This week I read the late Mark Fisher’s “Capitalist Realism: Is There Really No Alternative?” This short polemic against neoliberal capitalism proclaims that we’re in an era of ideological and cultural malaise which took root at the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the western Left, and has grown to supplant the postmodernism that preceded it. He calls this new era capitalist realism and describes it, if I’m reading him correctly, as the sought and achieved dominance of capital over government, culture, religion, and psychology and both the intended and accidental effects that achievement has caused.
The starting point of his elaboration and the title of the first chapter of the book is, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”. He then goes on to weave together (pop)culture and political philosophy into his cogent and compelling theory.
His first reference and inspiration for the book is Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men”, which is set in a future dystopia where women have lost the ability to have children — the first scene is a coffee shop where patrons get the news that “baby Diego”, the worlds youngest person, has died at the age of 18 years, xx months, xx days, xx hours, xx minutes and the news is devastating. All world governments have collapsed save Great Britain, which is where the story takes place. In the foreground our characters live in a perpetual state of desperate longing and in the background is the violence and cruelty that is creating the space for the British ennui.
In this movie, Mark Fisher sees our present. A time of cultural malaise in which we’ve been robbed of our future. I highly recommend both the book and the film that inspired it.
Mark Fisher took his own life this past January and this eulogy in Jacobin is what introduced me to him.
During a tricky period — I had recently suffered a head-on collision with the British music industry — Mark’s writing really did give me a reason to hope. Through his eloquence, his lucidity, but more than that, his ability to get to the heart of what was wrong with late-capitalist culture and right about the putative alternative, he seemed to have cracked some ineffable code. Capitalist Realism made a series of simple points that bypassed years of postmodern hedging to offer a foundation for action; it was a spiritual call to arms, diagnosing the neoliberal problem and reimagining the socialist solution with the force of revelation.
“all this is temporary: Mark Fisher”, cci collective
“The default saying [capitalist realism] is a concept, an idea that capitalism is the only viable or realistic political-economic system, but that isn’t really quite accurate, because people on an everyday level aren’t even thinking about capitalism at all — nevermind that capitalism is the only system that’s viable.
Really, I think the best way to think about capitalist realism is a form of what I call consciousness deflation. Just to make a crude schematic point, the rise of capitalist realism, the rise of this sense of capitalist social relations, capitalist conceptions, capitalist forms of subjectivity, etc, as calcified, inevitable, and impossible to eradicate; the rise of this sense is directly correlated with the receding of the concept of consciousness from culture.
I think we have to understand neoliberalism not on its own terms. . . but as a strategy directly aimed at crushing the forms of consciousness that were forming and flourishing in the 60s and 70s.”
“Whoever did this maybe intended to discourage us not to be part of this community,” Mazen Bondogji, a member of the mosque’s board, said at a news conference on Friday, according to the Times. “But this makes us stronger than before, than ever, because of the huge amount of support and solidarity we are receiving. We are part of this community and we will stay.”
“100 Headstones Toppled at a Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia“, Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times
The episode drew almost immediate comparison to a similar discovery last Monday in University City, Mo., where more than 150 headstones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Also on Monday, 11 bomb scares were called into Jewish community centers nationwide, the fourth wave of such threats this year. A community center in Philadelphia was among those targeted in the first round.
“Chyna Gibson Identified As The Fifth Transgender Woman Killed in 2017“, Desire Thompson, Vibe
Gibson’s death comes days after the death of Keke Collier of Chicago. The 24-year-old also known as Tiara Richmond, was the fourth trans woman killed this year and also the third black victim after stylist Mesha Caldwell and 23-year-old Jo Jo Striker. An unidentified friend also spoke out about Gibson and the special light she possessed. “She was just a really good person,” the friend said. “Everyone loved her. This is unnecessary.”
“Judge orders stiff sentences for two in Douglasville hate crime“, Rosalind Bentley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the defendants wept, a Douglas County judge on Monday sentenced two people to lengthy prison terms for their part in disrupting an African-American birthday party with Confederate flags, racial slurs and armed threats in 2015.
