Another Good Cause

What does capitalism have to do with nature/animal conservation efforts? A lot–and I don’t just mean that ecopolitics and rescue efforts for flora and fauna have become a lucrative business in neoliberalism. More specifically, addressing issues regarding the extinction of species and the accelerating exploitation of natural resources raises the necessity to address fundamental contradictions in the logic and structure of capitalism, revealing precisely that capitalism is NOT “the best thing that may be out there after all,” as contemporary pragmatism may have it. On the contrary, looking at ecopolitics and the limits the capitalist structure/logic imposes upon our efforts to save species from extinction indicates precisely the impossibility of solving problems by confining the process of thinking of solutions to the capitalist paradigm. Capitalism and its closing off of imaginative possibility is the death of Utopia and quite literally the death of species that suffer from our unwillingness to depart from a structure ridden with contradictions that gradually and seemingly inevitably robs itself of its own basis.

Recently, a team of photographers, scientists and students traveled to the West African island of Bioko to document the gradual destruction of one of the world’s last nature paradises. One of the most shocking problems they encountered is the trade in bush meat. Prohibited by the government to preserve the island’s impressive species variety (especially monkeys), the extreme poverty of the local population and the possibility of earning $200 plus for a male drill on the local bush meat markets render such conservation efforts hopeless. National Geographic has a quite moving series of photographs on the issue (as well as a feature article) you can find here. What can we do about this? First, we can donate to the local conservation effort (see NG website) to provide short-term aid. Second, we can support progressive grassroots efforts that support community organizations addressing poverty in Africa (similar to the effort put forth by Work and Hour, to which I provided the link a few days ago). Third, and most importantly, we can choose to oppose the WTO, the global policies of the G8, vote in a manner the shapes and puts pressure on our local governments to address issues of global poverty (and the ecopolitical issues connected to them) and ultimately we can choose to think beyond the damaging confines of capitalism

Please look at the series of pictures documenting the trip to Bioko, especially those of the bush meat market. They are here.

The Dialectician’s Guide to Cultural Studies and Totalization

High and low culture are equally fascinating, but you can’t just do one or the other. You must do both.

– Mark Gerard Lawson

This may be the single most important advice not just for those producing culture but for those interested in and practicing the discipline of Cultural Studies. (And, of course, we should add that you always need to be aware of the dialectical interrelation of culture and the socioeconomic structure–and by that I mean neither a mediation nor a superstructural effect but a mutually productive relationship.)

Day 426: No Rest for the Wicked

I saw New Model Army in concert at a tiny place in Wicker Park here in Chicago last Saturday night and I am still smiling. What a fantastic concert and what a fantastic band! They still stick to their shit, still rock, still stir up trouble and still have really bad teeth. I haven’t had a case of goosebumps as bad as this one at a concert in a long long time. “Here Comes the War” may just be the perfect opening song, especially considering that US customs seized not only ALL of their CDs upon entering the US from Canada (threatening to the homeland, evidently–probably for the same reason that anti-imperialist band were denied visas for their last tour a few months ago) along with a lot of other merchandise, including all buttons that said “I’m not at war.” Apparently, one has to be at war these days in order to enter the US–somewhat perplexing, really (“Put out the lights of the Age of Reason!”). To sum up, there is really not much more to this post than this: I love this band! (But apparently not as much as my friend–she briefly considered jumping the bass player.)

The movers move, the shakers shake // the winners rewrite history // but from high on the high hills // it all looks like nothing

old-school but contemporary:

and about two weeks ago–shitty quality, too big of a venue, but otherwise represents their present state (unchanged) state quite well:

Day 423: The Last Lecture

Here Randy Pausch’s by now famous “Last Lecture:” “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This may be difficult to critique, but let’s try. I’d be interested in hearing how people actually read this phenomenon–the book just came out a few days ago.

Day 420: The Universal

A while ago I promised to return to writing about issues of critical theory. Yet, I have barely done so. In fact, I have barely blogged as of late. I am not sure why. There is a lot of stuff going on, but most of it is too mundane to bore people with. I am trying to find an apartment in Canada (I am moving at the end of June), I’m in the process of scheduling a date for my defense, I’m making final revisions to my dissertation (mostly unnecessary, yet I can’t just let it lie around), I am copyediting the proofs of a book chapters that will come out soon (I may send links, but then again that may conflict with me trying to keep this blog largely anonymous), I am writing on form, utopia, totality and universals, and I put together several conference panels. So, lots of stuff to do but this stuff is largely not very interesting.

Therefore, here the beginning of a return to issues of critical theory. A beginning inquiry into the nature of the universal:

Thought is the proper medium of the universal. This means that nothing exists as universal if it takes the form of the object or of objective legality. The universal is essentially ‘anobjective.’  It can be experienced only through the production (or reproduction) of a trajectory of thought, and this trajectory constitutes (or reconstitutes) a subjective disposition.

Subjection, in other words, is contingent upon the fact that the particular can only be thought (and represented) in reference to the universal. Subjection is, therefore, fundamentally connected to Marxist accounts of subjectivity (and ideology) that make reference to the necessity of ‘totalizing’ in ways that are always already dialectical (and not noumenal). Now, what does that tell us about the distinction between the terms ‘universal’ and ‘totality’? As we find it, the distinction between both terms in critical theory is often qualitative or even merely rhetorical. There is, however, a logical distinction that, I suspect, has something to do with the above. Thoughts?

Day 398: Materialist Epistemology

Consider the following sentence:

“Only those who transform reality (material and social) are able to gain knowledge of it.”

What’s wrong with this? (And, to up the level of difficulty, what is wrong with it, if you do not want to let go of the following: Hegel, Marx, the dialectic, the material formation of (self) consciousness)? Something is fundamentally bugging me about this and I think the idea of “general intellect” may get me there. This is the kind of stuff that makes me lose sleep (or, as happened today, makes me only realize that I have been standing under the shower for a long, long time, after I begin to notice that the water has started to hurt the skin on my shoulders).

Day 385: Ghosts

The New NIN project (Ghosts) is finally out. As usual, the album is accompanied by a very interesting web presence (I wrote about the online marketing of My Violent Heart before, focusing on the guerilla marketing and pseudo-astroturfing aspect of it–can’t be bothered to look for the link, though–very busy today–I’ll go see a lecture by Franco Moretti later–yay!). To enter into this specific maze (and for free downloads of tracks), see http://ghosts.nin.com/.

Also, because my last post was about World Pillow Fight Day 2008, here an example of what happens when people actually put some effort into a music video. I rather like this one (which is a very rare thing for me to say about music videos). (Also, I find the “ghost” VERY attractive–especially with the hoodie–a somewhat less objective analysis of the video, I realize.) Band of Horses, “Is There a Ghost:”  Witness the specter of bourgeois ideology and its natural enemy, the emotional tie: