De journalist Martin van Amerongen schreef als hoofdredacteur van De Groene Amsterdammer in 1996 over Henk Hofland's opinies:
Opvallend veel behandelen zij het thema wraak. De schrijver wenst trouwens inmiddels niet zozeer een journalist als een kunstenaar te worden genoemd, een onderwerp waarover hij met zijn vriend Jean-Paul Franssen een alcohol-doordesemde ruzie heeft gehad. 'En vervuld van wraaklust ben ik in de tram gestapt.' Franssen heeft gelijk. Waarom zou men, de Gouden Ganzeveer achter het oor, opeens een kunstenaar willen zijn?
Wraak is het ressentiment van de ongelukkige mens die zich permanent benadeeld voelt, en meent dat hij volkomen ten onrechte de dupe is van de ander die vanzelfsprekend als een schoft wordt gezien en een zo hoog mogelijke prijs zal moeten betalen voor het al dan niet vermeende onrecht. Het zinnen op wraak is tevens een symptoom van het kleinburgerlijk onvermogen het lot te dragen, want zoals de Amerikaanse auteur Laura Hillenbrand eens opmerkte kleeft er een schijnbare tegenstelling aan wraaklust: '[t]he paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.' In plaats van dat het een teken van kracht lijkt, is het juist een manifestatie van zwakte. Hoe onzekerder het individu, des te wraakzuchtiger hij is. Zeker wanneer het 'slachtoffer' het gevoel heeft dat zijn 'persoonlijkheid' fundamenteel tekort gedaan wordt, zoals in het geval van Hoflands opinie 'een kunstenaar' te zijn, die hij, overigens terecht, van een hogere orde acht dan een ordinaire journalist en al helemaal een in opinies handelende praatjesmaker. De vraag van Van Amerongen: 'Waarom zou men, de Gouden Ganzeveer achter het oor, opeens een kunstenaar willen zijn?' is niet moeilijk te beantwoorden. Hofland is er diep van doordrongen dat hij als journalist geen autonomie bezit, maar slechts dat doet wat de elite via ontelbare signalen verordonneert. Een kunstenaar daarentegen is een wet op zichzelf, hij dient alleen zijn eigen waarheid. Hoewel de auteur Ian Buruma terecht stelt dat '[w]esterse intellectuelen niets dan hun eigen idealen [vertegenwoordigen],' moet daaraan worden toegevoegd dat 'hun eigen idealen' maar al te vaak sporen met die van de macht. Voor de lezers die zich afvragen waar ik het precies over heb is hier de zienswijze van de auteur George Monbiot, columnist van de Guardian, die een dag voor de Britse verkiezingen, 6 mei 20015, in zijn krant onder de kop 'Code of Silence' het volgende schreef:
Political coverage is never more trivial or evanescent than during an election. Where we might hope for enlightenment about the issues on which we will vote, we find gossip about the habits and style of political leaders, an obsession with statistically meaningless shifts in opinion polls and empty speculation about outcomes. (All this is now compounded by the birth of a royal baby, which means that our heads must simultaneously be dunked in a vat of sycophantic slobber.) Anyone would think that the media didn’t want us to understand the real choices confronting us.
While analysis of the issues dividing the political parties is often weak, coverage of those they have collectively overlooked is almost nonexistent. The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the SNP might claim to be at each other’s throats, but they have often reached consensus about which issues are worthy of debate. This article will list a few of the omissions.
The first is so obvious that it should feature in every political discussion: the corrupt and broken system under which we will vote. The argument I’ve heard Labour activists use – 'vote for us because it’s the best we can hope for under first-past-the-post' – would carry more weight if Labour had any plans to change the system.
Where are the furious arguments about the UK’s unreformed political funding that allows billionaires and corporations to buy the politics they want? Where is the debate about the use and abuse of royal prerogative by successive prime ministers? Where is there even a mention of the democratic black hole at the heart of Britain, into which hopes for financial and fiscal reform are sucked: the Corporation of the City of London, whose illegitimate powers pre-date the Magna Carta?
