The Politics of Checking In: Confronting Settler Colonial Surveillance

I hope y'all have already considered how you can support indigenous land defense struggles and the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. If traveling there or organizing a local protest is too much, consider donating to the Red Warrior Camp.  

For the last several weeks, I have received text messages and seen Facebook check-ins from friends saying they were at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the land defenders defending their territory against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Yet, when I looked at my Facebook feed this morning, it seemed like all my friends -- far more than the usual mobile rag-tag crew of land-defenders -- had checked into Standing Rock. Circulating along side the public check-ins were private posts that -- in coded language -- explained that they were doing so to overwhelm the local police department who had allegedly been using facebook to monitor and target protestors there. 

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caution and ambivalence

I went to a poetry reading yesterday and the themes raised there reminded me of this space I had made for myself to write more, to think through writing, to explore ideas and to try and practice some sort of friendship through writing. It also raised some of the concerns that started this blog.

They were writing in the genre of New Narrative or a radical autobiography. Friends, enemies and abusers all had names. It wasn't about the self as a brand but experience as the grounds of theory, the way in which nothing is more relevant or true as the way you narrate and make sense of your dreams, your histories and futures with friends.

I started this blog as a pseudonymous project in part because I wanted to write about how to evade determination, to become imperceptible in the age of compulsory digital visibility. Against the profile, the cross-platform strategy of the public writer, I wanted to mark a space that where my writing could evade the determinations of that digital genre. 

The problem however, is that I fundamentally believe that the sort of grounded practice of world-building and counter-narration that occurs among friends, that is friendship, is also one such technique of becoming ungovernable, illegible, of building a form of life that through a sort of use becomes something other than intended.  

Beyond the paradox of seeking a sort of writing that begins from the auto-biographical and yet remains beyond the project of building a personal brand, I was also reminded of the cast of characters -- of friendships -- that inhabit my world, who make world-building possible. 

In the year I have moved twice, took flight from worlds I was in to start again somewhere else. Both times, I did so without friends. First was the impulsive move to Mexico, the desire to learn spanish and chase the possibility of feeling a certain type of love that I felt like I felt while I was in Chiapas that summer, visiting Zapatista communities. In retrospect, that fleeting relationship was nothing more than a relationship with the possibility of travel, of finding accomplices in strange places, of feeling young and beautiful and overcoming difference to establish what was common. It didn't matter because when I arrived in Mexico, she wasn't there and instead I struggled to track the traces of what I thought the sorts of communities I was looking for had left. For much of the time, I was very lonely  -- dreams of writing every day were replaced by a crippling doubt that I would be able to even communicate with those who I hoped to find if I indeed found them. 

And just as I felt like I was making some sort of a world, of settling into a set of relationships that were premised on an ongoing process of articulating a shared experience, I had to move, to Chicago for graduate school. Here, there is the coop I live in and the monastic discipline around which I have structured my life. I feel like I have entered into a sort of elaborate and ongoing conversation that I had sort of left aside but then the problem is that those who are the best to have it with, my friends, the people who want to think about forms-of-life and the ungovernable and then gossip about past relationships, aren't here (and maybe where never there) but either way I have sort of embraced some sort of ridiculous solitude, that isn't loneliness and is productive, not bad at all but still isn't the sort of worldbuilding I want. I have submitted to the institution so that it might allow me to learn but I want to learn with friends and so that is a sort of limit I'm running up against. 

By way of closing, I think I'll turn to the workshop I went to today, a continuation of the poetry reading yesterday, where a certain theorist brought an particular affect that I think I'd like to call kind pessimism, which also might be called care or at least one of its pathologies. There were candles everywhere, an atmosphere of transgression created by the heavy occult and sensuous symbolism that we, as people of electricity, have placed on fire and flickering light. And then this theorist was there and she wanted us to put out the candles because maybe the building would burn down. And suddenly I remembered being 14 and telling my aunt that I didn't care if she thought swimming wasn't safe because I wouldn't want to trade safety for fun and she just told me she was trying to care for me. And so somehow there is a way that caring flows into being careful and constructing the sort of negative imagined future that must be guarded against. It's not the hope that makes you endure a negative situation but the pessimism that finds the possibility of future danger that must, out of kindness (for the janitors? the university? the potential burn victims?), lead to the present situation being extinguished. 

Thinking about this sort of excess caution, the claim to speak for a devastated future that demands control in the present, I feel sympathy for the climate skeptics who just want to watch and see if the world really does burn. But then there is the fact that they really aren't the people living where the crops are failing and the water is carrying away their house and the summers are too hot to endure and all they can really do is endure and care for eachother because no one cares about them, at least not the ones who are watching the world burn. 

