allan siegel on Thu, 1 Dec 2016 18:09:44 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Trump Rising - "the post office has been stolen and the mailbox


Starting from Javier's recent post: he makes a very basic point
regarding the racism intrinsic to US political reality. It is not simply
about how it enervates Trump supporters but about how it defines the
narrow parameters of political discourse buttressed by a two party
system controlled by a virtually monolithic power structure. Thus, in
the US, a democratic ethos that should govern political processes is
simply a veneer that protects the oligarchs (or plutocrats, depending)
who wield the levers of power. The only times this stranglehold has been
even marginally threatened is when the structural racism of political
and economic institutions has been exposed and confronted. It was both
the resistance to the war in Vietnam AND the civil rights movement that
exposed some of the basic inequities in the political system and
provoked a short-lived crisis in the two-party system,

The impact of this translated into fuller enfranchisement of the
population which translated, sometimes, in shifts in the balance of
power. Yet, these shifts (for a number reasons) never translated into
changing the two party nature of political discourse or the choices
available to the electorate. The manner in which the Sanders campaign
was undermined confirms this. Consequently, yet again, the election was
not about real political choices but choosing "the lesser of two evils."
A regular mantra that appears every four years in the US when people go
to vote in national elections. And, consequently, the Trump phenomenon
was and is only an extreme example of the recurring choices available to
the electorate. The problem now is that the political and economic
dynamics of the global playing field are more complicated and risks more
dangerous and far reaching (in terms of human life and our various
social environments).

In the context of this very brief and truncated analysis, without a
substantial and viable alternative to the perpetual two-party deadlock
nothing really substantial will change. In the US this deadlock
manifests itself as an inherently repressive regimes that regulate
discourse and eliminate (often literally) those that challenge and
expose the boundaries of political discourse and action. This is not a
harsh or extreme description but a simple stating of recurring events in
North American society.  So, analysis is essential, but it requires also
the capacity to transform that analysis into meaningful forms of
political action. This is the dilemma we are confronted with (with or
without Trump). Nettime's Avid Reader piece about building a network of
rebel cities speaks directly to one way of addressing this dilemma:
"Cities are spaces in which we can talk about reclaiming popular
sovereignty for a demos other than the nation, where we can reimagine
identity and belonging based on participation in civic life rather than
the passport we hold." The origins of the demos, after all, rests in
ancient cities; In Athens it defined the social space that nurtured
various forms of discourse and defined some of the values we associate
with Western Democracy.  Furthermore, history is resplendent with
extraordinary examples of resistance and rebellion against all forms of
tyranny emanating from and being shaped by values, social demands and
political processes forged within urban movements (hey, remember the
Paris Commune). Yet, needless to say, not all of these outpourings of
resistance were successful. Yet, many were; and in either case they all
provide much material to be studied and learned from.

The problem, in the U.S. in particular, is that too often people have no
sense of that history (either global or local)  or don't bother to
figure out how it can inform and shape contemporary struggles. We cannot
forever be starting at the beginning and forgetting  what can be learned
from the past; what lessens can be learned to create and formulate
viable, sustainable, forms of resistance. The ascendance of Trump, and
his form of populism, is fundamentally ahistorical in that it speaks to
a perceived 'crisis of the moment' unhinged from all that has preceded
it. And, delivered to us via the media fog and spectacle so presciently
described by the Situationists. To counter this tsunami of 'false
consciousness' necessitates a political agenda and organizational forms
not clothed in leftist clichés but in a truly radical vision  of what is
possible and also achievable.


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