understand that holding the majority in terms of population has never been the key to white America’s success. What makes whiteness successful is the control of America’s political and economic systems. The two go hand-in-hand, and so long as wealth is largely concentrated in the hands of a white oligarchy, so too will political power be. The centuries-long project of creating race and then using the idea of racial inferiority to exacerbate the inequality between the races, otherwise known as racism, has done an amazing job of ensuring the capital attached to whiteness will not fade any time soon. White privilege is a hell of a drug.
“WE MUST CALL attention, among the workers parties or the extremist tendencies within those parties, to the need to undertake an effective ideological action in order to combat the emotional influence of advanced capitalist methods of propaganda. On every occasion, by every hyper-political means, we must publicize desirable alternatives to the spectacle of the capitalist way of life, so as to destroy the bourgeois idea of happiness. At the same time, taking into account the existence, within the various ruling classes, of elements that have always tended (out of boredom and thirst for novelty) toward things that lead to the disappearance of their societies, we should incite the persons who control some of the vast resources that we lack to provide us with the means to carry out our experiments, out of the same motives of potential profit as they do with scientific research.
We must everywhere present a revolutionary alternative to the ruling culture; coordinate all the researches that are currently taking place but which lack a comprehensive perspective; and incite, through critiques and propaganda, the most advanced artists and intellectuals of all countries to contact us in view of a collective action.
We should declare ourselves ready to renew discussion, on the basis of this program, with those who, having taken part in an earlier phase of our action, are still capable of joining with us.”
I admit it, there is a clownish aspect to me, as the NYT said, like the Marx Brothers. Maybe I flirt with that but nonetheless I am getting tired of it because I noticed that when there stupid reports or reactions to me, there is a terrible urge to make me appear as a kind of a ‘funny man’, and so on. The true question would be: where does that come from? Why is there this necessity to portray me this way? Even my publishers buy into it… You know, my book on Lenin was almost turned down by Verso. Why? Well, they always used to hint that I only make jokes. So then I told them, now, you have a book on Lenin. Then, their approach was: ‘Where are the jokes? Nobody will buy this book!’ Much more than may appear is going on here. It’s quite a complex phenomenon. I’m almost tempted to say that making me popular is a resistance against taking me seriously. And I think it’s my duty to do a kind of public suicide of myself as a popular comedian, or whatever.
One of the contradictions of the bourgeoisie in its period of decline is that while it respects the abstract principle of intellectual and artistic creation, it resists actual creations when they first appear, then eventually exploits them. This is because it needs to maintain a certain degree of criticality and experimental research among a minority, but must take care to channel this activity into narrowly compartmentalized utilitarian disciplines and avert any holistic critique and experimentation. In the domain of culture the bourgeoisie strives to divert the taste for innovation, which is dangerous for it in our era, toward certain confused, degraded and innocuous forms of novelty. Through the commercial mechanisms that control cultural activity, avant-garde tendencies are cut off from the segments of society that could support them, segments already limited because of the general social conditions. The people within these tendencies who become well-known are generally accepted as exceptional individuals, on the condition that they accept various renunciations: the essential point is always the renunciation of a comprehensive contestation and the acceptance of fragmentary work susceptible to diverse interpretations. This is what gives the very term “avant-garde,” which in the final analysis is always defined and manipulated by the bourgeoisie, a dubious and ridiculous aspect.
“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
- A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)
This Exchange with my Brother Just Happened
- I'm staying with my brother and sister-in-law for a few days while my apartment I am moving to gets new carpet.
- Brother: "Hey. Morning. We are leaving - going to swim.
- Me: Hey. I work at 12:30 so I'll probably see you guys in the evening
- Brother: Ok. Come down to Lori's after and swim, and hang out. You don't have anything else to do.
- Me: Well...
- Brother: Like, what? Watch something, re...
- Me: ..read a book. I have to get my 6 hours of foreign policy in you know.
- Brother: It's a Saturday! Saturday is the day for brain dead stuff
- Me: If you're going to be a scholar like I, you must not relent.
- Brother: Well, we are going to do brain dead stuff like drink lots of beer, probably order UFC.
What every real socialist struggles for isn’t merely redistribution of income. We struggle for control of the means of production, which means not following the rules, but ripping up the old rules and making new ones. That is the only thing that will keep the bosses and bankers from immiserating and enslaving the majority of humanity, which is what “middle-class society” amounts to.