Tag Archives: politics

Rifling my proto-blog

My WordPress dashboard indicates that, as of today, I have published 200 posts on Makurrah’s Blog since I moved over from Typepad in early January of this year.  While I like the look, the roundness of that number as a minor milestone, I also know that it is inaccurate, in that five of those 200 posts themselves contain multiple entries from an earlier blog, fledgling, that I migrated to WP in early 2010.  And although I don’t often return to that material, I am on occasion prompted to rifle my little proto-blog to retrieve a source or a citation.

I recall reading on one of the blogs-that-try-to-help-bloggers that I used to consult more than I do now that it was not only perfectly okay, but in fact a great idea, to re-blog one’s earlier posts as a way of calling attention to contributions or interventions that readers might have missed.  Since there aren’t many citations that remind me so forcefully about the crux of this blog’s project (and my work more generally), and since I am confident that I (if not all of my readers) will experience its re-reading as something akin to splashing cold water on my face, I will take my chances and reproduce here a post that was originally published on fledgling on 9/29/2009  under the title “Hectic Presumptions.”  Should you desire, you can find it on this blog by scrolling through “fledgling‘s archive, September 2009.”  Oh, and don’t miss the October (x2), November and December files.

09/29/2009  Hectic presumptions 

In the belief that thinking can proceed in part via stepping-stones of thought made accessible by those who have gone before, let me quote (as I have more than once) an account provided by my friend and mentor Werner Hamacher in an incisive essay entitled “Journals, Politics”:  

Many years ago – it might already be twenty – Max Horkheimer recommended a little experiment during a television interview. He suggested reading newspapers a few weeks or months after their publication. With this he bent over to pick up a stack of rather gray papers that lay next to his chair. I cannot recall his comments on this piece of advice. But one can imagine that the effect he had in mind was supposed to be both philosophical and political. Indeed, the effect of this small postponement on the reader, on his perception of time and on his attitude to news and published opinion, should be considerable. The reader of these old papers will notice that the imperatives, attractions and threats heralded in them reveal themselves as such only to the degree that they no longer directly affect him. The judgments that the newspapers imposed on him at another time can now be dismissed as hectic presumptions. In the future he will no longer so easily obey the regulations of the newspapers and their time…. Horkheimer’s is a piece of political advice that looks forward to the suspension of coercion and to its transformation for another way of life.  

Users, students and teachers of social media stand to gain, philosophically and politically, by conducting for themselves an analogous experiment that would introduce a small postponement in the hectic reverse chronology that governs these media, and exercises its own forms of coercion.  

Posted at 12:01 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

**********

Once more, a sense of re-loading, from plentiful ammunition, for my argument about the realist ideology that underpins many of the claims currently being made for the “real-time” Web.

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“And the naming of the intolerable is itself the hope”

 

The photograph which lies on the table in front of me has become incriminating.  Better not to print it – even thousands of miles away from Turkey.  It shows six men standing in a line, in a wooden-panelled room somewhere on the outskirts of Ankara.  The photo was taken after a political committee meeting, two years ago.  Five of the men are workers.  The eldest is in his fifties, the youngest in his late twenties. 

Each one is as unmistakably himself as he would be in the eyes of his own mother.  One is bald, one has curly hair, two are thin and wiry, one is broad-shouldered and well-covered.  All are wearing skimpy, cheap trousers and jackets.  These clothes bear the same relation to the suits of the bourgeois as the capital’s shantytowns, where the five live, bear to the villas with French furniture where the bosses and merchants live. 

Yet, with their clothes taken off, in a public bath, a police or army officer would have little difficulty in identifying them as workers.  Even if the five half-closed their eyes so as to mask their expressions, so as to pretend to a commendable indifference, their social class would still be evident.  Even if with the magical aid of certain djinn they assumed, with consummate art, the typical facial expression of a speculator’s mistress – an expression of sugared charm, sugared indifference and greed – the way they hold their heads would still betray them. 

It is as if a court, at the moments of their conception, had sentenced them all to have their heads severed from their necks at the age of fifteen.  When the time came, they resisted, as all workers resist, and their heads remained on their shoulders.  But the tension and obstinacy of that resistance has remained, and still remains, visible – there between the nape of the neck and the shoulder blades.  Most workers in the world carry the same physical stigma:  a sign of how the labor power of their bodies has been wrenched away from their heads, where their thoughts and imaginings continue, but deprived now of the possession of their own days and working energy. 

For the five in the wood-panelled room, resistance is more than a reflex, more than the muscles’ primitive refusal of what the body knows to be an injustice – because what its effort is continually creating is immediately and irredeemably taken out of its hands.  Their resistance has mounted, an entered their thoughts, their hopes, their explanations of the world.  The five heads, whose eyes pierce me, have declared their bodies, not only resistant, but militant. 

Since the coup d’etat of September 1980, DISK – the left confederation of trade unions, to which the five belonged – has been declared illegal, as indeed have all political parties. 

