Tentacular power

Television Coverage


A group of graduate students at UC-Santa Cruz who are protesting budget cuts to higher education have barricaded themselves inside a student center.

Members of a group called Occupy California marched to the Graduate Student Commons and barricaded themselves inside after attending Thursday's campus rally against student fee hikes and faculty furloughs.

The protesters are calling the occupation the start of an "escalation" of activities designed to raise awareness about higher education cuts. Members said their hope is that other UC campuses follow suit.

"Older forms of protest have become unattainable and unworkable," said protester Evan Calder [apparently they don't hear names very well]. "We've moved past the point where we can write our Senator or ask them to make changes. Therefore, we're trying to show there are other ways to protest, other ways to interact and spread awareness."

University officials have raised concerns about the potential fire hazard and inconvenience to students who want to use the center. But, so far, they have declined to force the protesters out.

The group has hung banners in the student center that say "Raise Hell, Not Costs," but not all students are in support of the protest.

"I think they're idiots! I think they're looking for a fight," said graduate student Paul Soas. "They're trying to feel oppressed but they're not. I'm not down with budget cuts either at all … but I want my graduate lounge, and their music sucks too!"

The protesters said that the building is open for students, but furniture has been seen blocking the entrance path to the center.

"I would very much like my own space to study, because I come here for a quality education and quality space in which I can work and actually succeed in what I'm trying to do here," said student Sarah Macezo.

But protesters said the reason they are unwilling to move out is so students like Macezo can have a quality education.

"This isn't about making a statement," said Mike Raskin. "This is about rallying the student population."

this is our emergency

More perspectives and writings on the occupation over at this is our emergency.

Further statements of solidarity

Columbia University Statement of Solidarity with UCSC Occupation and UC Walk-Outs

Students rise up, revolt, and reclaim their school. Together with workers and faculty, they walk out of class and don’t beg, don’t ask, but demand in unequivocal terms that the State give back their university. The call resonates on every campus. There are people in every classroom waiting to hear such a call, whenever and from wherever it may come. Today it was from California, soon it may emerge from others’ lips, with other words perhaps, but in similar spirits, with similar rage.

This is our hope. This is how, we believe, things should be. The university is ours, each campus, each building, by right belongs to those who work in them, who teach in them, and to us who study and live in them. Education is ours, by right. It is not to be doled out and denied according to legislators’ and administrators’ whims. It is not to be suspended at the rhythm of capitalism’s failure. Education is not, and should never be, a privilege.

But as you are showing, students refuse to be controlled. We refuse to be complacent consumers and victims of a “market” pitted perpetually against us. We refuse to have a line drawn before us- of gender, class, race, sexuality, or any other form of privilege, of unpayable tuition hikes, of asphyxiating budget cuts. Petitions, protests, walk outs, negotiations, and occupations are only the beginning of a fight that will, by whatever means necessary, be decided on the part of the students.

UC Santa Cruz and every school in the University of California system is your school. Each and every school, public or private, is our school. The workers’, the students’, and the faculty’s. Occupations are not theatrical stunts for media attention, or powerless angry outbursts by activists, or even simple and routine “protests.” They are fundamentally, radically, reminders to ourselves and to all students who are seeing their universities under attack: there is another way. Another university and another world are possible and necessary.

Occupations and protests, all student movements are the forceful eruption of a crisis. The crisis we feel daily. The crisis millions face at work, in class, on the streets, at the dinner table. The incompatibility of our needs and desires on one hand, and the present condition, imposed upon us from above, on the other, is catastrophic. And so we revolt.

The present occupation, and the wave of student protest that is arising is an answer to the question forced by this crisis, the question we have been asking ourselves for a while now: “WHOSE SCHOOL?” Thanks, UC Santa Cruz and all UC students in resistance, for giving us such a fucking good, loud answer.

From the east coast to the west in love and solidarity,

A Collection of Radical Students at Columbia University

Students for a Democratic Society, International Socialist Organization, Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, LUCHA Columbia, Students Against Imperialism, Columbia Coalition Against the War

New York City, September 25, 2009

Solidarity from Connecticut Students Against the War

Declaration of Student Solidarity

Students, Youth, Workers, People of Color, and all Oppressed Peoples are being forced to absorb the crisis of Wall Street. We are being attacked and Wall Street and Washington are trying to make us pay for their crisis. Their plan is to cut our public programs, attack our social support systems, attack our families with mass layoffs, and expand the war on workers and the poor. The conditions that Students and Youth are faced with are just the beginning of what we will experience as we enter the world as workers. In this common interest, Connecticut Students Against the War issues the following statement:

Students and Youth all over the world face tuition increases, firings of staff workers, adjunct, and non-tenured faculty, cuts to programs and classes, expansion of class sizes in college and the public school system, cuts in essential programs, a general decrease in opportunities for employment, the Economic Draft and growing military influence in Youth Programs and schools.

In Connecticut, our public schools are facing drastic cuts threatening the jobs of an estimated 1500 teachers and paraprofessionals, threats to unions contracts, the closure of several extracurricular programs, and the halt in school purchases of needed supplies. This threatens the jobs of these workers and the quality of each student’s education as class sizes grow, work hours increase, supplies drop, and as the crisis deepens.

At the same time that we receive no relief from our debts, while the government bails out the institutes who are responsible for the crisis, while it continues to fund illegal wars and occupations around the world. We have become victims of a crisis that we could not prevent and over which we have no control to reverse.

We as Connecticut Students Against the War declare opposition to tuition increases, staff reductions, forced work increases, abandonment of children and students, attacks on union contracts, cuts to academic programs and classes, and any present or future disciplinary measures by administrations against students struggling for justice.

We call for the canceling of all student debt, an expansion of the education system, an expansion of employment opportunities for youth and workers to include truly green jobs, an expansion of government aid to all who seek education, and a reduction of tuition costs to increase access and affordability to higher education. We call for students in the public education system and at the college level to unite with their communities to resist all cuts and to demand an end to the war on workers and the poor to make us pay for the crimes of high finance.

We declare support for and stand in solidarity with struggles against cuts in education and social support systems.

We declare our support and stand in solidarity with UC Students who are standing up against the regressive policies of the university and the state of California.


[update from our New School comrades]


The night was joyous revelry. The mass moved through the conduits of the city, undeterred by material and social barriers, spurred on by the barricades we've raised in our hearts. Barricades against boredom, exploitation and the false trappings of a decaying so-called affluence.

Roving and ranging through the streets of Manhattan, we disrupted the rote circulation of the city's walking dead. We occupied streets and ticked off taken avenues: 5th Avenue, check; 6th Avenue, check; 7th Avenue, that's OURS.

Onlookers gawked and gaped as though watching a spectacle, though perhaps unaware that this was in fact its absolute negation. Others spontaneously joined in: evening revelers in their Friday finest shouting OCCUPY EVERYTHING; proletarian youth on bikes chanting WHOSE STREETS, OUR STREETS; young student passers-by screaming FOREVER IS GONNA START TONIGHT.

