This post doesn’t really offer any new hopes or ideas, but is just another gaseous addition to a growing pile of venting.
But, being in England immediately Post-Brexit, something resonated with Trump’s victory. Probably a global death knell, but still. While initially, with Brexit, i had some tragic hope the plunge into the self evisceration of European technocracy could do some good, very quickly the infantile sparks of destructive reverie, -rather than burning the world to the ground and growing a better one in its ashes- seemed snuffed out and replaced with an all the more horrifying, colder darkness. A left MP is dead, hate crimes are on the rise, and now the serious flecked snarls of empty fascistic rhetoric of ‘Taking Our Country Back’ are being transposed into gleeful grins, and worse, being treated like they actually fucking mean something. It doesn’t matter if all the far right’s promises were lies, that they’re incapable of any program more coherent than drunkenly punching each other in the snout; they win anyway.
And yet, it felt almost impossible to sympathize with remain voters. Southern coast upper and middle class types complaining they won’t be able to afford to fill their wine cellar during their holiday in France this year, that they may have to cancel their six month vacation in Prague. It all just felt like the pathetic complaining of those privileged enough to have something to lose from the world turning to shit. It’s hard not to feel some kind of hysterical jubilation at seeing them be denied. In both cases of Brexit and Trump, the vote between Keep Everything Awful and Make It Worse has given a resounding victory to Make Everything Worse.
Liberal commentators are just baffled, they have been for a while. How can people do something so stupid to themselves? In a way, their incomprehension is even more stupid than the stupidity they oppose. They are like concerned parents, discovering their teenage child cutting themselves, saying “but honey, don’t you know that won’t help anything?”
Of course it doesn’t help anything, in some shit bland, number crunching utilitarian logic. That’s not the fucking point. The point is to let a pain that is simmering rise to the surface. To be able to see it, feel it. To take all the terrors that are only allowed to be suffered in silent non-existence, and make them a bright red scream.
In the most perverse sense possible, it feels like something genuinely democratic has taken place. (Edit: that said, the more time passes the more utterly dubious this seems.) It has to be remembered that the implementation of neo-liberalism in the 1980’s was about taking democratic power away from people, in the interest of corporate elites: Rising inequality, deregulation, casualisation of the work force and cuts to the rights to strike, etc, etc. The same story the world over, in England, America, New Zealand, etc. Since then, we have seen each of the two major parties offering various redressing’s of the exact same politics. The politics of a totally administered society that barely tolerates your existence in it, distributed by a static professional class that knows the rules, the game, the discourse, and what is best. If you don’t speak the language, shut up.
And so the wheezing shibboleth of representative liberal democracy did what it always does; offer you one option, and another option that isn’t really an option. But then after the a thousandth iteration, something broke. People chose wrong. They voted to make things worse. Or rather, a crawling shoggoth of thuggish street fascists did, and everyone else just didn’t bother to turn up. But it was enough. Negation for negation’s sake won the day.
But that’s the real tragedy of it all, isn’t it? In both the Brexit referenda, and America, and here in New Zealand, there is no left alternative. There is the populist violence of business as usual, and the even more violent shadow-self of business as usual.
In the blandest possible eventuality, Brexit and Trump’s victory may mean absolutely nothing. The second option is that we will see the return to the slow decay economy of pre-80’s nationalistic protectionism. This will be more interesting to see, but it will likely not help anything. Some big businesses will benefit, others will be hindered, minorities and the otherwise marginalized will suffer even more, and everyone else will remain on the same social rung as the whole ladder decays. In the most exciting eventuality, it will mean World War Three, nuclear armageddon and the destruction of the entire world. I’m not sure which is preferable.
I’m really not sure why i’m writing this. Mostly to piss off a handful of my conservative-liberal friends on Facebook. But it’s also something else. Something fluctuating, seething between melancholia and hysteria.
I had an argument with my most clued up, coherent, leftist friend a week back. He ended up retreating into frustrated silence, because i suggested there was such a thing as a “subject”. I think he was in the right; i really don’t know my Foucault well enough. But i think the anecdote is still telling. On the critical and edgy po-mo/ marxist left, we’ve been fighting a war of attrition for so long, that we failed to notice that our own bodies dissolved long ago. Either that, or we noticed, and become enfetishized by our failure; by our own existence as spectral haunt, a negation of the negation too disgusted and terrified of itself to ever pass into something remotely palpable.
But, if political ‘rationality’ is only rational as long as ideology goes unquestioned, the absurdity of politics recently can be viewed as an opening up. Where the democrats retreated from social contradictions, Trump has been revelling in them. Trump says he will make the country great, Obama says it is already great. The pot is boiling over. The democrats answer is to put a lid on it, Trump’s is to turn the heat up till everyone is burned away. What we need now is not to withdrawal from these popular sufferings, conflicts and tensions, but try and resolve them in a way that will actually improve things.
The question lingers; would things of been different in a Trump vs. Sanders election? If the super-delegates didn’t bulwark the democratic process in the democratic primary, and instead the Democrats also offered something new, and were also able to address and channel the mass frustration? It’s a moot question now. But maybe, maybe, by a long shot, what actually happened will work. Let Trump prove his utter laughable incompetence, and then let the left try their hand at pushing us in a new direction. I’m grasping at straws, admittedly.
In Passions of the Real, Passions of Semblance, Zizek describes the politics of our times in terms of the hunt for the Real, (where the Lacanian Real is really only destructive void.) but this isn’t quite right. Take Trump’s slogan -not his Make etc etc Again one, but his actual one, the one he never actually used;- Trump promised to Make Anime Real. Trump’s politics is certainly an abandonment of the hegemony of the symbolic order, but it is one that neither falls into the imaginary or real, but seeks to superimpose the imaginary onto the real, to identify the attaining of fantasy with its own traumatic impossibility. And that is why he is so dangerous. It is entirely conceivable that he will fail to deliver on everything he claimed, and people will love him all the more for it. We will go to our graves, cyclically oscillating between fatuous impotence and brutish outbursts. At once desperate yearning and violent retreat, both paranoiac and psychotic.
But if fantasy is now real, and we are in an age of demons spewing from the fractured frakked ground, then maybe something better can rise. Why not a genuine left alternative, that doesn’t begrudgingly tolerate mass inequality? One that can empathize with white jobless and working class America, while opposing xenophobic and misogynistic scapegoats? One full of actual opposition, solidarity and revolutionary bile? Why not the spectre of communism? No better place for a ghost than a phantasmagoria.
The logic ‘that things will get better if they first get worse’, is dangerous and has failed before, and badly. If i was American and in a swing state i would of definitely safe voted Clinton. I’m an anxious retreating piece of shit, and in spite of my rhetoric here, i’m terrified of what lies ahead. But it’s all moot now. We have already absconded into the politics of dream. But dreams are fluid, amorphous. The important thing is to fight vigilantly and creatively against it being a politics of nightmare.