“The thing that matters the most is to realize that in moments like this your actions really do matter. It is ironic but in an authoritarian regime-change situation, the individual matters more than [in] a democracy. In an authoritarian regime change, at the beginning the individual has a special kind of power because the authoritarian regime depends on a certain kind of consent. Which means that if you are conscious of the moment that you are in, you can find the ways not to express your consent and you can also find the little ways to be a barrier. If enough people do that, it really can make a difference — but again only at the beginning.”
We are going through “a particularly extreme kind of dual crisis, in which two separate things happen together. First, the given political arrangements no longer work in a way that enables stable governance to occur. Second, those governing arrangements malfunction so badly that they forfeit the consent of the people. That’s the kind of dual crisis we’re currently experiencing. The polity is broken. Even worse: very large numbers of people have stopped believing that it can be fixed. On the one hand, we have the withering of democratic practices in the state, whether inside the legislature or in the relations of Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court; or in the attack on voting rights and the conduct of elections; or in the curtailment of civil liberties and the size of the carceral state. On the other hand, there’s now a default belief among the citizenry that government consists only in burdensomeness, corruption, incompetence, and non-accountability; there’s a still widening popular belief in what I would call the non-intelligibility of power, the belief that power is exercised in a distant place, behind closed doors and opaque glass, by conspiracies of elites who are beholden to no one and simply do not care. Now when these two crises occur together – crisis of representation, crisis of consent; government paralysis, democratic impasse – we are in deep trouble.”
Winning and governing by division: ‘If Obama’s contention was that there’s no “them,” only “us,” Trump’s contention is that there really is a “them” — a “them” of immigrants and Muslims and terrorists and Black Lives Matter activists and elites and crooked journalists — and so it’s all the more important for the “us” to stick together. This is how he won the primary. It’s how he won the election. It’s how he intends to govern. If Obamaism was about strength through unity, Trumpism is about power through division.’
‘The price of all this division is, well, division. It is unknown if Trump can hold together a governing majority with such low approval numbers, so little interest in conciliatory rhetoric or legislation, and such an angry, activated opposition. He may prove to be the president who convinces the Democratic coalition that voting in midterm elections really is important — and if so, he will have done the Republican Party terrible, lasting damage. Usually, the strategy of breaking the country in half is pursued by coalitions certain they represent the bigger half; in this case, it’s being tried by the coalition representing the smaller, albeit geographically more efficient, half. But this is the experiment we began today. Obamaism is dead. Welcome to Trumpism.’
‘There remains an immense suspicion of political pessimism. Salvage has always stressed that our pessimism, born of analysis, is not at all coterminous with surrender – the opposite – and that it yearns to be wrong. At this moment, this fist in the face, any response other than a pessimistic sense of the growing gulf between us and emancipation would be delusional. It is precisely to fight the forces emboldened by this shift that we must start by acknowledging how strong, and how dire, they are.
The Left must remain hard not only in its ‘support for’ but its aggressive, militant solidarity with migrants, with the black activists insisting that the police be held to account, against whom an onslaught is to be expected. We must work vigorously in united fronts without blunting our politics of opposition, without succumbing to the forthcoming wave of sentimentality about Obama – the mechanisms of drone death, whistleblower-attack and trenchant state surveillance now in the hands of a bloviating monster are, of course, Obama’s mechanisms. In response to the liberals with whom we will march, who insist to us that ‘love trumps hate’, we must argue instead for more hate, to hate more, to hate harder – in the right direction. More than one commentator, and not only of the far Left or right, has discerned in this moment a slide towards a new civil war. This is only half-correct. It is one of the vanishingly few positive things one can say about Trump’s victory that it clarifies that: the war was here already.’
Posted in crisis, defeat, disobedience, emergency, freedom, justice, Nota Bene, power, resistance, the Left, tragic politics, Uncategorized
‘The necessary thing to do is to transform shock into a high alertness that prevents anything from being taken for granted — to confront fear and to love the way it makes everything appear strange. Love the new frequencies; what is noise now will be music later. The disintegration of the known world provides a lot of pieces to play with and use in constructing alternatives while being aware that the simple modes of representation are tranquilizers at best, coercion at worst.
What I call for is a literature that craves the conflict and owns the destruction, a split-mind literature that features fear and handles shock, that keeps self-evident “reality” safely within the quotation marks. Never should we assume the sun will rise tomorrow, that America cannot be a fascist state, or that the nice-guy neighbor will not be a murderer because he gives out candy at Halloween.
America, including its literature, is now in ruins, and the next four years will be far worse than anyone can imagine. Which is why we must keep imagining them as we struggle to survive them. To write in and of America, we must be ready to lose everything, to recognize we never had any of it in the first place, to abandon hope and embrace struggle, to fight in the streets and in our sentences.’
Posted in crisis, defeat, disobedience, emergency, fiction, melancholy, Nota Bene, poetry, resistance, revolt, Uncategorized
“In the post-truth world of Trumplandia there is a clear need for scholars to go public—as a form of resistance. This need is particularly acute in the social sciences in which scholars attempt to make sense of the human condition. Why is there discrimination and hate and cruelty in the world? Why is income and social inequality so historically persistent? Why do people not act in their best interests? What are the social factors that lead to needless suffering and premature death? Why have our politics become so mean-spirited?”
“What makes movements a force—when they are a force—is the deployment of a distinctive power that arises from the ability of angry and indignant people to at times defy the rules that usually ensure their cooperation and quiescence. Movements can mobilize people to refuse, to disobey, in effect to strike. In other words, people in motion, in movements, can throw sand in the gears of the institutions that depend on their cooperation. It therefore follows that movements need numbers, but they also need a strategy that maps the impact of their defiance and the ensuing disruptions on the authority of decision-makers.”
“Now the protests will have to aim not at winning, but at halting or foiling initiatives that threaten harm. … So how do resistance movements win—if they win—in the face of an unrelentingly hostile regime? The answer, I think, is that by blocking or sabotaging the policy initiatives of the regime, resistance movements can create or deepen elite and electoral cleavages.”
Posted in defeat, democracy, disengagement, disobedience, emergency, governance, Nota Bene, power, resistance, the Left, Uncategorized
Mourning and melancholy after the defeat: ‘We will now find out. The social experiment on which we are embarking is a treacherous one, from which it will not prove easy to recover. Trump promises a revolution. Trump promises a revolution … Still, even the rhetorical invocation of “revolution” is yet another in an overflowing field of red flags about the danger to our democracy. Americans can have a soft spot for “revolution,” since our war of independence from the British Empire was so nifty. But most revolutions are not. They are usually overtaken by their most extreme elements, spiral beyond the control of the principled, and lead to the collapse of social order and gratuitous and senseless bloodletting. “Reckless audacity came to be understood as the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice,” Thucydides described, recounting conditions on the eve of the corpse-strewn Corcyraean Revolution.’
‘We have lost, we are lost. Not an election, but a civilization. Where does that leave us? I think the metaphor is one of (political) resistance.’
An artists’ strike: “The #J20 Art Strike is proposed in solidarity with other #J20 actions taking place across the country that demand business does not proceed as usual on inauguration day.”
Sanders’ proposed revolution “is a strong democratic socialist/social democratic challenge to the crumbling neoliberal doctrines of the present-day Democratic Party. It expresses the yearning of many for effective political participation, as opposed to the best government money can buy. It challenges the plutocracy in the name of both freedom and equality. But most importantly … it is a movement that does not begin and end with electoral politics, and even less with the prospects of a Sanders presidency.”