Here’s a fact with which politicians should be assailed every day: the poor in this country pay more tax than the rich. If you didn’t know this – and most people don’t – it’s because you’ve been trained not to know it through relentless efforts by the corporate media. It distracts us by fixating on income tax, one of the few sources of revenue that’s unequivocally progressive. But this accounts for just 27% of total taxation. Overall, the richest tenth pay 35% of their income in tax, while the poorest tenth pay 43%, largely because of the regressive nature of VAT and council tax. The Equality Trust found that 96% of respondents to its survey would like a more progressive system. Yet where is the major party mobilizing this desire, or even explaining the current injustice?
A comprehensive failure to tax land and property is a policy shared by the three major English parties, mansion tax notwithstanding. None of them seems to mind that this failure helps to replace the entrepreneurial society they claim to support with an economy based on rent and patrimonial capital. None of them seems to mind that their elaborate fiscal ring-fencing of land and buildings clashes with their professed belief that capital should be used productively.
Nor will any of them mount an effective challenge to kleptoremuneration: executives siphoning off wealth that they had no role in creating. None seek to modify a limited liability regime so generous that it allowed the multimillionaire authors of the financial crisis – such as Fred Goodwin and Matt Ridley – to walk away from the pain they helped to inflict without forfeiting a penny.
Even these issues are trivial by comparison to the unacknowledged cloud that hangs over our politics: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. All major parties and media outlets are committed to never-ending economic growth, and use GDP as the primary measure of human progress. Even to question this is to place yourself outside the frame of rational political debate.
To service this impossible dream we must work relentlessly, often in jobs that deliver no social utility and cause great harm. Who in politics is brave enough to propose that we work less and enjoy life more? Who will challenge working conditions characterized by ridiculous quotas and impossible demands, or reform a social security regime more draconian and intrusive than day-release from prison? Who is prepared to wonder aloud what all this striving and punishment is for?
And how about some acknowledgment of the epidemic of loneliness, or the shocking rise in conditions such as self-harm, eating disorders, depression, performance anxiety and social phobia? Evidently, these are not fit and proper subjects for political discourse, which creates the impression that those who suffer them are not fit and proper electors.
How about some arguments over the loss of public space? Or a debate about what’s happening to children, confined as never before within four walls, both at school and at home? How about some recognition of the radical changes in transport demand that are likely, in the age of peak car and peak plane, to render redundant the new roads and airports to which all the large parties are committed? Forget it.
A narrow public discourse, dominated by the corporate media and the BBC, ignores or stifles new ideas.
The national and global collapse of biodiversity, the horrifying rate of soil loss, the conflict between aspirations to minimise climate change and maximise the production of fossil fuels: none of these are put before voters as an issue of significant difference. All major parties tacitly agree to carry on as before.
Politicians will not break these silences voluntarily. They are enforced by a narrow and retentive public discourse, dominated by the corporate media and the BBC, which ignores or stifles new ideas, grovels to the elite and ostracizes the excluded, keeping this nation in a state of arrested development.
After this election, we need to think again; to find new means of pushing neglected issues on to the political agenda. We might try to discover why social media has so far mostly failed to fulfill its democratizing promise. We might seek new ways of building political communities, using models as diverse as Spain’s Podemos and evangelical Christianity. We might experiment with some of the Latin American techniques that have helped to transform politics from the bottom up. However we do it, we should never again permit democracy to be reduced to so narrow a choice.