We played cat-and-mouse with police. City traffic allied with crooked streets to give us a decisive advantage. We moved leaderless through time and space, pleasuring in every moment of movement. After all, this is a movement with no demands except FUCKING EVERYTHING. When the time came we dispersed spontaneously, few words spoken because all had been said that needed saying.

But this is not enough, it is never enough. Now is the time to make connections and push this crisis to its necessary conclusion. Solidarity with Santa Cruz means ATTACK.

So rise up Berkeley, rise up CUNY, rise up Stella Doro, rise up workers and students!

Take the streets. Occupy everything. Off the sidewalks, into the FUTURE.

- New School for Social Revolution

This ain't no fall trend

[another solidarity action, this time from New Orleans]

On Friday, September 25, the ATMs and doors of three banks in New Orleans' French Quarter were sealed shut by the New Orleans Political Fashion Police. Fuck banks. So ugly.
These actions were in solidarity with the occupiers at UC Santa Cruz and our comrades in Pittsburgh. We also did this for New Orleans, in the initial phase of our project to expel capital from our beautiful home.
This ain't no fall trend. Increasingly, righteously bad behavior becomes a part of our everyday routine. Thinking, talking, making - these things are insufficient in a society that co-opts any and everything except that which attacks directly.
There is no reason to be scared. You, too, can fight.

Dressed to kill,

The New Orleans Political Fashion Police

"This is the first salvo"

The updated article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel can be found here.

WE WANT EVERYTHING (a flyer from the occupation)

(PDF available here)


As college students, we are told we should be grateful for being here. It's our supposed salvation from a lifetime of wage slavery and misery, but it's becoming very obvious that our future has already been looted by our present leaders. Most of us will spend most of our lives in debt, chained to commodities, working for things we'll never own. We become students in order to sell our activity as complex labor, to become technicians of this vast capitalist machine we call 'society'. That is to say, not because it's the best possible use of our lives but because other means of survival have been foreclosed. Being a student, like being a worker or prisoner, is a social role defined by its relation to the reproduction of the economy of capital. Now we live like lost children, because capitalist society has no future: it is collapsing in on itself, and trying to take us with it. We are nothing, and to become anything at all we will have to take everything we need.

If one thing is brutally obvious, it's that there is no point demanding anything from a system which is trying to eat us alive, or negotiating with rulers who will never see us as anything but numbers. From budget cuts at our schools to mass layoffs and foreclosures, from police murders on BART to the exploitation and persecution of migrants from the south, from the criminalization and incarceration of youth of color to political activists facing decades in prison, from the destruction of UCSC's Upper Campus ecosystems to the giant plastic garbage dump in the middle of the sea, these 'problems' are all symptoms of a system based on private property and the police who enforce it. The solution cannot be granted to us by anyone: we have to build it ourselves by organizing autonomously, developing collective power and generalized self-management.

This won't be easy. All our lives we have been trained to obey authority instead of to subvert and resist it and trust ourselves and each other.

We can only learn by doing. We can only find each other in struggle. We have begun.

WE ARE students, workers, unemployed; we are undocumented and on probation; we are sick of being ripped off by bosses and bullied by cops; we are the youth, we have no future, and we are power hungry.


- an autonomous committee at occupied ucsc


We threw a massive electrocommunism dance party in front of the occupied commons. It was an incredible sight - hundreds of sweating dancers yelling "OCCUPY EVERYTHING" and having the time of their life. This is at least part of what Communism looks and sounds like.

And the occupation goes on...

Solidarity protest in NYC

Thank you, our New York comrades.

Photos from the occupation



[Our statement from the second day of the occupation]

We in here are undergraduates, graduate students, teachers, workers, and unemployed. We are not leaving.

People ask what we want. WE WANT EVERYTHING. We want the university, this bankrupt institution of a bankrupt society, to grind to a halt. One occupation is not enough.

We need to clear up a little misunderstanding. We are not the general assembly. We will not get what we want through endless discussion, but by taking action. TAKE ACTION.

Listen: we are getting fucked by this crisis. The crisis is not an ‘unlucky’ turn of events. It is the culmination of a long-term trend. Things are not going to simply ‘get better’, and anyway they were never enough.

But know this: the administration is just a cog in the machine; they aren’t going to help us. We’d do best to ignore them just as they are ignoring us.

The administration hopes that we’ll blow off steam. That we’ll go back to ‘business as usual’. WE CAN’T GO BACK.

No one will give us what we want, we have to TAKE IT.

We took this space, not because it is a graduate space, but because it was there for the taking. Have a look around. Other spaces are there for the taking, throughout the campus, the city, and beyond.

This is not about those of us inside this building. This is about what all of us do from here. We’ve show that this can be done. It must be done, again and again and again.

We will not tell you what to do. People in the crowd are already planning actions. Get involved. We will stand in solidarity with you as you stand with us!

More occupation notes

The links to find updates, statements, and positions from the occupiers:




Letter of solidarity from the Anithesis Collective

To the occupiers of UCSC,

We fellow workers and students from New York City stand in solidarity with those
at UC Santa Cruz who have occupied their university against
the cuts and austerity measures forced on them by capital and its bureaucrats.

Public services are some of the first gains to be rescinded when capital
desperately thrashes out in an effort to valorize itself.
As workers have been crowded out of their jobs, and as the
failure of various financial machinations to alleviate this
crisis has become clear, more have been heading back to school. They have
been burying their heads under even more debt with the hope of riding out the
job scarcity and making themselves more attractive to employers.

As California's universities reduce their enrollment by tens of thousands and
simultaneously increase student fees and tuition, they are giving us a
clear message: there is no escape from this turbulence.

So lets meet it head on.

We are workers and students. Both labels, while signaling different
functions under capitalism, infer social roles predicated on material
dispossession and a poverty of meaningful creative existence. These
are the conditions we seek to transcend through organization and
revolutionary praxis. These are the roles we seek to abolish.

Lately, those with a proprietary investment in the prevailing
political, economic and social order have labeled us with countless
specious and unflattering sobriquets: terrorists, intruders,
criminals, fanatics, undemocratic vanguardists -- even fascists.

You should expect the same.

That the rhetoric has risen to such vacuous and vitriolic heights only
reveals the imminent threat that self-organization and autonomous
action pose to the status quo.

Each of us began as atomized subjects careening off each other in
chaotic trajectories. This generalized separation is the direct
product of the destructive, competitive imperatives of capital imposed
upon every human life.

As individuals we learn, work, sleep, drink, debate, fight and
struggle. However, when we abolish the separation that permeates our
lives we become the human embodiment of that oft-trampled watchword,
solidarity, made shockingly concrete. It is only collectively that
our voices attain transformative potential. It is only as a singular,
united mass of human potential that we can take control over our lives.

In an epoch when all human life has been subsumed by capital we cannot spirit ourselves
away or live in self-imposed isolation. Our arena of struggle is the
battlefield of everyday life.

This is how we learn. This is how we fight.


