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wow, I never used to understand the big deal about Zizek, pro or con. But last night at Left Forum, I got it. He’s brilliant and funny and his energy is actually really fun to be around. He gave a well-argued and super smart defense of coarse language as part of what solidarity looks like. (Then of course dumb people said, how dare you use coarse language!) He talked about not fetishizing the oppressed and their roots or their “essential goodness” but struggling in solidarity with them for the commons of humanity.

For instance, refugees — it’s not because they are perfect humans that we demand open borders, but because mobility is everybody’s right. And when everybody can go everywhere, then we talk about the cultural issues and clashes that are real and that come up when we treat people like our fellow human beings and not like fetishized objects of our white savior complexes.

I disagreed with plenty that he said, but Zizek is provocative and funny and I am surprised how much I enjoyed his talk. It could have been called “against paternalism, for solidarity.” Or “against bourgeois middle-class bullshit moralism and for laughter.” I highly recommend your watching it on youtube and the Left Forum website when it goes up in a day or two.


the patron saint of slacker politics

nice interview with my all time film idol, Richard Linklater. a couple of highlights:

“After Slacker, he was regarded as a spokesman for Generation X, but Linklater never saw the slacker generation the same way as the establishment did. “Slacker means two different things to me and the rest of the world,” he says. “The slacker world was the world I found myself living in. The 1980s underground was pretty interesting. Everyone I met was an artist of some kind, a musician or writer or painter; lovers of life, appreciators, and punk rocker-type people, who you didn’t know what they did but you could tell they sure liked their music. Nobody talked about their jobs, what they had to do to pay their rent. It was no surprise that mainstream culture decided these were a bunch of lazy do-nothings, because, by their judgment, they were not productive. They weren’t fitting into the free-market society…”
“I’ve waited for a candidate like Bernie Sanders my whole adult life, so when there’s a guy there who’s actually professing it, you have to support him. I’m a natural socialist.”

Scary Indeed

I guess I must have a number of Facebook friends, acquaintances from high school, who are stay at home moms. Because I constantly see posts about the hellish everyday life of these frazzled ladies, and all of them, without fail, frame the issue as though the sadomasochistic nightmare they describe is the only possible way that Americans in the twenty-first century could go about the business of raising and loving our little ones. Consider the blogger “Scary Mommy,” just one representative of a cry for help from every desperate corner of the internet:

What a goddamn nightmare. And the really scary thing is, in neighborhoods all over this country, the very same thing is happening (read the comments section if you don’t believe me). Which is crazy, because without a doubt the kids would be so much happier in a group setting with lots of other kids and the mom would be so much happier doing something more fulfilling than cutting plums and trying not to yell. This is a structural problem in our society, and until we all figure out together that the old immigrant urban extended family had something right — with a bunch of mixed age kids hanging out pretty independently, playing together and learning from one another, with parents, grandparents, and neighbors nearby to mellowly supervise and also enjoy each other’s company — these little hells will be all too common. It’s such a bad scene, for the moms and the kids. In the meantime, perhaps this unfortunate person could think about getting a co-op going with other parents, and trade off so that a couple of the parents take all the kids one day and the other parents can do something else on their “off” days. And then there’s always the demand for free high-quality European-style subsidized day care, which would solve this lady’s problem straight out.

What these bloggers and their commenters never seem to acknowledge is that the isolation of the nuclear family, especially in its super privatized suburban iteration, is a stupid way to raise children and a waste of (largely) female energy. They ought to be reminded that in the 1970s, women realized that this was a fucked up situation for all involved, and they fought to transform it. Not successfully enough, since what most women got instead of liberation was the chance to be doubly stressed at home and now at some stupid job too. So lots of (mostly upper) middle class women decided just to stay home and here many of them are, back in the 1950s. But this is a retreat from women’s liberation that is bad for everyone.

All of us need to take up the fight for a domestic life that breeds happiness rather than neurotic people — cuz if you think these kids aren’t internalizing your repressed resentment, Scary Mommy, you’re dreaming — and the first thing we have to do is to stop pretending that this state of affairs is anything but a defeat of liberatory feminist political struggle. Mommy bloggers, like so many today, are incredibly good at articulating the minutiae of the personal. Sadly, far too many seem to have missed the memo that the personal is political.

The Mediterranean Imaginary

My essay on austerity, philosophy, and the Mediterranean Sea, in the new issue of Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination. Check it out!

Slackerpolitics on Althusser

Hey check out the Left Forum panel sponsored by Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination and Verso Books, publisher of the new translation of Althusser’s On the Reproduction of Capitalism. My analysis of Althusser’s newly-translated text comes in at about 16 minutes, but the whole panel was super cool… Enjoy!

Slackerpolitics of Gezi Park

I was so happy to be asked to participate in one of the Left Forum panels organized by Gezi Resistance NYC… you can see the video of my talk here, starting around 4 minutes in…

The first part of the panel was fabulous and you can watch it here

Hope you enjoy!


Slackerpolitics at the Left Forum

I’ll be on a couple of panels at this weekend’s Left Forum in New York City… the details are here. I remember when it was called the Socialist Scholars Conference and it was just a couple of hundred lefties… now there are nearly 5,000 participants and it’s super fun! Hope to see you there.

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