Thursday, November 18, 2010

    The world we live in is full of noise. It is difficult to perceive it because it is so pervasive-there are few silences that are not given shape by the hum of the computer or the faraway roar of traffic or the steady whisper of the lighting. Silence, like many other aspects of preindustrial human experience, is now among the privileges reserved for the very wealthy. They and a few others have the necessary frame of reference to understand how pervasive, and how definitive, noise is to the world we have created. The sound of the contemporary world is absolutely unprecedented in human history.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Molecule of Social Physics

Social life is the means by which the Individual recognizes itself. Social life is life itself, to human beings, is the key to a living world, a world animated by reflections of the self. Having feelings is Human, as human as having thoughts. Expressing feelings, therefore, belongs to the realm of the Political as much as it does to art. 

Expressing feelings is political in many senses of the word-not only because we happen to live (for the moment!) in a culture and economy where denial of our desires is a source of profit to some, not only because we are denied self-knowledge through the denial of emotion, leading us to look for answers outside ourselves, but also in a more fundamental, more significant sense: namely, that emotions form the essential core of our subjective experience, and in attempting to express that we engage in the most human and most political act. All social life is made up of these exchanges of subjectivity, and politics, which is the science of social life, is a theory derived from what is known through the expression of these subjectivities. The story of political change is the story of the struggle for inclusion of denied or ignored subjectivities-of women, of oppressed ethnicities, of people subject to categorization by class-into the body of what can be known, of what can constitute “politics”. To express yourself, then, which implicitly includes the emotional aspect of experience, is fundamentally political.
    Imagine a world that allowed for the total inclusion of all subjectivities. Some of the most important political work we can do is to attempt to contact the subjectivities of others, or Others-they are like Prometheuses that have come down a mountain to bring us secret knowledge, knowledge that can free us. Contact with subjectivity, with experience, is the trick that transforms the –isms that seem to separate us into extensions of our own interests. The expression of the emotional, the subjective, is fundamental to political life and political change and so is acceptance of the emotional, because through recognition of another’s experience we can understand their desires. They no longer seem so irrational.
We use the inclusion of subjectivity to judge the integrity of an artistic expression as much as a political expression-we believe a statement to the degree we believe it to be “authentic”.
    (We could define “courage” as the resistant assertion of a subjectivity that is perceived by its object to be unwelcome.)


How To Read Peoples' Diaries


      People seem to have the strangest relationship to disagreement. They seem to defend the most irrelevant assertions or differences in perspective as though the assertion of one variation of viewpoint over another threatened their very selves. They also treat a statement that contradicts or adds to the collective conception of what is true as an attack on territory-they mistake a suggestion of what might be true for an assertion, a command, an act of violence, an invasion of what is currently true. 

