Sunday, March 17, 2013

AN APOLOGY FOR ‘DESTINED FOR EACH OTHER’




                We know each other and works of art only in separate compartments, such that we can’t love  a Godard film and simultaneously believe in Mr. or Mrs. Right, for we are given each of them as necessarily opposing each other.  Godard film appreciation comes pre-packaged with a number of other tastes and practices that fit within its compartment—say, a destabilized, fluid notion of identity and a distaste for Oakley sunglasses and loose-fitting American jeans.  Likewise for ‘that one (or more than one, for thepoly folks) to whome we are destined’ compartment.  It comes with such accoutrements as a love of Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge and Phil Spector songs. 
                Once you dispense with these compartments, Godard and the destined lover open up.  You realize, for instance, that you can believe in the fated other half and still acknowledge the tragic frequency of divorce, spinsterhood, unhappy couplings, infidelity. It is not, after all, necessary to forsake realism in your art or life (or their union: love).  For what the smarmy Mr. Righters miss, is that the perfect partner isn’t given to you, does not arrive in your lap or come with an unmistakeable sign.  You must earn it, and discipline yourself to be ready to recognize and receive him or her.  Great religious poetry across the religions speaks often of preparing ourselves for the reception of the sacred.  Trim the clichés off the edge of the destined lover compartment and the first fat to fall offis the ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ cliché’, appended to any coupling that failed to happen or fell apart.  Nonsense—it’s not that it wasn’t meant to be; it’s that YOU didn’t MEAN it to be, hard enough.  YOU do the meaning.  YOU do the fating.  You didn’t recognize this was the one(s), and ran off with someone inferior because it was easier, more ego-affirming, perhaps even more ‘natural’, and you failed to trim the ‘natural’ fat off the destined lover archetype as well.
So here’s a prayer to all the destined lovers who weaseled, opted, coasted,  rationalized, lied and cheated their way out of their destiny, and forced their poor body into the procrustean box of someone else’s destiny.  Someone you don’t relate to, but now are, and thus must turn off your sense of relation altogether to avoid descending into unbearable self-alienation
.  May your children not make your mistakes, and may we creators generate visions of love to empower your children to rise up and seize their destiny, rather than wander in dumb desire and self-defense into the banalities of the Arbitrary, the Habitual, and the Comfortable and Familiar, where Mr. and Mrs. Right Enough await, with their self-preserving lies about the wisdom of compromise,’ realistic’ expectations, and knowing that the person you end up with necessarily being the one you were destined to be with.  Hark, humans let to be, let us adapt Nietzsche’s battle-cry for would-be philosophers to would be life partners:—even one single compromise with the existing order leads to countless others, and even a single compromise with public opinion might lead a thinker eventually to lose his intellectual integrity.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Warm Bodies and Step Up Revolution: An Anticapitalist and Capitalist Film Head to Head

   What's the main distinction between an anticapitalist work and one affirming neoliberal values and assumptions?  The notion of how true change comes about.  In the former, it happens through community/communal effort.  In the latter, it's the work of a leader or special individual, and usually his love story is given priority over his community interactions and duties.
     Warm Bodies, like most zombie movies, posits the zombie as a metaphor for the alienated worker in late capitalism:  barely alive, barely able to connect to his body, his heart, and to others (indeed, the default relation to others is one of devouring each other--i.e. market-based competition).  Despite its being a love story "Warm Bodies" overcomes neoliberal cinematic values by making the love serve as a stepping-stone or revelatory body-training towards higher group consciousness and group revolutionary potential.  Thus love serves to reconnect the zombie to what the capitalist world has killed in him, and with this higher consciousness he then proceeds to assist his community in finding their humanity again, who then in turn cease their neoliberal competitive tearing each other to shreds, and ally together to defeat the true enemy--the utterly dehumanized 'bonies' that threaten human being as we know it (i.e. the 1%!).  Love, then, is not some private-sphere activity compensating for our public dehumanization, some palliative or relief from the unchangeable structure of society--it is the lifeforce that makes society changeable.  The human beings who consider zombies unredeemable and only fit for destruction corresond to neoliberal policymakers and voters who consider the lower classes--particulary immigrants and people of color--irredeemable in their criminal and 'lazy' tendencies, whose solution can only be social death (disappearance and bodily death in the prison industrial complex, or at best the alienating wage-slave workplace).

