Unleash the Hounds
Somewhere, someone in Westminster has issued the command to ‘Unleash the Hounds’. Not those of Baskerville. No much scarier monsters, whose teeth are already round the throats of most of us – the hounds of ASDA; RBS; TSB and the CBI etc. You see, as I write, they have been sent northwards to quash the rebellion, to talk sense to the rabble, to bring Westminster’s ‘shock and awe’.
Regardless of the outcome, the synchronicity of the Scottish Independence vote (which has probably already happened before publication) and this article cannot be overlooked. You see, I’m interested in the ability; or lack of ability to create meaningful cultural, political and dare I say it, spiritual change. Don’t worry this is not a manifesto, it’s more of a lament with a Sleaford Mods or Fat White Family backing track. It’s a therapeutic session with myself, which may lead to a public sentencing – hung, drawn and quartered – for not accepting societies medical advice to shut the fuck up!!
But wait, it’s not just about me it’s also about you, about nation-states, states of mind, divorce, Father and Mother, family and land. Let me be more precise. It’s about waking up, becoming more conscious and being more honest, but most of all its about hysterical weakness!!
We’re all in it Together!!
Cards on the table! I was born in Scotland, youngest child of seven, Father left not long after the cutting of my umbilical (or unbiblical can never get that right) cord. Shipped off to south-east Kent, colonised beyond any chance of repatriation. Fought and struggled against the injustice of it all, kicking out against the walls of my council estate; class-room cages; and dead end jobs. Finding solace in subcultural rituals; and promises of revolt, which never quiet delivered their utopian dreams.
The more I struggled the better I got at it, the better off I became. Still pushing and longing for some kind of change, but weaving these desires through acquired needs and patterns of consumption. Telling myself that I was still on the good side, which is never the right side! Active as an activist, the voices of the voiceless still familiar and true, but all the while the continual acquisition of titles and cash – husband, home-owner, parent, director, trustee and doctor – evoking a fantasy which no longer makes sense. Am I making sense? I need some help!
In his recent book, Capitalism’s New Clothes, Colin Cremin seeks to lay bare some of the embedded fantasies and its inbuilt symbols, which are located within the worlds of activism and the wider global capitalist system(s). Of particular interest are his observations regarding what he terms a ‘virtuous circle’, in which capital absorbs, reconfigures and then rebrands critique and activism, turning it into a everyday commodity, seamlessly amalgamated and domesticated by turbo-capitalism.
These mechanisms of co-option are sat in the complex web of global surveillance mechanisms and the very core of the individual. Located within the anxieties produced by the sense of continual panoptical observation; and the shopping trolley, bank accounts, and health service of everyday life. Co-dependence of global and personal vested interests, groomed and more efficient than any trafficking network, known to man (sic.).
Taunting those who suggest to being part of the solution, Cremin writes: we have for a long while been in the midst of a kind of deconstructive pseudo-activity of micro-struggles that respond to the symptoms of capitalism though without ever challenging its totality.
You see, Citizen George Osborne idea (we are all in it together) has a Shadow(s), one that seeks to remain unmentioned, unconscious and unseen. The problem is the people of Scotland have turned the lights on. Not just exposing that the Establishment is truly rooted into the London square mile; but that we are all disciples and addicts – economical slaves.
But it all needs to stop now, Daddy wants us to behave – remember there might be monsters underneath the bed. We are supposed to be seen and not heard – all this democracy nonsense has gone too far. We simply don’t know what’s good for us and the toys are being put back in the cupboard, south of the border.
Am I making any sense?
Don’t get me wrong, this is not just a Scottish thing, it’s a deeply you and me thing. It’s a drugs don’t work thing, the patient is waking up too much and we might be in need of the restraints. The idea behind the enclosures act might have started with the land, but it never stopped pushing itself all the way into each of our souls. The symbols of nation, flag, economy, family, home and identity are all walls in the crazy mirror maze of ownership and power. The unfortunate reality is that we have all, to some degree or another, culturally and spiritually reproduced this way of being and become entrapped in its exchanges.
SlavojŽižek, in his groundbreaking book, Violence asks – what if the true evil of our societies is not their capitalist dynamics as such, but our attempts to extricate ourselves from them – all the while profiting – by carving out exclusive self-enclosed communal spaces? This leads me to my main question, the one that is becoming the real battleground in Scotland. Is it possible to think and act outside our own self-enclosed communal spaces? But – my mortgage, my benefits, my job, my holidays, my children’s education – it’s all a bit scary and I want my iPhone!
We are left in a state of permanent mental insecurity needing to operate according to the logic of the market, expressing certain values, cultivating and projecting a kind of a personality, to stay, in some shape or form, in the game. In other words, we have all developed a set of vested interests, which are placing us beyond being able to try and make sense of the world or engage in activities that seek to make the world a more just place.
