Monday, November 27, 2017
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Perhaps it is the figure of the unemployed who stands for the pure proletarian today: the unemployed’s substantial determination remains that of a worker, but they are prevented from actualising it or from renouncing it, so they remain suspended in the potentiality of workers who cannot work. Perhaps we are today in a sense ‘all jobless’ – jobs tend to be more and more based on short term contracts, so that the jobless state is the rule, the zero level, and the temporary job the exception. This, then, should also be the answer to the advocates of ‘post-industrial society’ whose message to workers is that their time is over, that their very existence is obsolete, and that all they can count on is purely humanitarian compassion – there is less and less place for workers in the universe of today’s capital, and one should draw the only consistent conclusion from this fact. If today’s ‘post-industrial’ society needs fewer and fewer workers to reproduce itself (20 percent of the workforce, on some accounts), then it is not workers who are in excess, but capital itself.-Slavoj Zizek, "A Cyberspace Lenin: Why Not?"
Friday, November 17, 2017
Three Democratic senators -- including Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen -- introduced legislation Thursday to allow certain immigrants with temporary legal status in the United States to apply for residency.
Maryland has the sixth-highest number of residents benefiting from Temporary Protected Status in the country -- about 23,000 -- according to the Center for Migration Studies. The vast majority of those individuals in the state are from El Salvador.
The 27-year-old program shields some immigrants from deportation during periods of conflict or national disaster in their home countries.
The Trump administration said last week that it is ending that status for some 5,300 Nicaraguan nationals who have been living in the United States since 1998. That has alarmed Salvadorans, Haitians, and others who are in the country under similar protection.
The legislation is unlikely to advance. The Republican-led Congress has struggled to approve its own priorities, let alone taking up issues that have traditionally been supported mostly by Democrats.
"These men and women have lived here legally for years,” Van Hollen said in a statement. "They have jobs and businesses and are our neighbors. We cannot in good faith send them back to some of the most dangerous places in the world."
Cardin agreed, saying that "we need to stand up for the American values of compassion and diversity that have made this country stronger." He said that ending the program would "rip families apart."
Critics of TPS have questioned why a decades-old earthquake or hurricane is being used to justify allowing people -- many of whom came to the country illegally -- to stay in the United States indefinitely.
Monday, November 13, 2017
The drug crisis in America and South Korea's frightening suicide rate both come from the same place. The flaw in capitalism which has gradually removed much of the meaning and ideology from life.- Slavoj Zizek, "America's opioid crisis & modern anxieties prove the limits of capitalism"
Last month, in response to America’s escalating opioid epidemic, Donald Trump declared a public health emergency. Describing the crisis as a “national shame and human tragedy” and the “worst drug crisis in American history,” the President lashed out at the devastation caused by the mass prescription of opioid painkillers.
“The United States is by far the largest consumer of these drugs, using more opioid pills per person than any other country by far. No part of our society – not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural – has been spared this plague of drug addiction,” he explained.
Although Trump is as far as one can imagine from being a Marxist, his proclamation cannot but evoke Marx’s well-known characterization of religion as the “opium of the people” (from his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).
And this characterization is worth quoting here: "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”
One can immediately notice that Trump (who wants to begin his war on opioids by prohibiting the most dangerous drugs) is a very vulgar Marxist, similar to those hard-line Communists (like Enver Hoxha or the Khmer Rouge) who tried to undermine religion by simply outlawing it. Marx’s approach is more subtle: instead of directly fighting religion, the goal of the Communists is to change the social situation (of exploitation and domination) which gives birth to the need for religion. Marx nonetheless remains all too naïve, not only with regard to his idea of religion also in his reaction to different versions of the opium of the people.
For instance, it is true that radical Islam is an exemplary case of religion as the opium of the people: a false confrontation with capitalist modernity which allows some Muslims to dwell in their ideological dream while their countries are ravaged by the effects of global capitalism – and precisely the same holds for Christian fundamentalism. However, there are today, in our Western world, two other versions of the opium of the people: the opium and the people.
As the rise of populism demonstrates, the opium of the people is also "the people" in itself, the fuzzy populist dream destined to obfuscate our own antagonisms. And, last but not least, for many of us, the opium of the people is actual opium, the escape into drugs, which is precisely the phenomenon Trump is talking about.
So, to paraphrase Marx, where does this need to escape into opium come from? Like Freud, we have to take a look at the psychopathology of global-capitalist everyday life. Yet another form of today’s opium of the people is our escape into the pseudo-social digital universes of Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms.