De commerciële media van wie Hofland en zijn 'politiek-literaire elite' financieel en/of intellectueel afhankelijk zijn, geven een ééndimensionaal beeld van de realiteit, terwijl de kunstenaar laat zien hoe complex en uiteindelijk raadselachtig de werkelijkheid is. De realiteit van de 'vrije pers' beperkt zich tot het wel en wee van de desastreuze macht, terwijl de werkelijkheid van de kunstenaar juist ontsnapt aan het cliché, de halve waarheid, de onnozelheid, de leugen en de terreur van de gelijkschakeling. Hoe graag ook de snob in Hofland een kunstenaar zou willen zijn, hij is het niet en zal het nooit worden, en wel omdat hij propaganda bedrijft. De ideologie doodt het kunstzinnige. De vrijheid van de verbeeldingskracht wordt door de onvrijheid van de ideologie verpletterd. Het is één van de redenen waarom de westerse cultuur in een cul-de-sac is beland. Dezelfde hoofden die dag in dag uit in wisselend gezelschap dezelfde geborneerde nonsens verkopen; de eeuwige herhaling van zetten, de moord op alles dat oorspronkelijk is, de haat en wraaklust van de petit bourgeois, de angst om de boot te missen, de krampachtige poging om de aandacht te trekken, het is allemaal intens vergeefs en toont hoe overleefd de gevestigde wanorde is. Wanneer Hofland in De Groene beweert dat 'Hillary' de 'ideale kandidaat' is voor het Amerikaanse presidentschap dan bewijst hij hoe armoedig zijn verbeeldingskracht is. Maar in plaats van beschaamd te zwijgen, wil hij koste wat kost nog steeds bevestigd worden. De ogen sluiten voor de werkelijkheid zal niet tot gevolg hebben dat de werkelijkheid ons zal negeren. In De Groene Amsterdammer van 22 april 2015 meldt opiniemaker Henk Hofland zijn geschoold publiek dat er
meer moet worden gedaan om te voorkomen dat arme goedgelovigen in handen vallen van gewetenloze mensen-smokkelaars. Ja, dat is de kern van het probleem. Maar nog altijd blijft het de vraag hoe we het effectief moeten aanpakken. Er nadert een antwoord, het is er nog niet.
Deze onzin is erop gericht de lezer in verwarring te brengen om zodoende een immoreel doel te verwezenlijken. Volgens Hofland 'is de kern van het probleem' niet de bittere 'armoede' van miljarden mensen, die onder het juk van het 'gewetenloze' geglobaliseerde neoliberalisme gebukt gaan, maar de 'gewetenloze mensen-smokkelaars,' die van 'arme goedgelovigen' profiteren. De armoede is dus, 'Ja,' een te verwaarlozen nevenverschijnsel. Godzijdank, want zo hoeft de westerse kleinburger zich niet verantwoordelijk te voelen voor het lot van de helft van de mensheid die tezamen evenveel bezit als 85 neoliberale miljardairs. Hofland en zijn achterban gaan er impliciet van uit dat het arme deel van de mensheid niet meer het recht bezit om te vluchten; de arme is verplicht zijn armoede lijdzaam te ondergaan, omdat anders de rijke aardbewoners iets van hun welvaart moeten inleveren. Dit is een extremistische opvatting die voor zover ik weet nooit eerder in de geschiedenis door een groot deel van de intelligentsia werd gedeeld.