These interests are clearly connected to my own ‘private life’ commitments and responsibilities. They make clear the departure from my previous social position(s) into what I would call post-working class, but what many others would (probably more accurately) term middle-class inevitability. My own identity has truly entered the ‘virtuous circle’ discussed earlier, in which turbo-capitalism absorb, transforms and then rebrands my critique and activism, turning it into a commodity. We are all truly in this together!
Life is Hysterical
Hysteric (adj.)1650, from Latin hystericus, from Greek hysterikos ‘ belonging to the womb’. Hysteria 1801, coined in medical Latin as abstract noun from hysteric
So fragmentation or no fragmentation of the Union or my wellbeing, I think we are in deep need of the hysteric. Not hysteria, which is the message of the market, the ghost of dear old Margret – society where art thou!! No. We need the hysteric of the womb – possibility of new birth and life – the ancient call of compassion. Ways of being, which will be willing to stretch beyond self to bring about change, avoiding the sirens of ASADA and crew.
How long will the fantasy of building exclusive self-enclosed communal spaces (family, career, social cliques etc.) , in which the individual take advantage of the market, but eventually get caught in their individualism, actually hold? When will we see that market freedom does not allow us to develop the faculty to act any further, beyond consumption? Are we willing to detox from these powers and pyramidal cultures? And if so how is this to be done given our current predicament?
My hysterical thoughts may seem extremely weak, but that is my entire intention. To explain I need more help! Simon Critchley thinks weakness is a conception of the human being defined by an experience of enactment that exceeds the limits of potency and strength and in which authenticity is rooted in an affirmation of the margins and impotence.
This has not been, and was never intended to be, a narrative of the strong things of this life – of the dominant, wealthy or victors of social struggle(s). The dominant capitalist paradigm may have captured much of my life; and may turn Scotland from thinking again. However I think there is much to learn and observe from the hysterics of weakness.
Here are some thoughts – rulers are never interested in weak things. This is not to suggest that weakness should always play the victim, in fact it is highly dynamic, creative and imaginative. We need to find ways in which our passions and gifts, associations, celebration and ongoing violations, albeit in small and beautiful ways, can build alternative moral economies.
Weakness holds the potential of reconfiguring, the very understanding of success and social impact. If viewed through the totems of turbo-capitalism, any attempt to change things can be easily overlooked, undermined and misunderstood. However, it is my contention that small seeds hold the potential for unique dislodging and disruption of desire and imagination.
Hysterical weakness can give birth to unorthodox vantage points that expose the vested interests of mainstream society. This comes from the social positioning, which enables and offer up fresh and heretical readings of society and its various components. These heresies not only challenge the dominant, orthodox reading of history and culture, but also have the audacity to suggest fragile, incomplete and contradictory alternatives. The subtle and frail nature held in these narratives produces inbuilt collective struggles.
John Holloway writes there is a resonance, a mutual recognition of being part of a moving against-and-beyond, a constant sharing of ideas and information … the constant weaving of a We, the shaping of a common flow of doing and rebellion. This resonance does not mean that we all agree: on the contrary, disagreement and discussion are crucial in the formation of the resonating We.
It would be unwise and also untrue to suggest that this is seen as utopian. Nonetheless, it would also be as suspect to suggest that we settle within the current order, or make peace with the status quo. Hysterical weakness requires ‘nomads of the present’, leaving (if only in part) the land of our mothers and fathers, not knowing where we are heading but searching for a land they have not yet seen. In other words, attempting to take back and rethink lives at the multi-layered of levels of incompleteness and contradiction.
This is not a question of local versus global or micro versus macro, it is rather a question of understanding that the strength of the social flow depends finally on our ability to reappropriate. The big events are important but they cannot take the place of the constant search for ways of doing against and beyond capitalism. The Scottish referendum is important, but yes or no there will still be dragons in the land.
To believe in something that has not yet happened always requires faith. The encouragement that I take from these times is just how many people seem willing to press beyond (albeit still in a capitalist framework) the idea of the way things are in Scotland. Win or lose this should not be overlooked or quickly forgotten. Even if there were not to be enough people to trigger the reconfiguration of nation states, the waters have been stirred.
‘Life is completely confined and shackled. A kind of economic fatalism prevails; each individual, whether he (sic.) resists it or not, is assigned a specific role and with it his interests and his character. The church is regarded as a redemption factory of little importance, art as a safety valve… The most burning question of the day and night is: is there anywhere a force that is able to put an end to this state of affairs?’ – Flight Out of Time – Dada Diary: Hugo Ball
These stirrings in the North have breached the facades of the Establishments control. This has not been done by the power of big business or Westminster, but because of the weak things of this world. The hysteria of greed and consumption are running scared because the tide has gone out and they have been found to be naked. Hysterical weakness can always be made to look ridiculous, but that is its force and source of strength!