Capital appears both material and immaterial; a durable ware and a
ghostly chimera. Capital in its commodity-form is a social relation
reified; it is abstract exploitation disguised in concrete form. In
the acephalous netherworld of capital there is no spatial core, no
actor in the part of Lear, no time outside of commensurable,
compressible time.

Let us be clear: we cannot bomb a social relation; nor can we burn
down a mirage. Without a revolt an order of magnitude greater than
Watts, Paris or Iran isolated insurrection cannot illuminate, nor can
it transcend.

At this very moment there remains for us, however, a
revolutionary immanence splayed across a million arenas and a thousand
moments of each living day. By occupying space and transforming its
use-value we not only arrest the temporal circuit of capital, we
transform ourselves and the actuality of our social relations. We magnify the
increasing historical potentiality of libertarian communism
immanent within capitalism.

Accumulation of capital is only possible through the movement of
commodities through space and time. In order to produce and realize
value, some portion of capital must be embedded in the built
environment to facilitate the ever-increasing velocity necessary for
expanded reproduction. Indeed, within this process capital constantly "annihilates space
through time".

Historically, one of the great powers of capital is its ability to
radically alter entire landscapes by organized exploitation of living
and dead labor. But this is also its greatest weakness, for when
capital fixes itself - embeds itself - it is motionless in space and
static in time. No longer an apparition, it is apprehendable and
therefore assailable.

Space produced by capital is alien to us, but represents the concrete agglomeration of
millions of moments of socially necessary labor time. Its true
potential is only immanent: capitalist space can only be valuable to
humanity insofar as it facilitates the negation of capital; insofar as
it becomes the venue for abolishing value as the mediation between the
production and distribution of use-values.

Until the overthrow of capitalism and the rise of worker and community
councils to democratically organize space, space-for-humanity can only
be achieved through the transcendence of capital-space through
organization and generalized occupation.


There are many ways to appropriate space. The sit-in is a tactic that
has been well applied in past struggles. There are still situations
where it is worthwhile as a defensive tactic. However, it must be
stated that there is a fundamental difference between the defensive
sit-in and the offensive occupation. The sit-in entails blocking the
normal functions of space in order to gain recognition for a political
cause. Occupation, on the other hand, requires no recognition from
power. Occupation-for-itself is power: the power to transform the
narrow instrumentality of capitalist space; the power to abolish
exchange-value and monopoly rent; the power to farm fallow land or
utilize foreclosed houses; the power to open up space to those who
have none; the power to abolish exploitation; to form workers'
councils; to socialize production.

Occupation is the power of ordinary women and men to organize their
lives on their own terms.

However, just like insurrection, occupation can not succeed in
isolation. Nor can occupiers be content with a single street, squat,
block, college building, factory or borough.

When the wave of occupations begin, from
Greece to New York to Santa Cruz to Johannesburg to Beijing, those within space-made-free will
craft out of the cruel detritus of capital many mighty fortresses of
negation and affirmation. The crest will grow to a tide as workers,
students and communities create those novel conditions across space
and time that will be both the content and the form of universal
struggle. This tide will swell to a torrent and wipe away the stained
fabric of spectacle, alienation and dispossession.

So let us here and now inaugurate another step towards the birth of
generalized freedom from capital and constraint. Let us here and now
militate, propagandize, organize and occupy again and again and again!

In the glorious swoon of our myriad actions, let our bodies and minds
once more be the instruments that manipulate nature; as opposed to our
bodies and minds being objects mediated through machines. Let us take
control over our lives and our reality. We will occupy absolutely
everything, and finally, when we are completely draped in the fabric
of everything we know, this world will warp and reconfigure itself
with every move we make; space and time will obediently contort to the
instant of our gestures, a metabolism with nature that supersedes even
that which capitalism enabled; a metabolism that can only be shaped by
our communal will and can only be measured by the speed of our

This is the form and content of our struggle. This is the marriage of
theory and praxis. This is a social war with no relent and a means
with no end.


For those with no stake in the prevailing order - the working class,
the homeless, the dispossessed, the students, the farmers - this moment is the
next note to the crescendo of a song. Together, we are reaching out to others
in struggle to build a massive collectivity that will strike in
concert. This is the symphony in which every woman and man is a

We fight for ourselves, our families, our friends. This fight is
connected to our workplaces, communities and spaces.
We also fight for the past - our ancestors - those who have pulled the same levers as
we, who have spent their lives as empty as we. We fight for
redemption, not just of us-now but the redemption of all the dead. The
dead who spent their time in different prisons. The dead who fought
in daily wars untold and unmemorialized. The dead who were sucked dry
and stand before us everyday as constant capital. The dead who call
us now to revive their struggle and start anew.

Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in
the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe
from the enemy if he wins.

Workers and students, in this generalized crisis of capitalism, we
will constantly search for the fractures in the system and attack them
with all of our might. Now is the time to use all of our weapons: the
strike, the rally, the propaganda, the fires, all the diverse and
joyful expressions of our reason and our rage.

Above all, we must occupy the fractures, occupy the space between and
inside institutions, overturn markets, agitate in communities, and
arrest all the circuits of capital. We must, in essence, occupy space
and time.

We must act not just to stop the functions of the system,
nor to merely displace the detritus of this rotting world, but to
simultaneously destroy and create: to allow the birth of a new world
so pregnant within the womb of the old.

In lives so totally subsumed by the logic of capital, revolution can
only possibly mean a total rupture from the past. Let us not view
this as simply the most recent of world crises of capital, but the

Take over the campus. Take over the city. END CAPITAL.

New School Schwarz und Rot,
Antithesis Collective (NEFAC)
24 September 2009

Occupation statement from California

We are occupying this building at the University of California, Santa Cruz, because the current situation has become untenable. Across the state, people are losing their jobs and getting evicted, while social services are slashed. California’s leaders from state officials to university presidents have demonstrated how they will deal with this crisis: everything and everyone is subordinated to the budget. They insulate themselves from the consequences of their own fiscal mismanagement, while those who can least afford it are left shouldering the burden. Every solution on offer only accelerates the decay of the State of California. It remains for the people to seize what is theirs.

The current attack on public education – under the guise of a fiscal emergency – is merely the culmination of a long-term trend. California’s regressive tax structure has undermined the 1960 Master Plan for free education. In this climate, the quality of K-12 education and the performance of its students have declined by every metric. Due to cuts to classes in Community Colleges, over 50,000 California youth have been turned away from the doors of higher education. California State University will reduce its enrollment by 40,000 students system wide for 2010-2011. We stand in solidarity with students across the state because the same things are happening to us. At the University of California, the administration will raise student fees to an unprecedented $10,300, a 32 percent increase in one year. Graduate students and lecturers return from summer vacation to find that their jobs have been cut; faculty and staff are forced to take furloughs. Entire departments are being gutted. Classes for undergraduates and graduates are harder to get into while students pay more. The university is being run like a corporation.