So I guess i am sort of ambivalent, about pseudonyms, moving, writing, thinking, discipline, friendship and care. And I am hoping that I can eek out some more time to practice this ambivalence in this form. 

How to vote.

The thing is voting is not a real form of political action, a total joke. To make your vote some sort of important political statement gives it more value than it deserves. Rather, you should treat your vote as a relatively insignificant but tactical decision. Look at your state -- one of two candidates is going to win. If you live in a state where it seems nearly 100% sure one candidate is going to win, your vote doesn't really matter anyway and you might as well vote for whoever you like. However, if you live in a state where it's equally possible that one of two candidates is going to win, then suck it up and make your (insignificant yet tactical) decision between the two.


Having done this, don't think too much more about the election in terms of competing personalities but values and ethical truths. It is crucial here that you don't fall into the trap of trying to convince others how great any one candidate is. The whole point of a candidate is rob you of your ability to make decisions. Supporting candidates (which is different from voting for them) is really just supporting the very apparatus that endlessly seeks to convince you that your are not qualified or able to make your own decisions based on your own ethical truths.

Thus, never articulate support for candidates but only the values and truths that might lead you to vote for them. Then, consider the ways that you can realize these values and truths without relying on others to represent you or do something for you. This might mean going to a protest or a meeting. It might been making art. It might mean calling out a friend when they say something. It might really mean just surviving or helping others survive in a system meant to destroy the possibility of doing so.

All these actions can be done without thinking about this billion dollar electoral spectacle that is meant to convince us that our true power resides in the ability to chose others to act in our name. Fuck that. We got all the power we need. Give the spectacle the attention it deserves (not very much) and then get back to the real, hard, messy political work of the day to day.

The politicians will pander and beg but sooner or later we will regain the means to make our own world, to live without asking permission. 

Politics without a future

There's all this talk about a future to believe in, about incrementalism, about progress.
Politics imagined as a path, a movement, a set of adjustments to the machine. 
The future is utopic. It's not a place. It doesn't feed you.
Immediacy. The conditions of our existence are effaced and replaced.
Policy wonks, strategies and goals. 
Quarterly earnings reports. 

I imagine politics something other than this future dreaming, this deferral.
First, an engagement with the given.
 Politics isn't about coming to an agreement. About finding the best compromise.
 It isn't about a sober assessment of the facts. 
 It isn't about being realistic.
 The moment of the political is the moment when one breaks from the given. 
 When one changes the very terms of the debate. It is not slowly moving towards another possible world.
 It is an intimate engagement with the possible. 
 About demanding the impossible and suddenly seeing it become the given.
 it's about that violent shove that tips the center of gravity.
 That throws us into a new orbit. 
 Everything seems impossible until it's already happened.
 I am always suspicious of someone's politics when it is realistic.
 Realism is what is given.
 It is the last resort of this broken system.
 Ideology says it is not ideological.
 Hegemony urges us to be realistic.
 Both are hostile to imagination, even as they sell us their "imaginative" futures.
 We don't want their future. 
 We want to recognize the immanent politics of the utterance of the impossible. 
 That is the first moment of the political: 
 The break from consensus reality.
 The impossible demand. 
 The spoken unspeakable. 
 The second moment like wise is immediate. 
 It is the autonomist perspective. 
 Direct action to secure the necessary conditions of existence. 
 Don't not ask permission for some future world.
 Or come to a carefully crafted agreement or a strategic plan.
 Forget the future.
 Figure out how to manifest a different reality within and against.

 A temporality apart from the straight line. 
 The temporality of the mushroom bloom, the spark.
 The wild irruptions of a becoming apart.

Hacking Rent: A Proposal for Venture Communist Housing Cooperatives and Rent Control

The following is proposed model for funding and creating housing cooperatives. I must admit upfront that I am neither a programmer nor a lawyer, nor even someone who has extensive knowledge of housing cooperatives. All that aside, I believe that this model does propose something that is distinctively new, taking advantage of emerging digital technologies and existing models of housing cooperatives to decommodify housing and establish a decentralized  system of rent control.

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The Mask as Political Technology, or, Todos Somos Satoshi Nakamoto

The  uproar  over the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto reminds  me of another search for the true identity of a masked psuedonynomous  figure:  Subcommandante Marcos,  the zapatistarevolutionary. The connection between the cases  of Subcommandante Marcos and Satoshi Nakamoto are illuminating, helping throw into relief the politics of the mask and the compulsive desire we have to ascribe causation to things.  My goal with this post is not to enter the debate over the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto but to focus on the  politics of psuedonymity and the mask.

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Radicalization, Reform and the Heresy of Immanent Critique

What is to be done in the face of fundamentalist violence? What is the response to terror which disperses rather than affirms it, that disrupts its logic of differentiation? What is the role of empathy, compassion and love for radicals? 

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