Miljarden mensen zijn nu buiten de mensheid geplaatst, de 'ongedocumenteerden' worden door niemand erkent, niet door hun beulen, maar ook niet door H.J.A. Hofland en zijn al even hypocriete mainstream-collega's die zich zo graag op de borst roffelen zodra het gaat over beschaving, mensenrechten, democratie, westerse normen en waarden. Alleen zij hebben recht op leven, de armen niet, aangezien die kennelijk een inferieure soort vertegenwoordigen. Het is als het ware 'The Colored Men's Burden,' om te verpauperen en daar moeten de 'lesser breeds without the Law' het vandaag de dag maar mee doen. Moesten de westerse koloniale machten hun roofzucht nog rechtvaardigen met argumenten als het 'civiliseren van de lagere rassen,' zoals bijvoorbeeld Winston Churchill dit zag, tegenwoordig hoeft dit allemaal niet meer. Nu is voldoende 'to teach the lesser breeds' hoe dodelijk het benadelen van de westerse belangen kan zijn. Het problematische is dat alleen door verantwoordelijkheid te nemen het individu een identiteit kan ontwikkelen. Daarom is het weigeren van verantwoordelijkheid voor het geheel funest voor zowel de enkeling als het collectief. Door de massale vervreemding in het Westen bestaat er geen geheel meer waarvoor de mens zich verantwoordelijk voelt. Er is alleen nog maar het opgeblazen IK die op iedereen en alles 'wraak' wil nemen, zodra hij zich tekort gedaan voelt. In een gefragmenteerde neoliberale cultuur is het ieder tegen ieder, ieder voor zich en god voor ons allen. De Ander is per definitie de vijand, want degene die concurreert bij het toe-eigenen van immer schaarse goederen en diensten. Centraal staat de 'IK' van Hoflands 'Ik weet hoe het zit,' en die 'IK' verkondigt dat er 'een antwoord [nadert].' Wantrouw deze profeten, hun 'antwoorden' brengen altijd onheil met zich mee. Zeker in een tijd waarin alle normen en waarden zijn verdwenen. Alleen de identiteitslozen schieten naar boven in een dergelijk tijdperk. De zwarte Amerikaanse hoogleraar Robin D.G. Kelley schreef niet voor niets in de introductie van Aimé Césaire's boek Discourse on Colonialism (1950):
'Europe is literally the creation of the Third World,' Césaire reveals, over and over again, that the colonizers' sense of superiority, their sense of mission as the world's civilizers, depends on turning the Other into a barbarian.
Césaire zelf merkte voorts op:
First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and 'interrogated,' all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.
De 'poison' is het mens- en wereldbeeld die Henk Hofland en zijn 'politiek-literaire elite' de wereld insturen. Wanneer de 'beste journalist van de twintigste eeuw' weer eens met enthousiasme spreekt van de 'vernietigende stok achter de deur,' waarover het Westen beschikt om de belangen van zijn economische elite veilig te stellen, dan is het goed te weten dat
the colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal... They thought they were only slaughtering Indians, or Hindus, or South Sea Islanders, or Africans. They have in fact overthrown, one after another, the ramparts behind which European civilization could have developed freely,
aldus Césaire. De rijke die zijn verantwoordelijkheid niet accepteert, vernietigt eerst de mens in zichzelf en vervolgens alle anderen om hem heen, tot uiteindelijk een monster overblijft.
Wraak. Hoeveel Auschwitz en Hiroshima heeft de de 'politiek-literaire elite' in Nederland nodig voordat ze iets leren?
Henry Giroux and Brad Evans | Disposable FuturesSunday, 01 June 2014 00:00 By Henry A Giroux and Brad Evans, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Also see: Henry A. Giroux | Disposable Life
To see more articles in the Disposable Futures series, click here.
The 20th Century is often termed the "Century of Violence." And rightly so, given the widespread devastation of an entire continent during the two Great Wars; the continued plunder and suppression of former colonial enclaves; the rebirth of extermination camps in the progressive heart of a modern Europe; the appalling experiments in human barbarism that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the torture and symbolic acts of disappearance so endemic in Latin America; the passivity in the face of ongoing acts of genocide; the wars and violence carried out in the name of some deceitful humanitarian principle. This legacy of violence makes it difficult to assess this history without developing profound suspicions about the nature of the human condition and its capacity for evil.
One of the particular novelties of this period was the emergence of dystopia literature and compelling works of art that proved integral to the lasting critique of totalitarian regimes. Indeed, some of the most appealing prose of the times was not put forward by recognized political theorists or radical philosophers, but the likes of Yevgeny Zamyatin, H.G. Wells, George Orwell and Aldus Huxley, among others, who managed to reveal with incisive flair and public appeal the violence so often hidden beneath the utopian promise of technologically driven progress.(1) Dystopia in these discourses embodied a warning and a hope that humankind would address and reverse the dark authoritarian practices that descended on the 20th century like a thick, choking fog.