Let’s be frank: the promise of a financially secure life at the end of a university education is fast becoming an illusion. The jobs we are working toward will be no better than the jobs we already have to pay our way through school. Close to three-quarters of students work, many full-time. Even with these jobs, student loan volume rose 800 percent from 1977 to 2003. There is a direct connection between these deteriorating conditions and those impacting workers and families throughout California. Two million people are now unemployed across the state. 1.5 million more are underemployed out of a workforce of twenty million. As formerly secure, middle-class workers lose their homes to foreclosure, Depression-era shantytowns are cropping up across the state. The crisis is severe and widespread, yet the proposed solutions – the governor and state assembly organizing a bake sale to close the budget gap – are completely absurd.

We must face the fact that the time for pointless negotiations is over. Appeals to the UC administration and Sacramento are futile; instead, we appeal to each other, to the people with whom we are struggling, and not to those whom we struggle against. A single day of action at the university is not enough because we cannot afford to return to business as usual. We seek to form a unified movement with the people of California. Time and again, factional demands are turned against us by our leaders and used to divide social workers against teachers, nurses against students, librarians against park rangers, in a competition for resources they tell us are increasingly scarce. This crisis is general, and the revolt must be generalized. Escalation is absolutely necessary. We have no other option.

Occupation is a tactic for escalating struggles, a tactic recently used at the Chicago Windows and Doors factory and at the New School in New York City. It can happen throughout California too. As undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff, we call on everyone at the UC to support this occupation by continuing the walkouts and strikes into tomorrow, the next day, and for the indefinite future. We call on the people of California to occupy and escalate.

Press Contact: (eight-three-one) 332.8916

Occupation at UCSC

Read, follow, and spread the information. The occupation here has started: two hours in and counting...



Today is the day. All across the UC, walkout, join the mass mobilizations, and help bring the campus to a halt. Spread the word on this to any and all - those elsewhere in the States and especially abroad, we'll need your calls for support and your dissemination of information. Look forward to reports as things progress.

We are the crisis

I have been an absent one on the blog lately, in favor of more pressing issues. September 24th, the start of the University of California school year (except for perennial early-starter Berkeley), is this year a day of mass protest and mobilization of students, workers, and faculty against being forced to shoulder the costs of the university's blundering ineptitude and, more broadly, of the inevitable fallout of privatization. Hence the planning and preparations for this that all of us are doing have been swallowing time that otherwise might go a-zombieing. I'll be back writing in a week.

But from all of the long conversations engendered by this situation, a set of thoughts I've been having, perhaps worth spinning out here.

This entire situation is not "about" the university per se, and even less so the administrators. (The last thing we want is just a kinder, more liberal-seeming UC President who will continue the same doomed trendline, albeit with language more amenable to an "ethical/democratic" capitalism.) It is "about" the financial crisis. And none have been more insistent about this fact than those very administrators being blamed for this unfolding collapse. Their open letters, press statements, funding decisions, etc, etc, make very clear that we need a couple years of "strategic cuts", all around belt tightening (to the point where the belt becomes the noose that will finish off the public-ness of the whole system), and individual sacrifice: just some lean times, folks, so everybody hunker in and take your furloughs, if you really care about education, that is... All this is so many ways of saying: this is not our fault, this is a crisis that affects us all, it is beyond any of us, it is a deep tectonic shift in the architecture of capital and the consequent waves, battering us down equally.

It perhaps goes without saying, but this is the rankest of all bullshit. For a number of immediate reasons: the particular inflection and severity of this crisis is a consequence of the kind of decisions made by the ruling class and their finance capital whiz kids, it is a false choice between education and labor, the logic of sacrifice is the deep cynicism of our moment, and the actions of these particular administrators have little to do with the crisis but rather with the long term sweep toward the restructuring of public education into a privatized husk. None of this is very surprising, simply the surface story of the past decade, with long narrative roots reaching back through the 20th century.

However, what of the core of this, the core on which the radical left itself, from Marx on and for good reason, insists, namely, that capitalism is crisis? And this should be conceived of in two senses: both the manifestation of those infamous internal contradictions - hence crisis as the laying bare of the untenability of the economic regime as a whole - and as the necessary, cyclical event that allows for creative destruction and restructuring of labor relations and production/circulation patterns - hence crisis as necessity for the continued expansion of capital. Clearly, both the analyses and the descriptive/prescriptive power of this tradition are not things to be given up.

That said...

At a moment in which no one will accept blame for the crisis, we see that no "one" can: those who have been profiting off the system have shown themselves incapable, on any level, of thinking differently, and the asubjective ghost ship drive heart of capital clearly has no time or space for the moral register. Neither should we. Questions of moral responsibility have nothing to do with this.

But there is someone to blame, although not morally. It is our fault, the working classes and those who don't get access to work. All of us under the yoke of this system, it is our fault. We are the crisis.

We are crisis because we are at once the motor of the system and the wrenches and sand tossed into those gears. Capitalism innovates and progresses because we are not pure calculation and extraction of surplus value (thereby provoking the economic regime to find new ways of expanding, accumulating, territorializing), and capitalism shudders to near-halts for the same reason. We are at once the excess of a system that needs us and the material provocation that produces the dizzying heights of financial speculation, because we globally keep multiplying and demanding work, making it cheaper, making it not profitable.

We are to blame for this crisis. And we need to start taking this position as our point of departure, recognizing that this didn't happen because of either greed or an opaque current in patterns of finance. It happened because in spite of all of our concessions to the system, all of our hamstringing of our more radical possibilities, there remains the basic fact of us as things that want in the game and that always want more - i.e. just a decent life, in all the radicality of calling for that in a time when little of the world's population has it - than what we are given.

The move to make, then, is to take on the responsibility for this crisis, the responsibility that none will or can accept, to be the damned of the system that already thinks us as such, and recognize that capitalism is crisis because, internally and infernally, we are the crisis, always have been and always will be.

Along with the unseen

I do not care
For the earthly pleasures
Of humanity
I couldn't care less
I couldn't care less
Couldn't fucking care

The human morals
Abandoned since ages
The surge within
Left nothing behind

Along with the unseen
I shall rise
From ruins to victorious triumph
My time is yet to come

No crew, no cargo, no destination

Capitalism again produces not just internal contradictions and systemic alienation, but the startled, haunting configurations - and prefigurations - of its own terminal flatlines, those perfect synechdochic captures of the crumbling financial system and its fallouts. In this case, "the ghost fleet of the recession." Anchored off the coast of Singapore, the empty hulls wait unmanned for commerce that doesn't come. The local fear of them as cursed is perhaps more right than we can fathom. Bad spirits, indeed.

(thanks to Laura for the link)


Back from LA, where I made the requisite pilgrimage to the Bonaventure for some disorientation. A video I made of the elevator descent to share a sense of the deep weirdness of the place that quite exceeds its infamous descriptions. Here manifested in the elevator descent which is an odd bastard combination of the Barbican and Splash Mountain, if that combination can include the sudden transition from mirrored distortion to an interior that includes concrete pod outcroppings with individual exercise machines and a surprising number of vacancies.


