothing’ type views…I now realise this is crap. My mind is always open to change, and some of the things the people on the internet have shown me have changed me deeply. Or perhaps just made me realise for real a lot of stuff I half believed already. Those of you who have helped me learn, I thank you…and I pray that you continue.

Discussion with significant and Vintage in particular have been eye opening, plus many other places I have lurked. I thank you greatly.

One discussion with Siggy today went on for hours trying to work out a debate she’s having with people on the internet. The basic gist of it was that some feminists were attacking her for not being man hating enough. This clearly pissed both of us off. I mean sure…I’m willing to agree that most men are terrible in many ways. Patriarchy is fucking horrible. I don’t think that enough people realise just how much both genders are oppressed. And by Jove is it worse for women. I do however think that it is important to recognise that men suffer as well. I find that I am constantly under pressure to conform to male stereotypes that don’t in anyway relate to me. I am bundled together with people who read Zoo and use prostitutes. I read an issue of zoo once to see what all the fuss was about. There was a ‘letter’ sent in by a ‘reader’ who was describing her wonderful experience after a club night where she had got incredibly drunk and then flashed by a bouncer on the way out. She (as any right thinking woman would) gasped in shock and awe and joy at the sight. She then also enjoyed being bundled into the back of a car and driven out to a lay-by and repeatedly and violently screwed by aforementioned security guard.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I was sick at this. I mean…this was actually a magazine basically suggesting that women love being sexually assaulted abused and raped. This was so much worse than I expected. I just thought it would be tits and trash. Generally offensive and insulting to the intelligence of most men, but it was so much more horrific than that.

I was literally sickened by it.

Anyway, the point is that it is possible that not all men are of one type. Variation and variety of people is what gender equality and gender issues in general are all about. People should be free to be different. I shouldn’t feel like I can’t express myself fully. I should feel like its fine for me to dress however I want. I lack confidence though. I am incredibly insecure (underneath a thin veneer of boistrous and noisy faux confidence and egocentricity) and worry at the slightest thing wrong with me.

I don’t think I’m alone. V directed me to a great article recently that was stating that the reason that men are insecure is because they (we) realise we’re actually the weaker sex. I agree one hundred percent with that assessment. The author of that piece (and many others) have hit a nail on a head there. Well…maybe not one hundred percent. But it’s certainly true of me. Perhap’s this makes me a gender traitor.

I don’t know.

Anyway…I’m getting distracted and I don’t have long left to write.

Siggy has been being lambasted for not being ‘the right type’ of feminist. This is wrong. Variety and discussion should be the watchwords of the feminist movements. You’re more than welcome to hate all men, but if you start hating women for discussing then you just appear to be plotting for a matriarchy. I don’t think that would be a better world…just a different one.

There is no reason to fight oppression with oppression.

I have so much more to say but I have no time to write over the next few days.

First off, let me tie up some of the loose ends.

I think Valerie Solanas may be a more likely candidate for my spirit guide that poor Andy. Because of course it was her who really shot Andy Warhol. She’s been cropping up everywhere for me lately. Mostly through the Matmos track Tract for Valerie Solanas.

I will, apparently believe anything that has a good beat. This song has a damn good beat. And is made using an inflated Cow’s Uterus and Vaginal Tract. Find out how here. Then buy the album…it’s absolutely incredible.

Anyway, I now believe that I am being told to ‘destroy the male sex’ by my dreams. I really like her writings. I will tell you more about my views on what she has written once I’ve finished the SCUM manifesto. I’m busy lots though.

Oh…and she inspired the Manic Street Preacher’s song ‘Of Walking Abortion’. It’s a good song.

She has been raised in a few days of research to the status of a hero of mine. As have Matmos…who I’m only now beginning to realise just how much.

I assure you there’ll be follow up material for this. Including an essay on Angela Carter’s ‘The Passion of New Eve’ that I wrote for Uni…that book kind of changed my life a little. Maybe a lot. It’s an out of date essay though so my thoughts may have changed.

I’m so sorry for cutting this short, but I really am too busy at the moment.

I’ll post more bits and bobs but will be slowing down around the holiday season as my computer is going to the workshop for retooling.

Also busyness due to travelling to home and back and possibly to Wales as well….which will be lovely if I can afford it.

Erm…any questions or thoughts? I haven’t said half of what I wanted and I will respond and not censor anything…but please don’t lay too hard into me. I try to be good, but I am weak and insecure.

And I’ll leave with an inspirational note from Solanas herself:

‘Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.’

– Valeria Solanas – SCUM Manifesto

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.