Hannah Arendt understood how the authoritarian violence of the 20th century needed a broader frame of reference.(2) The gulags, death camps and the torture chambers of Argentina and Chile soon gave way to the harrowing experimental camps of the colonies, which would all too quickly blowback into the metropolitan homelands. The utopian promise of the Enlightenment thus contained within it the violence and brutalities embedded in the logic of instrumental rationality and the unchecked appeal to progress and ideological purity, all of which was later rehearsed within the most terrifying fictions and rewritten with the same devastating effect for those expendable millions that made up a veritable continent of suffering we could rightly map as the globally dispossessed.
Dystopia is the dominant imaginary for neoliberal governance and its narcissistic reasoning.
We live, however, in a different political moment. The state is no longer the center of politics. Neoliberalism has made a bonfire of the sovereign principles embodied in the social contract. Nor can we simply diagnose 21st century forms of oppression and exploitation by relying on well-rehearsed orthodoxies of our recent past. With power and its modalities of violence having entered into the global space of flows - detached from the controlling political interests of the nation-state, utilizing technologies far beyond those imagined in the most exaggerating of 20th century fictions, the dystopian theorists of yesteryears prove to be of limited use.(3) Hope appears increasingly to have fallen prey to predatory formations of global capitalism and its engulfing webs of precarity that have reduced human life to the task of merely being able to survive. Individual and collective agencies are not only under siege unlike any other time in history, but have become depoliticized, overcome by a culture of anxiety, insecurity, commodification and privatization
More specifically, as we move away from any belief in the virtues of unending progress and its claims of lasting peaceful settlement, to the contemporary state of neoliberal rule whose crises-laden mantra now openly suggests unlimited progress for the very select few, the vast majority are asked to live a barely sustainable precariousness. The need to accept that our present societies are fundamentally insecure by design and that the future is a terrain of endemic and unavoidable catastrophe is taken as a given in most policy circles. Dystopia, in other words, is no longer the realm of scientific fiction - as suggested, for instance, by a number of recent climate reports warning that the planet is in grave danger. It is the dominant imaginary for neoliberal governance and its narcissistic reasoning.
If Theodore Adorno was right to argue that Apocalypse already occurred with the realization of the Holocaust and the experience of World War II, what has taken its place is a discourse signaling the normalization of a catastrophic imaginary that offers few means for possible escape.(4) Despite their relation to "end of times narratives," as Jacob Taubes once noted,(5) there is perhaps something different at work here between the pre-modern apocalyptic movements and the shift toward catastrophic reasoning that has come to define the contemporary moment. For all their nihilism and monotheistic servitude, at least the apocalyptic movements could imagine a better world than already existed.
Our collective consciousness, if not our subjectivity and agency, have been colonized such that the future is littered with the corpses of the present and can only alternatively look backwards rather than forward. How else can we account for the revival of "communist" discourses on the political left and state "fascistic" discourses on the right if not through the appeal to a world that once appeared more secure? Even accepting that the terms can be reinvented, given the histories of violence associated with their recent past, surely their reappearance highlights the poverty and lack of confidence in the human capacity to rethink the world today? How did we become so vulnerable, losing all collective faith in our combined and creative efforts?
Citizens are now reduced to data, consumers and commodities.
It is within this historical conjuncture and the current savagery of various regimes of neoliberal capitalism that we conceived the need to develop a paradigm that focused on the intensification of what we called the politics of disposability.(6) This requires taking our analysis beyond 20th century frames of analysis to look at the ways in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess by the onslaught of global forces that no longer offer the possibility of alternative futures. It talks precisely to those contemporary forms of disposability that have become so normalized; the burden of the guilt is placed on the shoulders of the victims, while the most pernicious of systemic abuses continues to hide things in plain sight. And it develops a critical angle of vision that goes well beyond the mere authentication of lives as simply born vulnerable to question the systemic design for oppression and exploitation that produces humans as some expendable category.
