Brian Holmes on Sat, 5 May 2012 01:54:16 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The insult of the 1 percent: "Art-history majors"

On 05/03/2012 04:40 PM, Sascha D. Freudenheim wrote:
My point is that I don't think over-generalizing from Conard's absurd
comments is necessarily very helpful. He's one guy. He's entitled to his
opinions, however ignorant we think they are. But there are people with
significantly more complex relationships to the world(s) of ideas, art,
culture, and wealth. Koch is one of them. I don't agree with most of his
political views, but he is evidence that there are people whose
motivations as part of the 1% are not as simple-minded as Conard's--and
not as simple as the rest of us often assume.

You know, Sascha, I am afraid you are the very example of the person whose opinions should no longer count in intellectual debates. Because you are unable to take a stand. You are unable to even see the ground you are standing on.

Sascha D. Freudenheim, I'm sorry but you are a useful fool for the ultra-rich. You are willing to accept the fact that they are buying our cultural institutions and will use them to promote their control. For you, society is "complex": the ultra-rich are after all, very smart, they have "good taste" in art, their motivations deserve to be weighed carefully. So, in short, you will apparently do as you are told, probably in order to lap up some milk from your master's bowl, or maybe just because you naively admire what are, after all, "the good people," those nice millionnaires who make generous gifts to formerly public museums and also to devastating Political Action Committees.

I remember that when the subject of student debt came up, you explained how it was something like a moral obligation for spoiled middle-class kids to pay for the expensive colleges they freely chose to attend. In other words, for you, there is no crisis of education, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the sacrifice of our public educational system and its replacement by one based on debt bondage and indenture. In other words, for you, the system is fine, maybe a little ambivalent: Koch might have some bad sides, but he also has some good sides...

This is what I call "neutrality." It exists in Europe and Asia as it does in North America.

If this kind of neutrality continues to be voiced by so-called intellectuals, well my friends, we are cooked. Literally. Climate change will destroy the planet and Koch will have saved the Met's dinosaurs!

Occupy Wall Street was started by a few dozen people. If all of us on this list of thousands of people would use our brains, our writing, our art, our professional positions, our social networks, to stand up against the control of our societies by the ultra-rich and to set up programs of constructive study in order to find new forms of governance and new cultural figures of desire and of solidarity, I reckon we could actually change the world. It is the neutrality of intellectuals, the propensity to take refuge in an abstracted vision of "complexity," and the willingness to be on the take but not on the give, that has, in part, led to this pass.

I believe the great majority of us (unlike Sascha) now see that the situation is threatening indeed. What can we do about it? OWS shows that we can do something about it. And if OWS is not the complete and total answer? Does that mean we should sigh and go lap up some dinosaur milk? No, I don't think so. As a returning Iraq vet said when he saw all the cops hasseling and arresting the protesters in New York, "There is no honor! There is no honor!" That's all he could say. This guy was so shocked to see people being arrested for trying to practice democracy, that's all he could say. It's like the woman I heard the other day, who's son is still in jail after twenty years, on the strength of a "confession" wrung out of him by torturers on the Chicago police force, all she could say was, "It's not fair. It's just not fair. It's not fair."

The vet forced the police away from the protesters. The mother struggles to get her son out of prison, and to help all the others like him.

It isn't fair. And there is no honor in formerly democratic societies that are now ruled by the ultra-rich. But we are writers and artists and scholars and engineers and programmers and art-history majors. We have to say more. We have to do more. We have to learn to do it together. Things are a little more serious now. Whew. It's hard to face this situation, but at some point I think one has to face it. There has been a little too much Sascha D. Freudenheim in all of us over these last years and decades.

I am open to constructive collaborations. Let's get to work.

best, Brian

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