This is an everyday hassle for people of all walks of life (happens to everybody-watch drunks at bars argue sometime) but I see it as especially problematic in circles where language and critical thought are deliberately and consciously used to develop theory-a tool that reshapes thought and behavior in social life-circles like the social milieu of Anarchism and Punk Rock here in the US. In other words, we, who have made it our business to advance certain dialogues, seem to have placed ourselves in a position in which disagreement-the means by which dialogue is advanced-is a highly risky proposition. Slander and ostracism are no joke. Advance a dialogue once and it might take you years to find the courage to speak again. I want to find a way out of working this way, and I need your help to find it. This is an open conversation.
               If you tell people what you really think and feel, you put yourself in danger. Their ability to hurt you rests in their ability to touch on what you have always suspected about yourself-that your feelings and thoughts make you weak and foolish, that your thoughts are a theoretical dressing around your essential cravenness. Saying what you really think and feel is hazardous because nobody, no matter how earnest, can conform perfectly to the standards of their community, no matter which community they belong to.
           All communities, even (especially?) radical ones, tend toward a hegemony of thought-it’s part of what defines a group of people as a community in the first place. And while the tension between the standards of the group and the perspective of the individual is itself what lends dynamism to social groups, it’s just as easy to be judged an asshole for your honesty as it is to be a hero. Honesty offers no assurances.
        It is my intention to give you, reader, plenty to judge me with.
        I would rather not write than keep us both safe from my self, from what might later become Truth but what currently constitutes me, my thoughts, my feelings. I am at your mercy. I only hope your humanity is as strong as your politics.
    Nobody gets to speak or act, to say nothing of write, without being judged. Evaluation of actions and their consequences is a natural and indispensable part of social existence. You will judge me, which you should. But whatever judgement you make, and especially if you find something you disagree with, take your feelings and do something with them. All disagreements are potentially utilitarian; they all have a potential to turn into dialogue, which itself contains the potential seed of theory, the flashlight with which we stumble toward the Future, if you, reader, refuse to refuse to discuss them. It’s easy to stay in a social/theoretical space where ideas are Good or Bad, where they are considered as propositions or rejected outright; it’s easy (and, currently, less socially hazardous) to deal with an idea by agreeing with people that agree with you that this idea is Bad. It’s harder, and more useful, to take an idea that you disagree with seriously for a few moments. It is a leap of faith, and that leap of faith is the root of critical thought.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Social Remedies for Social Diseases

                                                 Social Remedies for Social Diseases
                              <The necessity for DIY porno and the Sex Ed of the future>

The fundamental experience of being human is to be social. Sexuality is politically significant in itself, then, because it is a social act, a relationship between two or more people that exists in the context of the social. 