At least 50,000 people have been arrested.  The prosecution has demanded hundreds of death penalties – particularly against militant trade unionists.  The manhunts are as systematic as the torture used in the hope of extracting further names and connections.  This is why the photograph has become incriminating. 

Thousands have disappeared without news.  to date at least eighty have died under torture.  It is probable that one of the five I’m looking at is being tortured today.  His body, so unmistakable in his mother’s eyes, is being made to suffer the unthinkable. 

How much this photograph says about politics!  About how politics, at their origin, are irrepressible.  These five men, with their loves, their children, their songs and their Anatolian memory, are the dupes of nobody.  They were often badly led, often carelessly organized, often the first victims of the charismatic self-indulgence of their leaders, but none of this has surprised them.  Of this present world which they know so well, they did not expect better. 

They know that there has never been a winter in Anatolia without snow, a summer without animals dying from drought, a workers’ movement without repression.  Utopias exist only in carpets.  But they know too that what they have been subjected to in their lives is intolerable.  And the naming of the intolerable is itself the hope. 

When something is termed intolerable, actions must follow.  These actions are subject to all the vicissitudes of life.  But the pure hope resides first and mysteriously in the capacity to name the intolerable as such:  and this capacity comes from afar – from the past and from the future.  This is why  politics and courage are inevitable.  The time of the torturers is agonizingly but exclusively the present. 

If I screen out the heads in the photo of the five men in the wood-panelled room, it is no longer incriminating.  One sees only the skimpy clothes, the hands, the open collars.  But headless like this, their bodies are trapped in the present of their torturers…..Ahmed, Salib, Mehmet, Deniz, Kerime…it will end. 

— John Berger, And our faces, my heart, brief as photos.  London, 1984, 16-19.  

John Berger, 2007

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fledgling’s archive, september 2009

09/30/2009 Red-letter day 

  

Perhaps this will go down as a red-letter day of some sort: I just noted my fledgling blog’s first batch of visitors arriving via Google. And it showed up on my own search. Now I really must make these posts presentable.  

For the moment, though, I just want to (red) flag a matter for future consideration: the ascendancy of the term ‘friend’ in the context of social media. It is an easy thing to overlook, or simply take for granted, but given the richness and variability of the writing on friendship in the history of philosophy, this certainly warrants further scrutiny.  

Posted at 05:00 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)    

 

09/29/2009  Hectic presumptions 

In the belief – a wager, certainly – that thinking can proceed in part via stepping-stones of thought made accessible by those who have gone before (even just before), let me cite (as I have more than once) an account provided by my friend and mentor Werner Hamacher in an incisive essay entitled “Journals, Politics”:  

Many years ago – it might already be twenty – Max Horkheimer recommended a little experiment during a television interview. He suggested reading newspapers a few weeks or months after their publication. With this he bent over to pick up a stack of rather gray papers that lay next to his chair. I cannot recall his comments on this piece of advice. But one can imagine that the effect he had in mind was supposed to be both philosophical and political. Indeed, the effect of this small postponement on the reader, on his perception of time and on his attitude to news and published opinion, should be considerable. The reader of these old papers will notice that the imperatives, attractions and threats heralded in them reveal themselves as such only to the degree that they no longer directly affect him. The judgments that the newspapers imposed on him at another time can now be dismissed as hectic presumptions. In the future he will no longer so easily obey the regulations of the newspapers and their time…. Horkheimer’s is a piece of political advice that looks forward to the suspension of coercion and to its transformation for another way of life.  

Users, students and teachers of social media stand to gain, philosophically and politically, by conducting for themselves an analogous experiment that would introduce a small postponement in the hectic reverse chronology and “real-time” updates that govern these media, and exercises their own forms of coercion.  

Posted at 12:01 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/28/2009  ‘The pulse of the planet.’ Perhaps.

  

 Twitter’s coveted prize is its real-time search engine and its global collection of users. What Twitter has done is add a new and important variable into the dissemination of information equation [Man this is badly written – Ed.]. When the user experience is centred around receiving information, they want that information to be relevant, and that’s what search engines are good for. But Twitter’s contribution is to introduce the variable of Time into the equation. With the integration of Twitter’s engine and its users, who provide a stream of real-time data, consumers will get answers to their queries that are relevant – Now. That’s why, as Twitter positioned it, they’re going to have the “pulse of the planet.”  

http://www.searchfuel.com/2009/07/twitter-will-be-the-pulse-of-the-planet/comment    

Posted at 12:13 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/25/2009  Pray for – make that on – the newspapers

  

In my last post I touched in a preliminary way on the materiality (and hence biodegradability) of newspapers over against the virtuality (and reverse chronology) of Twitter.  From the first, this blog has been dedicated to thinking through the temporal and material aspects of these media as instruments of historiography in our time.  