[a more full explanation of the concept of surplus-life first raised in my original apocalyptic notes]

We shouldn't disavow the critique – of race, class, nation, gender, etc – embedded in much of the zombie genre, Romero first and foremost. Indeed, the vague, and often misleading, Leftism of its perspective constitutes the texture and tone perhaps as much as the relations between interior/exterior, fixity/flight, and care/brutality. And it remains, from its incipient moments on, capable of real moments of vitriol and shock: the sinking stomach feeling drops in freefall in the total horror of Ben’s death (when redneck zombie hunters "mistake" him for a zombie). But, as raised earlier, the on-the-surface social critique is the least interesting part of the films, particularly from a political perspective. If there is a sharper turn of critique and thought, one not caught in the abortive passage bound to the personal trauma, it can only lie in the zombies themselves, the real protagonists of the films.

Not since Eisenstein’s films have we witnessed such a startling construction of the mass subject: the slow pained birth of the new group from the wreckage of the everyday. Not class consciousness per se, but the wracking formation of something that, like all revolutionary movements, starts from the universal – not what is common across individuals but what is the universal principle under which those of a historical period exist – and lurches, however ineptly, toward its negation. Stumbling and swarming, single minded and mindless, they are the unhalting drive toward toward the destruction of the world that exists and all it stands for.

That said, they might be rather surprised to learn of this role of eschaton made flesh. In the Romero films, they are surprised to learn, period. And so before considering what it means for the “irrational” to develop a sense of what they have been doing all along and of the advanced tactics of how to do it better, we return to that dual core of what they do without “meaning to”: they consume, and they do not die.

What do they consume? Despite the endless LOL-zombie level jokes, it wasn’t always about “Brains…”. That particular iteration, with all its monotonous staying power, comes from Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead (1985), (which I'll write on shortly). No, for Romero and the meat glee of his SFX man Tom Savini, it is flesh, ripped from the bone, and it is entrails, the sickly wet thup of the unraveling guts.

But even aside from the fact that consumption does not answer hunger, the very eating and hunting practices were never about filling bellies, of persistently butchering the living to get every last bit of protein from them. Instead, they absent-mindedly snack and, more crucially, they are distracted by the fresher living, the not yet touched by zombies. Pragmatically, they should stick with the kill they’ve already made, not waste energy chasing new prey that will very likely turn out to kill the hunter. Of course, none of this matters or applies here, for there is that odd doubling: they don’t need to eat, yet it is just what they do. And not yet to turn the living to their side, not a quick bite to convert the uninitiated and add to the ranks. (It can’t be good for the effectiveness of your zombie horde to have a significant number of them missing large chunks of muscle and connective tissue.) They are consumers, pure and simple, the unaware manifestation of consumption compulsion hitting its joking stride in the mall wandering slack-jaws of Dawn of the Dead.

No moment so captures this bare anti-hunger and shameless consumption as that when, in Night of the Living Dead, the basement door opens to reveal “zombified” Karen – one of those holed up in the farmhouse - munching away on her father. The shot is remarkable, an entire case-study of familial tension and libidinal investment in a single moment: her mother opens the door, a crack of light reveals Karen, and she freezes, mouth full of Daddy. Not in knowing shame at the act, but with, at most, the minor embarassment and sudden stillness of one caught midnight snacking in the harsh glow of the open refrigerator. To hijack a Freudian moment, this is something approximate to, Mother, can’t you see I’m eating?

But the absence of her shame is compensated for by our revulsion, that knowing laughter and shudder. However, we should insist, our laughter/horror is not a response to the “body horror” (the tasteful black and white gore details are restrained, even for Romero), but at her fundamental misrecognition. This is not the misrecognition of eating your father by accident, not even of being unaware of how awkward a situation appears to one who stumbles into it. It is the fundamental misrecognition of zombies and of our attachment to them.

This is the misrecognition of one who has risen without reason, compelled to rise for no purpose beyond the mere repetition, consumption, and imitation of life. For the basic fact of the true zombie gesture, in its occluded form, is not the animation of the dead body but the over-animation of the living body.

To make this less cryptic, we might ask: how do the dead “rise”/“walk” in these films? And which dead?

As explained, these are not movies about transmission, at least in the explicit sense. You don’t become a zombie by coming into contact with one. Being bitten may hasten the process (an unbrushed, rank, rotten meat reeking mouth plus a jagged bite will likely lead to a nasty infection), but it isn’t the cause. The cause is an irrevocable change, something that, echoing Joyce, descends upon all the living and the dead.

Indeed, we should stress the living aspect of this. In the graphic novel The Walking Dead, which gets to expand the moves, tropes, and themes of a Romero film into a long, unfolding narrative, the central character Rick realizes, upon discovering that the “roamers” include those who happened to die without being bitten, that if “they revived without a bite – that means we’re all infected. Or could be. That means we’re just waiting to die before we come back as one of those things.” Later in the series, as the death toll mounts and the survivors turn more and more ferociously against each other, he delivers the titular line, pointing out that “WE are the walking dead”: it isn’t us the living against the animated dead, but the remapping of the entire world into the fields and enclosures of the already dead, the apparently living just biding their time before becoming what cannot be avoided.

In other words, it is not dying that makes you a zombie. It is not-dying that does, already present in you as you fight off the hordes you will someday join. It is the fact that you don’t, can’t or won’t – in the varied inflections of will and non-agency of each option – stay down. All that is know, the one certainty after the tectonic shift that can’t be repaired, the “world revolution”, is that the dead will rise, because they never really die. Hence while the effects are personal (the pathos of the family consuming itself, the existential angst at the certainty of becoming a zombie), the cause is not.

Romero’s own comments about this, and the relation of his film to Matheson’s I Am Legend, are instructive:

"I thought I Am Legend was about revolution. I said if you’re going to do something about revolution, you should start at the beginning. I mean, Richard starts his book with one man left; everybody in the world has become a vampire. I said we got to start at the beginning and tweak it up a little bit. I couldn’t use vampires because he did, so I wanted something that would be an earth-shaking change. Something that was forever, something that was really at the heart of it. I said, so what if the dead stop staying dead? ... And the stories are about how people respond or fail to respond to this. That’s really all [the zombies] ever represented to me. In Richard’s book, in the original I Am Legend, that’s what I thought that book was about. There’s this global change and there’s one guy holding out saying, wait a minute, I’m still a human. He’s wrong. Go ahead. Join them. You’ll live forever! In a certain sense he’s wrong but on the other hand, you’ve got to respect him for taking that position."

One could say much about how Romero articulates the origins and trajectory of his project here, but for the moment, three comments. First, the sense that it was never really about the zombies: they are representations – more precisely, the external embodiment – of how people respond to a global shift. In a strange doubling back, they are nothing but the registration of the response to them, an echo chamber with a hollow void at its center (you are just our response to what you are). Second, the slippery question of at what point you are still human. The Matheson schematic of obstinance and refusal to adapt, for which we all do have some respect indeed, is perhaps less aon the level of his unwillingness to become something other and more the problem of one who doesn’t realize that he is already a consequence and product of that change.