Dystopian politics has become mainstream politics as the practice of disposability has intensified and more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess, consigned to "zones of abandonment," surveillance and incarceration. The expansive politics of disposability can be seen in the rising numbers of homeless, the growing army of debt-ridden students whose existing and future prospects remain bleak, those lacking basic necessities amid widening income disparities, the surveillance of immigrants, the school-to-prison pipeline and the widespread destruction of the middle class by new forms of debt servitude.(7) Citizens, as Gilles Deleuze foresaw(8), are now reduced to data, consumers and commodities and, as such, inhabit identities in which they increasingly become unknowables, with no human rights and with no one accountable for their condition.
The nihilism of our times forces us to accept that the only world conceivable is the one we are currently forced to endure.
There is something, however, more at stake here than the contemporary plight of those millions forced to live in intolerable conditions. What makes the contemporary forms of disposability so abhorrent is precisely the way it shapes disposable futures. The future now appears to us as a terrain of endemic catastrophe and disorder from which there is no viable escape except to draw upon the logics of those predatory formations that put us there in the first place. Devoid of any alternative image of the world, we are merely requested to see the world as predestined and catastrophically fated. Frederic Jameson's claim then that it is easier to "imagine the end of the world than it is the end of capitalism"(9) is more than a reflection on the poverty of contemporary imaginations. It is revealing of the nihilism of our times that forces us to accept that the only world conceivable is the one we are currently forced to endure: a world that is brutally reproduced and forces us all to become witness to its spectacles of violence that demand we accept that all things are ultimately insecure by design. In this suffocating climate, the best we can hope for is to be connected to some fragile and precarious life support system that may be withdrawn from us at any moment. Hope has dissolved into the pathology of social and civil death and the quest for mere survival. For if there is a clear lesson to living in these times, it is precisely that the lights can go out at any given moment, without any lasting concern for social responsibility. This is simply the natural order of things (so we are told) and we need to adapt our thinking accordingly.
Little wonder that we have seen a revival in these times of all sorts of monstrous fictions. As Jane and Lewis Gordon explain, "Monsters of disaster are special kinds of divine warning. They are harbingers of things we do not want to face, of catastrophes, and we fear they will bring such events upon us by coming to us."(10)Only a decade or so ago, citizens feared the wrath of robots - terminators and cyborgs - who wanted to destroy us, the legacy of a highly rationalized, technocratic culture that eludes human regulation, even comprehension. Now, those who are not part of a technocratic elite appear helpless and adrift, caught in the grips of a society that denies them any alternative sense of politics or hope. This raises some important questions on the advent of monstrosity, not least the fascination in popular culture today with the figure of the zombie, which has its own distinct politics. The zombie genre can be traced to earlier critiques of capitalism, with the undead in particular appearing at a time when the shopping mall started to become a defining symbol of modernity. Zombies here would become the embodiment of a political form, one that lost all sense of the past and had no future to speak of. The only performance it knew was the desire for violence as it was suspended in a state of temporal purgatory, which offered no means of escape. To become a zombie was to be devoid of any political, ethical and social claim or responsibility other than the eventual completion of the nihilistic project.(11)
The contemporary resurrection of this metaphorical figure in today's popular culture is most revealing. It speaks to both the nihilistic conditions in which we live, along with the deadly violence of neoliberal regimes of power and the modes of political subjectivity it seeks to authenticate/destroy. As Keir Milburn and David Harvie have noted:
Neoliberalism no longer "makes sense", but its logic keeps stumbling on, without conscious direction, like a zombie: ugly, persistent and dangerous. Such is the "unlife" of a zombie, a body stripped of its goals, unable to adjust itself to the future, unable to make plans. It can only act habitually as it pursues a monomaniacal hunger. Unless there is a dramatic recomposition of society, we face the prospect of decades of drift as the crises we face - economic, social, environmental - remain unresolved. But where will that recomposition come from when we are living in the world of zombie-liberalism?(12)
One of the most remarkable recent examples of this genre that offers a truly potent exposition of contemporary nihilism is represented in Marc Forster's World War Z. While the source of the outbreak remains somewhat elusive in the movie, from the outset Forster situates the problem in connection to contemporary concerns of the biosphere and the all-too-real mutation of viruses capable of destroying a world with little care or responsibility for its social habitat. The movie further amplifies the relevance of this genre for exposing the futility of states as societies, while emphasising the bio-political dimensions to power wherein it is widely accepted today that anybody and anything can become the source of contamination. Nobody is safe and no location might provide sanctuary. Indeed, while the burning of Manhattan offers a provocative screening of potential devastation brought about by widespread human abandonment, it is the penetration of the walls of Jerusalem that will no doubt unsettle many.