Keith Ellison loses DNC Race:
“Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?” Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
The New Republic’s Clio Chang has a great, detailed analysis of the contest. She asks the key question about Perez’s candidacy that has long hovered and yet has never been answered. As Chang correctly notes, supporters of Perez insist, not unreasonably, that he is materially indistinguishable from Ellison in terms of ideology (despite his support for TPP, seemingly grounded in loyalty to Obama). This, she argues, is “why the case for Tom Perez makes no sense”: After all, “if Perez is like Ellison — in both his politics and ideology — why bother fielding him in the first place?”
“Keith Ellison Loses DNC Race After Heated Campaign Targeting Him For His Views on Palestine“, Zaid Jilani, The Intercept
Perez was widely perceived as being brought into the race by allies of President Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other members of the party establishment. One of the speakers who introduced his nomination, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison, also works as a corporate lobbyist for the D.C.-based Podesta Group. After neither candidate reached a majority of votes in the first round of voting, Harrison was on the floor, whipping votes for Perez.
“Nina Turner: DNC Chooses Not to Be the Party of Everyday People“, Interview with Paul Jay, Real News Network
Former Ohio State Senator Turner tells Paul Jay that in defeating Keith Ellison as DNC Chair, the leadership has chosen to maintain the dominance of big donors and reject the progressive wing of the party
Climate Change and Environment:
“Northern hemisphere sees in early spring due to global warming: Spring is sprung 26 days earlier than a decade ago, causing problems for the natural cycle of plants and wildlife, Climate News Network reports”, Tim Radford, The Guardian
Researchers say the evidence from the plant world is consistent with the instrumental record: 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, and it was the third record-breaking year in succession. Sixteen of the hottest years ever recorded have happened in the 21st century.
“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Brings Back Lead Ammo In Parks and Refuges: Lead poisoning from ammunition and tackle kills up to 20 million birds and animals a year, environmentalists say.”, Hayley Miller, The Huffington Post
Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3346, which repeals a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directive the Obama administration issued the day before President Donald Trump took office barring the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges. Zinke also signed an order to expand hunting, fishing and recreation access on federal lands.
War and Peace:
“Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK: The commander in chief is taking heat– and hearing cheers– for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.” Kimberly Dozier, The Daily Beast
The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”
“Berta Cáceres court papers show murder suspects’ links to US-trained elite troops: The Honduran environmentalist activist’s killing a year ago bears the hallmarks of a ‘well-planned operation designed by military intelligence’ says legal source”, Nina Lakhani, The Guardian
Last year, the Guardian reported that a former Honduran soldier said he had seen Cáceres’s name on a hitlist that was passed to US-trained units.
This Week in the Executive:
al-Baqia (The Rest)
Jeremy Scahill begins every episode of Intercepted with something silly and annoying. Please don’t let it deter you, he’s actually a very accomplished and serious journalist and so far his podcast been indispensable .
This week on Intercepted, an ex-CIA analyst and a former FBI counterterrorism agent say they fear that a terror attack against the U.S. could result in a coup for the radical ideologues in the Trump White House. As Trump continues to promote his alternative facts, Nada Bakos and Clint Watts explain how Trump’s administration could use Dick Cheney’s model of “alternative intelligence” to justify dangerous military actions. Immigrant communities across the U.S. are facing a dramatic uptick in raids as part of Trump’s pledge to deport millions while Attorney General Jeff Sessions cancels the Obama-era order to end the use of private prisons. Shane Bauer of Mother Jones worked as a private prison guard and breaks down the connections between the raids and soaring private prison profits. Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux discusses his investigations into the Department of Homeland Security and the White House plans for mass deportations.
My question, answered! 😀
Movies: Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men
Over the past couple weeks I’ve watched four Alfonso Cuarón movies: Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. He’s a brilliant director and I recommend (re)watching all of these films. Keep an eye out for his motifs and important backgrounds.
The two I most highly recommend are Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men. They have a lot in common (both told largely road stories, both have brilliant foreground/background juxtapositions, both have good fart jokes).
Nations (New Additions Only)
Rachael and I have embarked on a years-long ambition to memorize all the nations and capitals. I’m adding 10-15 each week and posting it here so you can join us and/or help us by throwing us a pop quiz from time to time!
Antigua and Barbuda — St John’s
Bahamas — Nassau
Barbados — Bridgetown
Dominica — Roseau
Grenada — St. George’s
Saint Kitts and Nevis — Basseterre
Saint Lucia — Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago — Port of Spain
Image via Pitchfork Media (http://cdn2.pitchfork.com/news/70901/8e9fb61a.jpg)