Or, we should insist, at least the Romero reload of Matheson achieves this: if the zombies are a projection of how we respond to “earth-shaking change,” such a projection is needed because we lack the ability – or willingness – to read ourselves for the signs of such changes, to grasp what has befallen us all. Third, and most crucially, is just that sense of tectonic shift, of that “global change,” which provides the injunction to start from the beginning. However, to show the “beginning” of this revolution is not to locate a false origin or precise cause. The radiation loosed from the exploded probe may be “to blame,” but what is never explained, through any of the series, is how it is to blame. Like all evental shifts, there is a gathering storm of overdetermination, a blur of intersecting influences and pressures. All that we can witness is the emergent, the point of no return.

And indeed it is a point of no return. For what is the world condition that occurs? It is clearly not that all the dead who ever died rise. It is not even just those dead with enough connective tissue and meat on their bones to stand and shamble. It is those who died after the new set of rules came to be, after the radiation has spread, the evental shift that only becomes evident in its after-effects. In this way, zombie films are not about the living dead, at least not in any direct way. They are about the undying living. They are about surplus-life, the new logic of excessive existence: something has given us all too-much-life, an inability to properly die, a system that no longer knows how or when to quit.

If there is an infection or viral model here, it is of a systemic change that infects all, demands of you that you not die, just the continuation and modification of the human animal in its furious and unnatural perseverance. The instinct to survive turned against itself in parody, the conatus gone haywire. And more than that, the end of the sovereignty of not just the subject but the working body, now given a task that you can’t finish, a job from which you don’t get to punch out. In this way, both on the micro scale of the world of each body and mind compelled to stop minding and just keep going, and on the global scale, the zombie apocalypse is not the end of the world: it is the “end of the end”, the world never ending.

That's what is so horrifying. Not the possibility of it ending this way, in plague and rot and terror, but in the drawn out sigh of the thought, my god, what if it never ends... And worse, the possibility that this may be so central to the dominant logic of our age that it no longer is capable of horrifying, the soft whimper of protest drowned out in the roar of the self-same.

Turning a blind ear (NSNSBM)

A comment discussion from an older post is worth posting in full here, as it's a gesture toward explaining a bit about - and raising perhaps more fully the deep problems of - what it means to listen to and really love a cultural mode (black metal, i.e. BM) with a frequently fascistic politics, ranging from implicit to very, very explicit. Any thoughts on any this are seriously welcome, as any explanation I might give doesn't take away my persistent uneasiness. I know some of you also have my same combination of far left politics with a cultural taste that includes some seriously fascistic (with the caveat that we again need a better conception of the gap between fascist aesthetics per se and culture that espouses fascist politics) culture, some misconstrued as such (I think here of certain attacks on Brutalism), some rightfully designated as so.

The anonymous commenter asked:
This is indeed a great album [the album in question is Peste Noire's Ballade Cuntre lo Anemi Francor, about which I've written a bit - S a/o B], and I am also having a difficult time wrapping my head around it. It is especially perplexing to be faced with such a masterpiece when one considers the imbecile (I commented on the interview with Famine elsewhere) who created it. I'm having a harder time enjoying the likes of Akista, Peste Noire, Malveillance, Kult Ofenzivy, Drudkh etc. as of late in light of the increasingly absurd blending of racialism and nationalism with what at first glance seemed to be a clumsy albeit genuine reaction to neoliberal integration. I can imagine someone like Zizek having something Lacanian to say which would help me rationalize listening to Dolentia and Goatmoon while reading Deleuze and Guattari, although I can't help but wonder if there may never be a method for "cheating" my way out of this one. Anyway, I'm very interested in more of your thoughts on the matter.

My very short answer is four-fold, aside from saying that the Goatmoon/Deleuze combo sounds awful for more than a few reasons. (What I say below also leaves out my real interest in the politics of misanthropy itself, and the ways in which certain misanthropic aesthetics have tended to marshal the signifiers of the 20th century's nastiest modes and moments.)

First, the vast majority of the culture we consume is ideologically contemptible, although rarely does it bare its colors so visibly as black metal. To go the Zizek route you invoked, isn't this analogous to that much cited Brecht line ("what is breaking into a bank compared with founding a bank")? The idiotic posturing - and genuinely disturbing politics - of some BM is a quiet fart against the not-so-hidden din of the dangerous ideological constructions of our era and the way in which they prop up systemic and structural violence against massive portions of the global population. Yet we rarely tend to agonize if we listen to a bit of pop fluff, now and then, however ironically. This isn't to excuse the stated politics of BM whatsoever, simply to question the investment of our anxiety. (And I write this as someone who has a great deal of love for some pop music genres, particularly certain hip hop and old Memphis soul, and who has little interest in attacking pop for being pop. That said, almost none of it can "move" me like BM can.)

Two, the gap between the sonic qualities of black metal and its avowed politics. Even if you don't go as far as I do (of seeing within the music itself a anarchistic, dialectically self-consuming relationship between inherited forms of the past and the networks of the present), the fact remains that barring a good deal of time spent with the lyrics sheet and interviews, you'd be hard pressed to tell apart NSBM (National Socialist black metal) from what we might call NSNSBM (not so National Socialist black metal). However, this perhaps only attenuates the sense of listening to something that bristles with the wrong kind of hate. And hence, perhaps, is all the worse, letting us turn a blind ear to what we suspect, correctly, is going on just below the buzzing surface.

Third and this I delay for a far longer post, much of black metal that is secessionist, telluric, and insistent on the autonomy of local zones (things behind which many of us could get, at least in a non right wing militia or intelligent design teaching school district form) gets lumped in with the real NSBM, or at least the muddled and murky pond of ethnic/racial nationalisms on which a large amount of BM depends for its lyrical content. There is a major difference between a simple hailing - or heiling - of your proud white frosty nation and attempting to preserve local cultural traditions and historical figures of anti-imperial rebellion. (This is not to assume that there is a very messy hinterland between these two tendencies.)

Fourth, it is because that gesture - the reaction toward neoliberal integration - is abortive/aborted that it needs to be brought forth. A deep listening, one that goes past the irresponsible and ultimately banal national-racism, and a concern for the unrealized kernel that happens against the intentions of its creators is at stake. A perhaps translatable model, an apparatus of reading and willful reuse/misuse (the echoes of my salvagepunk thinking intended here).

Of course, in separating the wheat from the chaff, you need to know when all you have is a bundle of shit to be cast away and burned. Some things are, and should be, beyond recuperation.

Report non-humans

Down in LA for the week, after giving my Contra Mundum talk on Sunday. (Thanks to all who came and thanks to Mark, Alex, and the Mandrake having me down here.) Car-less in Westwood and trying to not be overly bilious at this organization of space, bodies, and lots and lots of capital.