Nobody is safe and no location might provide sanctuary.
However, instead of following the conventional deconstruction of the zombie here as revealing of the death of subjectivities brought about by commodification, on this occasion there is more to be gained by analyzing the survivors. Let's be under no illusions, what the score narrates, the best that can be imagined, is pure survival. Indeed, the only way to survive is by engaging in a form of self-harm by using a lethal microbe as a form of "camouflage" so that the health of the body no longer registers, hence the body is no longer a target for the undead. It is also further revealing that the eventual fate of the survivors is not in any way certain, as the final scenes tell that this is merely the start of a perpetual state of violence that allows for some strategic gains, but remains ultimately a state infested with the decay of a political and social order that might never recover its humaneness. The movie as such is perhaps less meditation on the already dead, than on the fate of those who are hoping to survive the everywhere war. For they are also denied the possibility of another world, forced to partake instead in a world of personal risk and deadly infection that continually puts their destiny as political subjects who are able to transform the world for the better into question. This is political nihilism taken to the nth degree. The most violent of conditions that renders the will to nothingness, the start and ending for all collective actions and viable notions of human togetherness.
An act of resistance worthy of its name is precisely a creative actthat leads to the creation of new forms of thinking and alternative ways of living.
Such a vision of the world is actually far more disturbing than the dystopian fables of the 20th century. Our condition denies us the possibility of better times to come as the imagined and the real collapse in such a way that we are already living amongst the ruins of the future. All we can seemingly imagine is a world filled with unavoidable catastrophes, the source of which, we are told, remains beyond our grasp, thereby denying us any possibility for genuine systemic transformation in the order of things. How else can we explain the current fetish with the doctrine of resilience if not through the need to accept the inevitability of catastrophe, and to simply partake in a world that is deemed to be "insecure by design"?(13) This forces us to accept narratives of vulnerability as the authentic basis of political subjectivity regardless of the oppressive conditions that produce vulnerable subjects (thereby neutralizing all meaningful qualitative differences in class, racial and gendered experiences). So we are encouraged to lament this world, armed only with the individualistic hope that the privileged elite might survive better than others. For the majority, this in fact represents a reversal of the Darwinian logic, for here all life is subject to the continual descent of the human until the battle is eventually lost. Perhaps that is what economists really had in mind when they coined the phrase "trickle-down" as it operated out of the realms of theoretical abstraction and affected the lives of millions.
And yet, despite living in such politically catastrophic times, there remain reasons to be optimistic. People will always resist what they find patently intolerable. This alone is sufficient enough reason to continue to have faith in the human condition. For they show time and time again that an act of resistance worthy of its name is precisely a creative act that leads to the creation of new forms of thinking and alternative ways of living. History is replete with examples of the globally dispossessed challenging those who would make them vulnerable with a dignified confidence that refuses to get caught up in some violent dialectic that is capable only of recreating the world in a mirror image of that which is already experienced. In this regard, we might add that the greatest weapon in our political arsenal today remains the power of the imagination. As Chris Hedges recently argued:
It is through imagination that we can recover reverence and kinship. It is through imagination that we can see ourselves in our neighbors and the other living organisms of the earth. It is through imagination that we can envision other ways to form a society. The triumph of modern utilitarianism, implanted by violence, crushed the primacy of the human imagination. It enslaved us to the cult of the self. And with this enslavement came an inability to see . . . Imagination, as Goddard wrote, "is neither the language of nature nor the language of man, but both at once, the medium of communion between the two - as if the birds, unable to understand the speech of man, and man, unable to understand the songs of birds, yet longing to communicate, were to agree on a tongue made up of sounds they both could comprehend - the voice of running water perhaps or the wind in the trees. Imagination is the elemental speech in all senses, the first and the last, of primitive man and of the poets."(14)
Power has always feared those who have dared to think differently.