As it happens, the materiality of newspapers made them serviceable on at least one recent occasion, duly reported by Robin Wright for Time.com on July 27, 2009 under the title “Iran’s Protesters: Phase 2 of their Feisty Campaign”:  

‘The new cameraderie of resistance was visible at the July 17 [2009] prayer sermon given by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at TehranUniversity. Non-religious Iranians turned up for political reasons. The devout showed them how to carry out the rituals, with strangers handing out newspapers as substitute prayer mats for overflow crowds.’  

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1912941,00.html

Posted at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs, Religion, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/25/2009  #IranElection

  

I released my first innocuous tweets in April and May. But in June the stakes changed for me (and so many others) with the advent of the Iranian election and its harsh aftermath. To be part of a virtual social network during the unfolding of these events – and their extraordinary chronicling by other participants – could not but galvanize. One of my several “favorite” tweets from this period was authored by @somegirl604 and posted at 12:02 PM on June 20th:  

show a newspaper from the day in films & pictures to verify date VERY IMPORTANT 4 CNN BBC etc #GR88 #IranElection RT  

At the time, after first saving it to favorites – rescuing it from the obscurity all but guaranteed by the hectic reverse-chronological feed –  I replied directly in succinct tweetspeak: “Great practical advice that also speaks volumes about this historical moment.”  I will likely revert to her formulation more than once in the work to come. (By the way, @somegirl604, have you found a job yet?  Thanks again and best wishes.)  

Posted at 12:11 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/23/2009  ‘I tweet, therefore I am.’

It was a journalist’s post-Cartesian musing about Twitter and mortality that propelled me from the relative safety of theoretical interest and observation into the riskier business of practice. In late March, 2009, The Globe and Mail ran a feature by Ian Brown under the title ‘Give Me Twitter or Give me Death’ (March 28, 2009, F1, F4). Zeroing in on what he termed the Twitter dictum – ‘What are you doing?’ – Brown sought to align questions of temporality, language, technology and mortality:  

‘…the discipline of compression is part of Twitter’s charm. Brevity and the management of candour are essential. One must, as Mark Twain advised, “eschew surplusage.”‘  

Or again,  

‘The lure of Twitter is the lure of Right Now. There is no death in the moment of Right Now: There is only where/what/why/who I am. If you are tweeting or tweeted, you are not dead, yet.’ 

While such conceptual claims resonated with my own thinking to date, I was struck by Brown’s readiness to take a further, very practical step: to seek in these terms to initiate a discussion about Twitter on Twitter. And so he did, generating a lively response:  

‘People had a lot to say, it was more like tossing firecrackers than writing…. It was exhausting, like climbing into a dryer for a ride.’  

He also reproduced, among others, a response from participant ‘gordonr’: ‘Twitter is phatic communication: I exist, you exist, the channel is open, the network if flowing.’  

Then and there, I signed up.  

Posted at 11:31 AM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/21/2009  George Clooney and I have something in common  

This post’s sole mission is to reproduce a remark by George Clooney that a) made me laugh and b) is tangentially related to this blog project.  In town last week for TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, Clooney was asked by a reporter why he wasn’t active on Facebook.  According to multiple sources including The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, he responded that he “would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page.”  

 As far as I can tell, he had nothing to say about Twitter, to which I will return shortly.  

George_Clooney_9  

Posted at 02:54 PM in Current Affairs, Film, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  log   

 

09/20/2009  Prelude to Twitter 

With zero readership at this stage, I can probably risk an autobiographical start without fear of losing anyone.  Suffice it to say that I have a longstanding investment in matters of language, literature, aesthetics, media, technology and history, in their various permutations.  So I was of course aware of the advent of new social media, even while I kept a certain critical distance in terms of my own practices (I’m still wary of Facebook, truth be told, and monitor it vicariously through my daughters’ accounts).My initial interest in Twitter stemmed from two decades of reading, teaching and writing about literature, and was more formal than material:  What sort of writing could and would emerge within the constraints of 140 characters? This was a version of questions I had considered in the past, for example with regard to the sonnet as form.  I was intrigued, but not yet hooked.  Then, in March 2009, I came across a feature article in my local newspaper, The Globe and Mail, that altered my thinking and impelled me to register and begin tentatively to tweet.  More about that article and its transformative effects in my next post.  

 Posted at 01:40 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/19/2009  Fledgling foray  

Let me begin, as I often do and will, by citing someone else:  in this case my old friend and colleague David Bromwich, who offers succinct advice to fellow bloggers, novice or expert:  “A good post is a single thought or observation or anecdote, clearly expressed and directly conveyed.  An essay may cover several topics; a post easily grows tiresome if it aims for more than one” (The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, 91).   I cleave to this counsel as I ask myself whether cyberspace (to say nothing of any number of situations on the ground) needs another mind brooding in public about the impact of so-called “social media” – and Twitter in particular – on the history and historiography of our time.  My wager is that while my two cents will likely drop unnoticed, they won’t do any damage as they fall.  So I will undertake at least to chronicle my own involvement, practical and theoretical, with Twitter as an example whose value remains to be determined.   

BluebirdFledgling_052308   

Posted at 11:10 AM in Books, Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)     

 

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