    On the other side of the spectrum i saw "Step Up: Revolution", which seemed promising because it's about a community of dancers who use flash mobs to disrupt the normal flow of everyday life with body-recliaming activity, and who grow increasingly political, at one point announcing their decision to move from mere art to protest.  Except that the writers have no idea what 'revolution' or 'protest' involve.  Such that the tactical and ethical 'mistake' that comes 2/3 of the way through the movie, when they 'cross the line' and disrupt a public panel run by a corporate real estate giant planning to dismantle a community for profit.  They destroy some of the premises, out his daughter as a collaborator, and expose the lies in a computer hacking stroke of genius. We are supposed to rue their move to property destruction and embarrassing this poor girl in front of her father, hurting their relationship.  Apparently the revolution can come about without straining the relationship between family members on opposite sides of the class barrier.  Worse, the finale involves another disruption, this time of course with no property violence, which culminates with the corporate father so moved by the dance that he decides not to go through with the corporate takeover.  Wow.  Did you hear the good news, folks?  No need for antagonism or class war, we can get the 1% on our side merely by inspiring them with art.  What absolute idiocy.  This kind of film does nothing but affirm neoliberal lies that the oppressed can earn some justice and equality merely by asking nicely and working within the system. That is of course what Power wants us to believe, making this film's title a lie.  It should be: "Step Up: Counterevolution".  You can't revolutionize society and bring about freedom for all its members without the 1% getting upset, breaking some family ties, and losing some profits.  They are not going to give up their stranglehold on the market when we ask nicely.  The dancers had it right in their supposedly 'crossing the line' moment.  What a joke.  If only V (for Vendetta) organized the flash mobs...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

ON THE SIDE THAT’S ALWAYS LOST: A MEDITATION ON MY LIFE AS A 49ERS FAN



                I lived a charmed youth.  I was, after all, a San Francisco 49ers fan, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a pocket of weirdness and prosperity in a country all too conformist and all too class-stratified.  My team, the “Team of the 80s”, won the Super Bowl four times in my youth, a youth filled with the joy of a family that loved and supported me in all my iconoclasm and eccentricity, and the solidarity of a group of friends bound by principles and a spirit of self-overcoming and adventure that transcended the love-and-friendship-as-mere-comfort model of my culture, sinking in the bathos of what Nietzsche calls “wretched contentment”.
                The 49ers won their last Super Bowl as I entered adulthood.  From then on, we were both on the losing side.
                The 49ers commenced a wretched 18 years of losing seasons and anemic offenses, led by pedestrian quarterbacks—truly horrifying for a boy who grew up with the two greatest quarterbacks of the era, Joe Montana and Steve Young.  True to my Niner fan loyalty, my life followed suit.  Around that time of the last Niner Super Bowl victory and my coming into adulthood, my friend Stephen gravely showed me a Leonard Cohen song that served as one of my guiding anthems, “The Captain”.  It’s a coming of age song, with a bratty, trendy youth haughtily challenging an exhausted ‘captain’ fighting the good fight with few comrades.  I don’t even know what damn side we’re on, the youth protests with exasperation.  The captain responds: “I’m on the side that’s always lost / against the side of heaven / I’m on the side of snake eyes / tossed against the side of seven.”  
To be sure, I did not wind up destitute or  handicapped or wracked with numerous deaths in the family.  But I did wind up in prison, in a hare-brained attempt to avoid 9 to 5 death.  I did find myself on the losing side of the atheists in this frighteningly religious country.  On the losing side of the revolutionaries in this frighteningly reactionary country, which went about stomping on the world’s freedoms along with ours back home, and providing the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the 1% only. ( Every election where a Democrat or Republican won—i.e. every single election—was a loss for me and my people).  On the losing side of a rock band trying to write music and mount stage shows with the integrity and ambition of a Bob Dylan, in an age where the labels wouldn’t recognize—let alone –a Dylan or a U2 if they ran across them.  I found myself writing things in both the creative and academic realms that made the academy recoil.
                I didn’t fare much better in the personal realm.  My friendships and marriages maintained their heroic integrity longer than the 49ers, but one by one, my comrades left our mission of a more Nietzschean love—founded in self-overcoming; in the destruction of the ego and identity in the name of personas and communities and great people yet to be; in absolute vulnerability and loyalty over self-protection and self-interest; and above all in the unflinching devotion to our word, no exceptions and no excuses for breaking it. From these heady Zarathustran-Marcusian heights, my comrades and lovers left for the comforting self-help realm, picked up by osmosis from the culture we suffocated in. 
                And here we are, 18 years later, with the 49ers back in the Super Bowl.  Perhaps it will serve as a heroic harbinger, heralding the final victory in my life of the atheists, ridiculously ambitious lovers, revolutionaries, uncompromising artists and visionaries.  I doubt it.  But there is always the solidarity with my dead and yet-to-be comrades throughout time and space, and the nobility of fighting on the losing side rather than jumping to the winning one when we get exhausted or hurt one too many times.  There will be no one too many times for me. 
And besides, if nothing else, I at least have the return to dominion of my Niners.  That’s something, believe it or not.  Here’s to my Niner fan comrades who aren’t watching the game on Sunday because they have some important part of their identity to attend to.  We win for you and those who will arise to replace you, until the earth is free.

“Now the Captain he was dying
But the Captain wasn't hurt
The silver bars were in my hand
I pinned them to my shirt.”         
High school comrade Craig and I in 49er car post epic road trip.

The Sacred Dice - A Revolutionary Salon

The Sacred Dice is a salon of musicians, scholars, poets, sound sculptors, activists and artists of all kinds committed to art that is committed.  That could get us committed (to an asylum).  That disdain's art for art's sake and artists who have no idea why they do what they do.  We know why we do what we do--to create and celebrate community in a country still stuck in capitalist fantasies of individualism.  If you want in, you're in.  If you want out, don't worry--you already are.