Never have we required with more urgency a new political imaginary that can take us out of the poverty of contemporary forms of catastrophe reasoning, which prove to be politically catastrophic and lead to civil and social death. Power has always feared those who have dared to think differently. It has always sought to pathologize and medicalize those who dared to imagine the alternatives instead of conforming. This is not incidental, for it is precisely in the realm of the imagination that we can rethink the world anew. Indeed, since power cannot deny humans the metaphysical ability to imagine better worlds, for that is what ultimately defines the human condition as such, the power of the imagination as affirmatively conceived is by definition always and already engaged in forms of political struggle as it refuses to accept the rehearsed orthodoxy of the present. To dare to imagine otherwise is always the start of a new form of hope that doesn't passively wait for historical forces to provide rescue. Having resolute faith in the belief that it is humanely possible to transform the world for the better, the power of imagination moves us beyond the cynicism of the times which, no longer simply the dominant position held by the sad militants of critical theory, has become the preferred intellectual stance of those in power.
1. Henry A. Giroux, "Between Orwell and Huxley: America's Plunge into Dystopia," Tidal Basin Review (in press)
2. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, Harcourt: 1973)
3. Henry A. Giroux, Twilight of the Social (Boulder, Paradigm, 2012)
4. See, especially, Theodor W. Adorno, "Aldous Huxley and Utopia", Prisms, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1967), pp. 97-117
5. Jacob Taubes, Occidental Eschatology (Stanford, Stanford University Press: 2009)
6. On the issue of youth and the politics of disposability, see Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty(London: Routledge, 2012)
7. Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2011); David Graeber, The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement, (New York, NY,: The Random House Publishing Group, 2013)
8. See Gilles Deleuze, "Post-Script on the Societies of Control" in Gilles Deleuze (1990) Negotiations: 1972-1990 (New York, Columbia University Press)
10. Jane Anna Gordon and Lewis R. Gordon, Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age (Boulder, Paradigm Publishers: 2009) p. 10.
11. See, for instance, Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, 2nd edition (New York: Peter Lang, 2014); John Quiggin, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
12. See Brad Evans and Julian Reid, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (Cambridge, Polity Press: 2014)
13. On the radical imagination and the necessity to link it to everyday life and new forms of subjectivity, see Stanley Aronowitz, "Where is the Outrage?" Situations, vol. v, no. 2 (2014), pp. 9-48.
14. Chris Hedges, "The Power of Imagination," Truthout (May 12, 2014).
Brad Evans is a senior lecturer in international relations at the School of Sociology, Politics & International Studies (SPAIS), University of Bristol, UK. He is the founder and director of the histories of violence project. In this capacity, he is currently leading a global research initiative on the theme of “Disposable Life” to interrogate the meaning of mass violence in the 21st Century. Brad’s latest books include Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (with Julian Reid, Polity Press, 2014), Liberal Terror (Polity Press, 2013) and Deleuze & Fascism (with Julian Reid, Routledge, 2013). He is currently working on a number of book projects, including Disposable Futures: Violence in the Age of the Spectacle (with Henry Giroux, forthcoming, City Lights: 2015) and Histories of Violence: An Introduction to Post-War Critical Thought (with Terrell Carver, Zed Books, 2015).
HENRY A GIROUX
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books include: On Critical Pedagogy(Continuum, 2011), Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability(Paradigm 2012), Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty(Routledge 2012), Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm 2013), and The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), America's Disimagination Machine (City Lights) and Higher Education After Neoliberalism(Haymarket) will be published in 2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is www.henryagiroux.com. Truthout readers receive a 30% discount by clicking the link and inserting the Code: TOGIR (please note that this code is cap-sensitive) on the following books: Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, March 2013; The Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Politics in an Age of Disposability, April 2012; Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror, August 2010; Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy, April 2010; and The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, June 2007.
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