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When the topic of post modernism comes up, I always brace for the onslaught of adherents who sorta miss the point of what PoMo thought is all about.  It’s been so long since I’ve dealt with an actual post modern argument, and not just people who want to replace authoritarian definitions with their own authoritarian definitions.

So perhaps we are arguing against a pale imitation of what a post modern argument actually looks like, because at least in this explanation of PoMo theory, it doesn’t sound as beyond the pale.

 

So, when postmodern folks claim subjectivity it is not that they are saying nothing, it is that they are acknowledging both their own flaws and the need for constant interrogation of the facts laid out before us. The idea that one must come to a conclusion in order to find truth is actually the definition of fascism. If a dictionary must appear in its final form, who says the human race must not also? And how would such a society deal with change—specifically that of cultural migration and economic unease.

So, hopefully, this at least establishes the urgent need to abandon the very concept of objective truth. Objective truth is anti-democratic. There is no such thing as an unbiased statement that has not been shaped by elements of power or hierarchy. There is no such thing as a random statement, and there is no such thing as a true statement. In fact, a random statement and a true statement amount to the same thing, and it is only by connecting them that we can give meaning to either.

I can hear the grumbles now. Saying truth is the same as randomness is actually saying nothing! Really? Then why on earth react to it at all? If this statement really said nothing, wouldn’t a more adequate response be: ‘what do you think?’ or even, just in case ‘can you speak up?’ No, but truth, in how we arrive at its exact conclusions, can only retain any meaning if we acknowledge how arbitrary it is to get to that exact spot of perfection. It is only then that we can begin to unpack the biases that got us to that spot, which of course aren’t random at all, and link throughout history, sociology, geography, physics and biology. It is only after we unmask the assumption that is in authority that we can dethrone it and restore democracy.

Now, there is nothing true about democracy either. Each person operates within their own distance from the truth but at least, to borrow Marx, implies ownership of the production of truth, rather than the blind following of it. Does such a philosophy naturally imply the free market, rather than Marxism? Not necessarily. The distribution of goods, the control over the means of production, those sorts of things are not the same as ideas, let alone people. It could be very possible to have a centralized form of economics that thrived for diverse ideas and people. In fact, such a neutral form of economics—pure in its democracy and lack of discrimination—would imply absolute blindness to differences and a replacement of this hierarchy of difference with universal human rights. That doesn’t mean that each difference wouldn’t get a say, it is to say that each would have a right, no matter their say.

It is fairly obvious that an economy that has no such tools to guarantee human rights would naturally create hierarchies to (re) order distribution and create profits. The idea that one must have an objective idea of truth to reject neoliberalism implies that the neoliberalism was a cultural, not an economic counter-revolution. This seems to apply a backward order of operations. Even though the neoliberal has assaulted the cultural and the personal, it a truly perplexing leap for Marxists to make the claim that as soon as the economic theory of their “objective” choice falls out of favor, we suddenly are not talking about economics anymore, but culture that drives the economy. Just dead wrong.

The goal of the lie of objective truth is to establish power for a certain group of people, so that they can therefore profit from and exploit the people whose truth does not fit the proper definition of normality. That’s why Foucalt saw prisons so clearly. What is a prison? And who decides it?

consumerism     Our society is being influenced negatively by the consumerist culture that we, collectively, have taken our hands off the tiller and have let the market decide what is best for us and our cultures.

The idea that we can consume our way to happiness, well-being, or even a more just society would not compute without people being constantly conditioned to believe that individuality is end-goal of life.  The power of community and people working together has been the dynamo that has pushed our societies forward for the benefit of everyone (well except for the status-quo) and it is this power that has been waning since corporate capitalism has kicked into high gear under the guise of neo-liberalism.  Neo-liberalism undermines community, collective action, and critical thought it is a stupefying tonic – that when served to the masses – creates a calm disquiet that grinds societies away, but in return keeps people isolated, fixated on themselves, and most importantly: manageable.

This piece by Nick Turse is a preface for a America’s disconnect between its citizenry and the army said citizenry supports.  The dissonance is palatable as one reads the article.  What should concern you is that the disconnect described has been carefully and intentionally cultivated.  A feature of our current system, and most certainly not a bug .

“I can’t tell you exactly why I clicked on the article, but it was probably the title: “The Double-Tap Couple.” To me, a “double tap” is the technique of firing two gunshots in quick succession or employing two strikes in a row, as when U.S. drones or Hamas carry out attacks and then follow-up strikes to kill first-responders arriving at the scene. But this piece was about something very different. The headline referred to the popular app Instagram where you double-tap to “like” a photo.

The article turned out to be a profile of two twenty-somethings, a married couple who go by the noms de social media, FuckJerry and Beige Cardigan. They are, says author David Yi, “micro-celebrities” of the modern age. He is “tall, with a chiseled face, handsome”; she “has big doe eyes with cherub-like cheeks.” They dropped out of college and — first he and then she — became Instagram meme curators; that is, they find photos with wry or funny captions elsewhere on the internet and post them for their millions of followers. “Though both are social media sensations, neither is quite content with what they’ve accomplished,” Yi tells us. She “wants to pursue her first love, fashion, but isn’t quite sure what she’d want to do.” He’s currently cashing in with FuckJerry merchandise — hats, t-shirts, even “Vape juice.”

I read the article to the point at which FuckJerry (née Elliot Tebele) told Yi about his long slog up the Instagram follower food-chain: “It took a shit ton of time to get to, and it took a long time with a lot of work.”  I stared at my phone in abject confusion.  Something wasn’t right, so I scrolled to the beginning of the article and started again.  But it was just the same.  Justin Bieber is a fan.  Followers include the “Kardashian-Jenner family.”  He wears “skinny jeans and vintage Nikes.”  She sports a “statement coat and a pair of sparkling Chloe boots.”  Then I hit that quote: “shit ton of time… a lot of work.” I still couldn’t make sense of it and began studying the article as if it were a riddle. I read it maybe five times and again and again when I hit those phrases about time and work my brain would buckle. 

At that moment, I was nearing the end of a month-long reporting stint in South Sudan and waiting to find out if I’d be able to talk to a teenage girl, a late millennial with more than memes on her mind.  She had rebuffed the 60-something man her family had arranged for her to marry and her relatives had displayed their displeasure by beating her to the point of unconsciousness.  That conversation never happened, but I’d already logged several weeks’ worth of interviews with shooting survivors, rape victims,  mothers of murdered sons, wives of dead husbands.  All this in a country where, for firewood and water — that is, the means of life — women walk desperately far distances in areas where they know that men with AK-47s may be lurking, where many are assaulted and violated by one, two, or even five men.  In other words, a land where few would consider meme curation to be “a lot of work.”

I’d obviously hit that unsettling juncture where voices from home become dulled and distorted, where you feel like you’re hearing them from deep underwater.  I’m talking about the vanishing point at which your first-world life collides with your crisis-zone reality — the point of disconnect.  Mark Wilkerson knows it well.  He found himself in just such a state, serving with the U.S. Army in civil-war-torn Somalia during the 1990s.  That’s where he begins his inaugural TomDispatch piece, a rumination on his journey from soldier to veteran to chronicler of the all-too-brief life of another veteran, in his recent and moving book, Tomas Young’s War.

I eventually gave up on Yi’s article, unsure why I couldn’t understand the life and times of FuckJerry.  After I got back to the U.S., however, I signed up for Instagram and took a look at his account and Yi’s story began to make more sense to me, if only in a tragi-comic way.  Later in the piece, he writes of his subjects being “caught in the maelstrom” when a competitor is criticized for “stealing” memes.  It’s a strange society that produces both meme maelstroms and, in distant lands, lethal ones that leave millions dead, maimed, desperate, or displaced.  So before you become FuckJerry’s 9,200,001st follower, let Wilkerson guide you through slivers of two American conflicts, their aftermaths, and the points of disconnect along the way.” 

Nick Turse’s Preface to Batman in a Hospital Bed by Mark Wilkerson @Tom’s Dispatch

     The disconnection that Turse illustrates resonates with me enough though to make it the focus of my article, however Wilkerson’s article is also very good, so I recommend following the link.

Rebecca Reilly-Cooper continues her examination of sex and gender in part 2.  (Did you miss part 1?)

 

Gender

10. The oppression linked to sex begins at birth, operating through the social imposition of gender. Gender is the label that feminists use to describe the value system that prescribes and proscribes forms of behaviour and appearance for members of the different sex classes, and that assigns superior value to one sex class at the expense of the other. (That’s the same link as the one I said to bookmark in the previous post. I really, really want you to read it.)

11. Gendered socialisation is a lifelong process of inculcation into the gender role for your sex. It begins at birth, is imposed and enforced consciously and subconsciously by us all, in myriad ways, large and small, and operates to enforce certain forms of behaviour deemed desirable for members of the different sex classes and to prevent those deemed undesirable. This is what Simone de Beauvoir meant when she told us that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”. To occupy the position of woman is to be socialised over the course of a lifetime into membership of the inferior sex class. Gender prescribes submissionweakness and passivity as desirable female traits, and dominancepower and aggression as desirable male traits. The way in which gender is expressed will vary according to culture and context, so different times and places will impose different norms of appearance, behaviour and comportment for males and females. But the underlying values are the same: females are supposed to perform gender in ways that signal their inferiority and submission; males are supposed to perform gender in ways that signal their superiority and dominance. The function of this system of oppression is to make female weakness and dependence on males seem natural and inevitable, and therefore to facilitate the exploitation by males of female emotional, sexual, domestic and reproductive labour.

12. It is perceived reproductive capacity, not actual reproductive capacity, that determines the sex class you will be assigned to, and therefore the form your gendered socialisation will take and the oppression you will experience. It doesn’t matter if you are actually infertile, and therefore incapable of performing the reproductive function of your sex. Nor does it matter whether or not you are inclined to perform that function. The fact of sexual dimorphism means that you will be socially read as belonging to one sex class or the other, and will henceforth be subject to the gendered socialisation, and sanction for non-compliance, deemed appropriate for your sex. Women in their twenties and thirties will experience workplace discrimination on account of their appearing to be potential mothers, even if as a matter of fact they could not conceive or have no desire to conceive.

13. Crucially, gendered socialisation and gender oppression happen regardless of how the individual happens to feel about herself or her identity. The injustices that are inflicted on girls do not occur because those individuals happen to know that they are girls and to think of themselves as girls. They occur because those girls inhabit female bodies, and so were placed into the inferior sex class at birth. To deny this fact is not only to fail to understand how gender operates; it is also to engage in a form of victim blaming, where girls and women who suffer gender-based violence and oppression are assumed to have identified with this subordinate social position, and to recognise and endorse their own inferiority and submissiveness.

14. Many individuals of both sexes are uncomfortable with the constraints that gender places upon them. All women who call themselves feminists are. The reason we come to feminism is because we feel that gender is an oppressive hierarchy that limits our potential, and we want to be liberated from the demands of femininity, which just is the expression of female submission. Similarly, many men feel uncomfortable with the norms of masculinity, which requires the expression of dominance, often in the form of aggression and violence. Males who find masculinity painful and intolerable, and who choose to rebel against its strictures, face prejudice and discrimination, and we should want to end this. But it’s worth remembering that gender punishes females whether they conform or not. Non-conformity is punished and socially sanctioned for both sexes, but for females, conformity is also a form of punishment, since compliance with femininity is in itself submission and subordination.

15. The degree of distress and discomfort individuals experience trying to conform to the appropriate gender norms will vary from person to person. There are very few, if any, persons who conform perfectly to the gender ideals prescribed for their sex. We all of us make compromises to survive, and to flourish as best we can, under the constraints that gender imposes upon us. We all of us actively endorse some bits, passively acquiesce with some bits, and positively rail against some bits, and the balance we eventually settle on will be an individual, personal matter. While we should be prepared to critically examine and reflect upon our choices, and to scrutinise our complicity in the perpetuation of gender, no individual is to be blamed for the choices she makes in order to survive living under an oppressive system.

16. Wanting to abolish the oppressive and limiting effects of gender does not mean that radical feminists want to stop anyone expressing their personality in the ways that they enjoy. Feminists do not wish to ban make-up or high heels, or to prevent girls from playing with dolls and dressing up like princesses. All feminists want is to liberate all of this stuff from perceived reproductive capacity, so that boys and girls, men and women, can dress however they like, play with whatever toys they like, perform whatever jobs they like. Men and women would be free to develop their capacities and reach their full potential, free from the constraints imposed on them by powerful social norms prescribing submission and passivity to females and dominance and aggression to males. The ideal world would be one in which one’s perceived reproductive capacity has as little bearing on one’s social treatment and expected achievements and outcomes as blood group or dominant handedness currently does.

17. The behavioural choices that any individual makes, their tastes and preferences about dress and appearance, and how they choose to express their personality, are independent of biological sex and – quite obviously – have no impact on it. People can dress however they choose, behave however they choose, modify their bodies however they choose, as long as these choices do not harm non-consenting others. This is to be encouraged, and indeed is an important part of the project of liberating humans from the oppressive constraints of gender. But none of this alters the underlying biological fact of their maleness or femaleness. No amount of challenging and modifying gender norms – or “queering” gender – will make a male person female, because to be female just means to be a member of the class of humans capable of gestating a child. Challenging and playing with gender norms in one’s behaviour and presentation, so that one appears androgynous, is a valid and useful tool in dismantling the structures of gender; but on its own it can never liberate females from the oppression that accompanies living in a female body. You cannot identify your way out of an oppression that is material in basis.

Cultural analysis at its finest.

  “Cultural mythology is often used in this way to distort what goes on between subordinate and dominant groups. It enables dominant groups to avoid seeing how much they depend on others to perform disagreeable labor in return for the low wages that help make privilege possible. Members of the upper class, for example, typically are portrayed as ‘wealth producers,’ the ones who build buildings, bridges, and empires, even though most of the work is performed by others, by ‘little people’ who pay taxes and often live lives of chronic anxiety about making ends meet. Donald Trump, we are told, ‘built’ Trump Tower, just as turn-of-the-century robber barons ‘built’ the railroads and steel mills that made vast personal fortunes possible. Entire nations also indulge in this kind of magical thinking. In the United States, for example, we rarely realize how much third world poverty subsidizes our own standard of living. We like to believe that our affordable abundance is solely our own doing, unaware of how much it has always depended on a steady supply of cheap labor and raw materials provided by countries in which much of the world’s population lives in poverty.”

Allan G. Johnson, The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy

“Rape/revenge is replete in tension and bloody cathartic release; there is terrifying violation, and then there is revenge you can feel good about. The films use women’s trauma to justify stereotypically male pleasures of hyperbolic violence. So Thelma and Louise get to pick up guns and shoot people like they’re in a Western, while Furiosa drag races across the desert and then gets to murder and take the place of the evil patriarch. Rape/revenge fits feminism into male genre narratives that Hollywood can embrace.

furiosa

…rape/revenge films are designed, often quite consciously, to let everyone in the audience experiment with, and experience, different gender roles, whether as trauma, empowerment, or both. That instability leads to a wide range of responses—and perhaps explains why rape/revenge is responsible for both some of the most critically lauded and most viscerally derided films of the last 40 years. For better and worse, the rape/revenge trope reveals how violence squats upon our understanding of gender—and how rarely, and timidly, that is confronted in popular culture.”

   -Excerpts from the article by Noah Berlatsky found on The Establishment.

empire-of-illusion   My summer vacation reading was a sunny little book by Nick Turse called Kill Anything That Moves.  I finished the other book I was noshing on, the Age of American Unreason, just after returning from Kaslo and now I’ve started Chris Hedges book, the Empire of Illusion.  Turse’s book is a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand what war is all about; I’ll be posting quotes from it here soon, but a work of that calibre needs time to digest, to make sense of the crushing sorrow it brings about.

Hedges book is similar to Jacoby’s Age of Unreason, but takes a different tack focusing almost immediately on the present.   Hedges begins with a pro-wrestling story and broadens it to convey the idea that we are replacing substance and reality with flash and dramatic narrative (Check out the CBC Podcast on the Empire of Illusion):

[Plato’s Cave just before this…]

“We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staple of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.  In the Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel Boorstin writes that in contemporary culture the fabricated, the inauthentic, and the theatrical have displaced the natural, the genuine, and the spontaneous, until reality itself has been converted into stagecraft.  Americans, he writes, increasingly live in a “world where fantasy is more real than reality,”  He warns:

    We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so “realistic” that they can live in them.  We are the most illusioned people on earth.  Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because your illusions are the very house in which we live; they are our news, our heroes, our adventure, our forms of art, our very experience. 

     Boorstin goes on to caution that

an image is something we have claim on.  It must serve our purposes.  Images are means.  If a corporation’s image of itself or a man’s image of himself is not useful, it is discarded.  Another may fit better.  The image is made to order, tailored to us.  An ideal, on the other hand, has a claim on us.  It does not serve us; we serve it.  If we have trouble striving towards [sic] it , we assume the matter is with us, and not with the ideal.

    Those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities that create the vast stage for illusion.  They are the puppet masters.  No one achieves celebrity status, no cultural illusion is swallowed as reality, without these armies of cultural enablers and intermediaries.  The sole object is to hold attention and satisfy an audience.  These techniques of theatre, as Boorstin notes, have leached into politics, religion, education, literature, news, commerce, warfare and crime.  The squalid dramas played out for fans in the wrestling ring mesh with the ongoing dramas on television, in movies, and in the news, where “real-life” stories, especially those involving celebrities, allow news reports to become mini-drams complete with a star, a villian, a supporting cast, a good-looking host, and a neat, if often unexpected, conclusion”. 

*boom*  The beginnings of understanding our manufactured culture in less than 600 words.  Enjoy.

No objectification going on here Ms.Facetitsass.  None at all.

No objectification going on here Ms.Facetitsass. None at all.

Embedding in wordpress sucks.

Thus, I am only able to provide the link to the video I would like you to watch.  Jimquisition, featured on the pop culture gaming site The Escapist, puts crass behaviour and bombast squarely in the centre ring.  Jim’s style is crude, but in the case of female protagonists in the gaming industry, serves to succinctly make the point about the blatant sexism in the gaming industry (and yet another reflection on the inherent misogyny in the culture).

So go watch the video here.  Then come back and talk to me about how right or wrong I am. :)  Also, do check out Zero-punctuation while you are there as the author of the game reviews are an inspiration for creatively using the english language.

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