I'll try to write something proper on return, analogous to an older post on Knoxville. In this case, when I travel somewhere and feel spatially ill at ease and find myself becoming, perhaps unfairly, a stereotypical hater of an LA ethos that I don't remotely know. In the meantime...

This image, unfortunately shit quality from my phone, and the horror of viral marketing snarkiness. In an era of city planning in which benches are rendered nearly unusable f0r any and all due to "anti-homeless" devices (various partitions, dividers, odd sweeping plastic contours, all designed to make sure that you sit upright and for god's sake don't sleep or slump, with the added effect of making public displays of bench affection quite difficult, something like the hysteria of anti-skateboarding measures, the "skate stoppers" that make it so handrails can't be used by those who might actually need them because of a worry that someone might "misuse" it), a jokey advertising campaign (seen here on just such a molded bench) for District 9 saying what it all really means and has meant from the start. And a man designated by the city for all intents and purposes as non-human, somehow interpellated in the worst way, sleeping next to the bench. The corrosive effects of supposed political critique on a landscape already scrubbed clean and stuccoed to hell.

"To intervene as workers"

Spread the word on the UC Faculty walkout and actions in solidarity. A first day in what will be a hot autumn of our making. Moving from simmering discontent to articulated resistance, calculated disruption, and antagonism against all those who have gotten rich off from gutting access to education and living wages.

Nothing personal

[Thoughts on the zombie apocalypse template kicked off by Night of the Living Dead, the construction of the tropes and clichés that show us what it looks like for the world to end at the hands and mouths of the stumbling dead.]

The orgy and the ecstasy

First and foremost is a spatial opposition that visually orients the zombie genre as a whole, between the domestic interior – or interiors that become sites of cobbled together domestic living – and the wilds of the outside, always trying to burst through the doors and windows. This produces, almost inevitably, the great money shot of the zombie film: the horror and ecstasy of one of the survivors getting dragged across the divide, screaming as he or she is welcomed into the arms and mouths of the waiting horde. Hence we get one of our era’s greatest fantasmatic images, of just giving up on the entire domestic sphere of responsibility and family values, just getting pulled “against my will” into the orgy of irrationality and swarm collectivity.

But no, in these films, a man’s house – or any house secure enough to hole up in – is indeed a castle, and a castle exists for protection and siege, for shoring up the splintered remains of a distinction between private spaces and public spaces, between zones for family bickering and zones for all-out war.

Unfortunately, things aren’t much safer inside. The consistent lesson across Romero’s films seems to be: what divides us from the them, the rational humans trying to survive from the zombie hordes? At least zombies won’t stab you in the back or constantly pull guns on you during an argument. Toward the later films, Land of the Dead in particular, they will learn how to pull guns, but there it is in the service of a developing solidarity the petty and hysterical living can only envy. (Not to mention the amazing moment when Bub, the semi-domesticated zombie of Day of the Dead, learns to wield a gun and looks like nothing so much as John Wayne, in the halting bowlegged shuffle gait: the zombie as honorable stoic old West hero, the undead last bastion of noble American masculinity.)

The humans, though, prove to be your real enemies, unpredictable, stressed, and cowardly, who, again and again, get everyone killed in trying to save their own skin. Romero’s films, like those of fellow social critic horror director John Carpenter, have been from the start about the clusterfuck that is group dynamics and a deep, lingering awareness of the damage we remain uniquely capable of inflicting on one another. It may be the zombies who we are supposed to shoot in the head, but that won’t be nearly so satisfying as blowing away the jerks who have been making the apocalypse so unpleasant and dangerous.

Family drama

Therein lies the darkest, and simultaneously most joyous, heart of the zombie film: the consummate bad faith of the savagery you’ve been wanting to inflict all along. It is bad faith because it veils the basic desire under the sign of necessity: I had to kill her, she was going to “turn”. It is the flowering misanthropy of everyday life, the common desire to just stop talking things through, to stop biting your tongue, to unload on your friends, neighbors, siblings, and parents. And even more, on the stranger, on the human body we don’t know.

This is analogous to the response to Columbine and other “random” public massacres: so much of the horror and shock was due to the eruption in “real life” of what was supposed to remain a secret communal fantasy of nastiness toward our fellow human. The point here is not that there are certain pathological populations who are the bearers of this wrong urge. The pathology is structural, shared by all social beings, or by all those who have successfully become good citizens and people, all who have learned that conflict and urges are mediated by and disseminated throughout all language and discourse, that massive horizontal net of rules and conventions. In this way, the zombie film lets us bares our open secret and celebrate in it, watch an endless sequence of strangers shot in the head, the audience cheering at particularly “good” kills.

However, it keeps this bloodlust on a tight leash, via that blind of necessity, and thereby replicating all the more the structures of what is and is not allowed. In a line repeated across the genre with minor variation, “that was before… nothing is the same anymore.” This is marshaled most often before or after killing a comrade/mother/friend who has been bit and may “turn.” The question it raises, obliquely, is how long you’ve been waiting to do this, before the zombie apocalypse gave you an excuse.

And apocalypse should be stressed here in its proper sense, as the revelation of the hidden. Namely, what is apocalyptic about the walking dead is what they reveals about the conditions of the living, the deep, rutted grooves of antagonism and violence, the seething undercurrents of anger and repression. The open secrets of an economic totality, at once the violence of abstraction (the brutal consequences of shifting patterns of valuation) and the abstraction of violence (this is just business, folks, nothing personal).

However, the zombie apocalyptic fantasy is that of a world in which just such abstraction is destroyed, producing all the utopian possibilities and ideological pitfalls of a world beyond value. In a desperate echo of salvagepunk, the world of zombie hordes is a radical contraction of what is desirable to possess: if it can’t kill, heal, feed, help escape, burn, or barricade, then it only slows you down. Exchange-value rots even faster than the bodies, leaving behind objects in their naked utility and hardness.

Yet the vision of the zombie apocalypse is never a post-apocalyptic vision, not a single event and revelation out of which we regroup and attempt to rebuild. Rather, they are the mapping and figuring of apocalyptic duration, the crisis that will not quit and the ceaseless work of slaughter, partition, burying, and moving on. So too the content of the revelation, the hidden re-revealed again and again, from the deep inheritances of racial and class prejudice to lingering models of erotic possession and familial structure, from the deep and cathartic pleasures of corporal savagery to the sinking realization it was never the zombies who made this world unlivable. They just give the subjectless catastrophe of this century a necrotic, yearning form.

And on and on and on

In the fundamental non-progression of this apocalypse, stuck and skipping like a record, doomed – like the genre itself – to mutely repeat what we have known all along against our intended ignorance, the full recognition and mobilization of what has been revealed remains impossible. This is both on the level of the diagetic content of the films – what’s going on in their worlds – and the films themselves: in neither case can anyone get past the personal. The trauma is of the species itself, but the survivors – and the supposed critique internal to the films – cut themselves off at the knees by their resolute inability to think anything close to totality. To hearken back to the “missing question” of transmission, they lack the capacity – or, more frequently, refuse the consequences of such a thought – to fathom how the global transmits to the local.

As such, one faces two options. You can abandon whatever community to which you temporarily belong and get the hell out of town, preferably to the wilds of Canada (the deeply reactionary end of Land of the Dead) or a Carribean island (the oddly unconvincing end of Day of the Dead). Or you refuse to keep moving and establish your stronghold, whether mall, house, bunker, farm, prison, or factory. (A zombie apocalypse scenario set in a factory doesn’t exist, to my knowledge. But it really should: something like a Meyerhold gasworks drama meets The Grapes of Death.) Which essentially means, given the less than rosy view of what we do to each other, staying in one place long enough for the worst tendencies of the human animal, post-capitalism, to come out. Therein the deep social nihilism of the genre: stay with a group of other survivors, and soon you won’t be a survivor, falling victim to what inevitably happens when you’re trapped in one house with too many guns and an entire social order worth of antagonism.

Above all, the films institute a cycle of passages between these visions of fixity and flight. Their texture and tempo is precisely this gap: one gets to rest, but only uncertainly, with the awareness that the idyll is a calm before a storm that never stops. And just as these passages are stunted, thrown off course and kilter, rendered hectic and abortive, the passages of thought from base to superstructure are themselves messy and precise in their failure.


It is because we don’t get a proper realism or cognitive mapping that zombie films better capture the logic of the times, that same almost-thought to be elevated over the closure of facile critique. The work of sharper critique and understanding, of making sense of what has been revealed and what is still hidden in plain sight, is forced into this position of the itinerant, the unwelcome guest forever pulling up stakes at gunpoint. The gun, here, is the inertia of the past, the savage insistence of the old roles and rules. That constant refusal to admit that things have changed, No, the government will come, there must be a rational explanation for this, we aren’t the kind of people who do this, coupled with the permanent flight, both in thought and action: we need to keep moving. All those forms of resistance that foreclose the possibility of real resistance, all the mental and social immobility that ends where it starts, back in the arms of the dead.

The autonomy of the apolitical

Creative destruction, in its distinctly non-Bakunin version

A few related comments of autonomous zones, ecological concerns, and the aesthetics of occupation.

First, a discussion over at Frugal Me that my attacks on pseudo-salvage ideology provoked, at least in part. And more so given that the owner of a company I singled out (mostly for its typicality and its laying bare of the trumpeting eco-pretensions underpinning much of the "green" commodity market, not for being particularly green-evil) got involved. He seems like a thoughtful guy, albeit one I disagree with on many things. You can read the back and forth in the comments there.

However, I think these issues are thought better in a wider context, one raised by Owen in his quite good account of the two fairs, the fun-fair and the Climate Camp. Furthermore, in a dark - or rather day-glo fur and neon body-paint - mirror of the bastard child of the Climate Camp and the fun camp, the Burning Man festival is going on in the States right now. Indeed, that might just be the bridge between that two of ethics and jouissance, of the community of the like-minded (the bonded group of the eco-minded) and the occasional group (the heterogeneous mish-mash of all those who come to the fair, whether to watch antiquated machines hurl tweens around or to smell funnel cake). Or, it might be that bridge if the way it is talked about wasn't such an unholy hybrid of messianic fervor and the fetid remnants of hippiedom.

Two men enter (with foam swords), two men probably leave

That is actually a shame, because taken on its own terms (and not as a scalable exercise in autonomous political/social zones), there is much to celebrate there, mostly, the real ingenuity, construction, and non-work time that goes into making the art works/bicycles made to look like titanium unicorns shooting confetti out of the horn. My neighbors are devoted Burning Man types, and I've been genuinely impressed by how much work they've done to make a giant human hamster wheel. And while my impulse is at times to say, fuck, you could have built housing for the homeless with that much effort, I'll support efforts toward the production of the frivolous as long as it escapes the logic of leisure time as the mere shadow of the working day, as Adorno claims, rather snarkily, about the D.I.Y. fad. And indeed, even the "creative destruction" of the objects - again, an odd mirror for the autophagic creative destruction of capital in crises of overproduction/underconsumption - is something I could get behind. Not the form that my Dionysian impulse takes, but go for it. Personally, I will never go. Living in Santa Cruz is already too much of the Burning Man ethos for me. I like my countercultural impulses with more black, grime, and bile, on one end, and the razor sweep of the modern, on the other. (And, lastly, they do have, at Burning Man, a very serious Thunderdome. Which I can get very much behind. Perhaps they will let Dominic bring a locally sourced lightsaber.)

However, it is the fetishization of a deep, utopian content that betrays all that, particularly taking the form of "it's an economy without money, mutual aid, just people sharing." No, it is the appearance of such, and not least because you have to buy a ticket (from about $200 on up, it seems) and because people bring supplies that they already purchased. (That's like saying that you and your friends live free of the money form because you all buy groceries separately, and then sometimes have a potluck.)

The point of all this is that we should consider two forms of appearance of TAZs (temporary autonomous zones) as a way of considering both their political usefulness and the harder question of: do they want the world to look like this? There is, first, the appearance that is concerned with a fantasmatic microcosm image of how the world should look, ranging from the powerfully collective (modes of group housing and eating, genuine forms of skill sharing and mutual aid) to the goofy and inane (naked dancing with feathers glued to your ass, pissing on hay bales to "rural it up a bit," the misrecognition of how money spent is money spent). Such a model should be rejected, not because some of things done are silly or a waste of time. Rather, because it inevitably falls into the problem of representation, of how you are perceived by those not involved (those fucking kooks), of how you perceive your own involvement (does the presence of such kooks necessarily invalidate the real radical work we are trying to do?), and of what such a zone "represents" in the face of a capitalist totality (a welcomed subtraction of those for whom the government must provide social services and, more than that, find jobs in the long downturn period of the general crisis of manufacturing and overproduction).

Ssangyong factory occupation

The second kind of appearance, the one crucial to our strategy, is that of appearance as tactic, as a weapon of negation, in which how one appears - as a TAZ - does not "represent" anything about how we think the world should look, at least in a direct micro to macro telescoping. The model here would be factory (or other) occupations that do not say, "camping out in our workplace and defending it against the police is a desired model of the world to come." (Although, in a unsettling sense, it is perhaps a far more accurate depiction of what the zones and spaces of resistance will continue to look like for quite a while.) The TAZ is propaganda, in the best form, a sort of spatial shock troops who might prove not that we could live like this but we could stop living like this. How to live otherwise, to live beyond capitalism, is to be determined elsewhere, in hard discussions and innovated practices of everyday life. But here is a way to hasten that end, through forcible, non-scalable autonomy that knows itself and its enemy better.

Or find drinking water by collecting morning dew in human skulls

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?

Slice of apocalyptic talking heads news show parody brilliance. Well, not an apocalyptic talk show, per se. That I would really pay to watch: an irradiated Glenn Beck taken down by shotgun wielding partisan survivors who have taken over the Fox studios as a stronghold.