Indeed, in a speech to Harvard graduates in May 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told his audience: “Our job is to create a sense of purpose!” – and this from a man who, with Facebook, has created the world’s most expanded instrument of the purposeless loss of time!
The country whose daily life is most impregnated by the digital virtualization is South Korea. Here is Franco Berardi’s report on his journey to Seoul: “Korea is the ground zero of the world, a blueprint for the future of the planet... after colonization and wars, after dictatorship and starvation, the South Korean mind, liberated from the burden of the natural body, smoothly entered the digital sphere with a lower degree of cultural resistance that virtually any other population in the world. In the emptied cultural space, the Korean experience is marked by an extreme degree of individualization, and simultaneously it is headed toward the ultimate cabling of the collective mind. These lonely minds walk in the urban space in tender continuous interaction with the pictures, tweets, games coming out of their small screens, perfectly insulated and perfectly wired into the smooth interface of the flow... South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world. Suicide is the most common cause of death for those under 40 in South Korea. Interestingly, the toll of suicides in South Korea has doubled during the last decade... in the space of two generations, their condition has certainly improved by the point of view of revenue, nutrition, freedom, and possibility of traveling abroad. But the price of this improvement has been the desertification of daily life, the hyper-acceleration of rhythms, the extreme individualization of biographies, and work precariousness which also means unbridled competition... the intensification of the rhythm of work, the desertification of the landscape and the virtualization of the emotional life are converging to create a level of loneliness and despair that is difficult to consciously refuse and oppose.”
What Berardi’s impressions of Seoul provide is the image of a place deprived of its history, a worldless place. Badiou has reflected that we live in a social space which is progressively experienced as worldless. Even the Nazi anti-Semitism, however ghastly it was, opened up a world: it described its critical situation by suggesting an enemy, which was a "Jewish conspiracy;" it named a goal and the means of achieving it. Nazism ruptured reality in a way which allowed its subjects to acquire a global cognitive mapping, which included a space for their meaningful engagement.
Perhaps it is here that one should locate one of the leading dangers of capitalism: although it is global and encompasses the whole world, it sustains a worldless ideological constellation, depriving the vast majority of people of any meaningful cognitive mapping.
Capitalism is the first socio-economic order which de-totalizes meaning: it is not global at the level of meaning. There is, after all, no global-capitalist worldview, and no capitalist civilization proper: In fact, the fundamental lesson of globalization is precisely that capitalism can accommodate itself to all civilizations, from Christian to Hindu or Buddhist, from West to East. Capitalism’s global dimension can only be formulated at the level of truth-without-meaning, as the reality of the global market mechanism.
This, then, is what makes millions seek refuge in our opiums: not just new poverty and lack of prospect but the unbearable superego pressure in its two aspects - the pressure to succeed professionally and the pressure to enjoy life fully in all its intensity. Perhaps, this second aspect is even more unsettling: what remains of our life when our retreat into private pleasure itself becomes the stuff of brutal injunction?
Saturday, November 11, 2017
The Maryland Democratic Party challenged the state’s only Republican in Congress on Friday to denounce Alabama GOP senate nominee Roy Moore.
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, should withdraw his endorsement of Moore, the subject of allegations he initiated relationships with minors in the 1970s and 1980s.
A woman alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32, according to The Washington Post. Three other women said he took them on dates when they were teenagers.
Harris backed Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice, long before the allegations were reported Thursday. Harris’s campaign committee contributed $1,000 to Moore’s campaign in September, and his leadership PAC gave another $1,000 in August.
“Congressman Andy Harris owes it to his constituents and all decent Marylanders to withdraw his endorsement of Roy Moore,” said Maryland Democratic Party spokesperson Fabion Seaton.
Harris’ campaign released a one-sentence statement late Friday that referenced one of the four allegations against Moore: “If the allegations regarding Leigh Corfman are accurate, Judge Moore should withdraw from the race.”
Harris, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, endorsed Moore in September ahead of Alabama’s Republican primary runoff. In a campaign news release at the time, Harris described Moore as someone who would bring “principle to the Senate” and said he had a “backbone of steel.”
Attempting to pin a scandal involving one member of a party on everyone else in the party is a well-worn political tactic, though Maryland Democrats have generally not spent much time engaging with Harris. The congressman represents a solidly Republican district that covers portions of the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore’s northern suburbs.
The allegations against Moore — which he has denied — have prompted other Republicans to weigh in.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters traveling with the president in Asia that “the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” but added that “the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Friday that Moore should drop out of the race and called him “unfit for office.”
“Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections,” Romney wrote on Twitter.