Cultural conceptions of sexuality in the West place sexuality in an atomized, alienated sphere; we seem to expect our “private lives” to exist in a cultural vacuum, unaffected by and unable to affect the rest of our lives. At the same time we implicitly acknowledge, with great nudging and winking, that our sexualities so pervade social life as to be mistaken by some for the primary cause of social life (as though we were insects!); it is when someone proposes to apply a socially critical lens to our “private lives” that the division reasserts itself.
The atomization of the sexual aspect of social life is a problem in itself, but it allows for a more significant problem-it not only prevents us each from thinking clearly about our lives and the relationship of sexuality to them but also prevents us from speaking clearly about sexuality to one another-that is it prevents us from creating a collective cultural and social conception of sexuality guided by our own experiences and feelings. As usual, in the (conspicuous) absence of a popular cultural dialogue, the Marketplace is ready to step in and provide a profit-driven alternative.
Despite the best well-meant efforts of parents, educators and others, children in our Western culture receive the overwhelming majority of their socialization through representations in the mass media. Sexuality is not only included in this but is central to it; children are protected from the obscenity of seeing real sexual contact between adults but cannot be saved from the real obscenity of the Free Market’s neurotic, alienated for-profit presentation of sexuality, which is as pervasive for them as it is for us. Media speaks louder than any childhood authority, and as a result we learn what we know about sex (no wonder we’re so confused!) first from the pervasive images of desire and relationships shown in movies and magazines (and cartoons) and later, from pornography.
Mainstream pornography is currently the only graphic representation of human sexuality (not mere anatomy) available. Children inevitably learn about sex from pornography, and thereby inherit its accompanying cultural conceptions about gender and sexuality, not only because it is pervasive (and it certainly is!) but because there is no other authoritative source. Moreso, mainstream pornographic representations of human sexuality trump well-meant sex ed portrayals because they lack life and feeling, and aren’t consistent with the rest of the mass media’s portrayal of adult relationships. That is, the logic of mainstream pornography is consistent with the logic of the rest of social life as portrayed in the mass media-it and its horrifying, alienated misogyny are the logical extension of greater cultural attitudes around human relationships.
I may need to qualify my argument in that when I say “children” I may mean boy children. My observations are drawn from my experiences as a boy, and from observing other boys and men. I suspect that girls and women also learn much of their sexuality from mainstream pornographic representations, and have certainly heard from many who did, but I also have reason to believe that little boys have a privileged access to pornography; it is implicitly permitted or even encouraged, part of our culture’s sentimental construction of boyhood and masculinity.
Regardless, all children in the West are subject to more or less the same exposure to mass media images of sexuality. There is little new in my assertion of this except what I see as the pervasiveness and significance of this gendered education, this education in gender-I want to assert that the majority of sexual socialization in the majority of young boys comes from mainstream pornography. Mainstream pornography, in the absence of more humanistic representations, constitutes the foundation of most boys’ instruction in masculinity. I believe this to be one of the roots of the crisis in masculinity that is expressed in the everyday violence of Patriarchy.
My argument may also be unusual in that I am not arguing for the categorical elimination of pornography but for the seizure of the means of dissemination, for the destruction of pornography as it is made today to be replaced with a humanist, feminist, living pornography. The problem with pornography is not that it is part of our socialization in sex but that it socializes us in what I would call an undesirable way. I see pornography as a tool with great potential, a site of resistance by which we may force changes to the socio-psychological superstructure of everyday life. I also want it made perfectly clear that I stand for the total destruction of the pornography industry that exists today, a hypercapitalistic nexus of sexism that hurts those who consume it as much as it may hurt the women that help produce it.
Mainstream pornography’s contribution to Capitalism, its own crime against humanity, is its reduction of possibility to a single, monolithic, monotonous Product. It mutilates heterosexuality as eagerly as it excludes what it has decided falls outside of it.
I want to see the mainstream pornographic industry lose its balance and fall, toppled by a New Wave of expressions that come from the hearts and minds and genitals of all kinds of “regular” people, unrestricted by the profit motive, dedicated to representing themselves, wrenching open the cultural conception of what’s possible. Capitalism survives, according to John Berger, by fooling us into defining our own interests as narrowly as possible; it is an act of self-defence to widen those definitions, to reconquer space in which to exist, for all those of us who fail to meet an increasingly narrow definition of what is desirable, thusly what is sexual, and thusly what is social, and thusly what is human.
DIY pornography, home-made pornography, is politically significant in that it opens up space for each of us to express ourselves, which may be especially important for those of us whose bodies and desires are excluded from the present cultural conception of sexuality; the mass media’s powers of dissemination have made the right to be included in social life, inclusion of what is taken to be real, a question of representation-what is permitted to be represented is what is taken to be real. DIY pornography provides the possibility of representation for that broad spectrum of bodies that are excluded currently, a family of humanity that ranges from people at the edges of gender definition to those over the age of 30. More broadly speaking it may redefine sexuality for all of us, providing a form of sexual pedagogy (one that we might acknowledge this time!) and benefiting adults as much as children. DIY pornography constitutes the potential for a coup.
The pornography I want to see, the pornography that belongs to the Future and will be instrumental in the creation of that future, has no Porn Stars. We will not need to believe in them anymore because we will understand that we intrinsically possess that which we now believe only they have-that we can act as the representatives of our own desires, that we each contain a sexuality worth expressing. The pornography of the future will not be populated by Whores that permit us to remain Madonnas at home, but people-the same class of people as those that watch it.
It is our duty as human beings to deliberately and consciously guide the development of our collective life, to seize the reins of culture. Pornography, I have decided, belongs to our realm of concern because this part of our cultural and social life, and therefore our future, is currently being decided for us. As ever and always, their interests are hostile to ours; they will rip apart any human relationship, deny any need, turn any of us against the other as long as it continues to bring them profit. It may be our duty, then, to go out and make our own fucking porno.

DIY porno and its political significance has been a favorite hobby horse of mine for some time-imagine my vexation when i discovered i was beaten to the critical punch by the estimable Dylan Ryan, SuperQueero porn star and part-time Canadian. Her essay has the experential, human flavor mine might lack, and you can read it on her blog here: