Archive for December, 2010

Tariq Ali at SOAS

Great speech by Tariq Ali.



Happy Christmas or whatever to all those who read this, especially the snowbound and the frozenpiped. Back in a few days.

The Year Unreview

Yes, well, that didn’t quite go according to plan, as usual. 2010 will go down as a fallow year in the history of this blog. Work and other commitments, as well as a concentration span rivalling that of a gnat on account of Twitter, meant there wasn’t a great deal going on in these parts. I hope next year will be different, anyhow. From now until the new year at least don’t expect to see too much appearing here.

For every half-assed post I’ve written here, there are about six long and incomplete ones that lie abandoned in my notes. I’m not saying the unpublished stuff is any good; a lot of the time it’s worthless. But so little posted here and so much written means I need to look at my game.

One of the reasons for the large pile of stuff that never got published was a sense that what I was writing was becoming sort of irrelevant to whatever it was I was getting at when I started out writing it. This is not simply a matter of, “oh I can’t write this, this is crap!”, but a sense of the person doing the writing being unable to communicate what the person reading back over it was seeking to be told.

What I heard referred to the other day as a collapse in symbolic efficiency -where there is no longer a means of mobilising symbols with a common meaning across different constituencies- seems to have operated at a micro-level when I was sitting down to write this. The writer in me can’t reach the reader, and vice-versa.

It wasn’t always like this. In less precarious times, I think one is inclined toward a greater sense of play and messing around, and not feeling wasteful for doing so. But when you’re confronted with visions of entropy and collapse everywhere, the urge to get hit up with the right sequence of words becomes all the more intense. And this causes problems for the moment of writing. If you are going to try and write something true, how do you do this when you know that the language of the mediated world that confronts you -the terms, devices and premises that would also serve as your building blocks- is basically false? Do you proceed, even if you can’t stand the sound of your own voice, or do you just shut up?

The answer, on reflection, is not to shut up. Problem is that’s a harder call to make day in day out. It isn’t so easy to hang on to that thought when you have to hold down a job and do a ton of other stuff. And yet, it strikes me better to come out with something crooked and malformed that throws a spanner in the works of the normal routine demanded by neoliberalism, than to merely shut up. That whole routine of keeping one’s head down, ducking and diving at work, respecting the experts, accepting the medicine and withdrawing into private fulmination and distress: if we know that these are the salient features of a world being violently imposed on us, then it simply won’t do to shrink away into ‘meh’-ness and fatalistic ironising.

I am not so deluded that I think blog posts as an activity of disparate individuals are a substitute for concrete forms of collective resistance such as organising marches. strikes and civil disobedience. But they can function as a useful complement: a means of developing intellectual tools that allow you to grasp what’s going on, so that you can act with greater effect. They can also function as a reminder of just what it is you are fighting for, and what it is you are fighting against. If they are good for this, then we should use them for it. Sometimes this might mean taking the voices in your own head to task, at the risk of boring other people senseless. But there’s enough room for this too, I think, provided you’re committed to lifting your head up afterwards.

“Imagine if it was Prince Charles, or Camilla, or a Police Officer, who had been within an inch of their life”


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December 2010