Tag Archive: revolution


Ukraine & the threat of direct democracy

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“Power to the millions, not to the millionaires” (#Leftmaidan)

 

Three forms of democracy vie with each other in Ukraine today.

The first of these is what we might call authoritarian democracy. This is a hybrid of democracy and authoritarian rule, in which partially developed democratic institutions can be relatively easily played off against each other by the powers-that-be to maintain their rule.

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“COUNTRY UNDER RECONSTRUCTION. SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.” (from Ukrainian anarchist group Blackmaidan)

“It is as if, for a moment, the ‘projection’ of the outside world has stopped working; as if we have been confronted momentarily with the formless grey emptiness of the screen itself…”  (Slavoj Zizek, describing the scene outside a traveling couple’s window in Robert Heinlein’s “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”)

 

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Ukrainian update

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Regular readers will know of my interest in Ukraine, where I lived for a year as a Canada-USSR Scholar in 1989-90, and where I’ve visited at least ten times since, for varying lengths of time.

I’ve been following events unfolding there from afar, and have begun a blog called UKR-TAZ: A Ukrainian Autonomous Zone, which collects statements by Ukrainian writers, scholars, and cultural leaders on the revolution (which is what it should be called, at this point).

The following is a pretty good summary of important facts about the revolution. It’s a complex situation, so there’s always a risk of oversimplification. But this is a very good start.

 

 

 

At Space and Politics, Gaston Gordillo continues his Spinozan-Deleuzian account of the “revolutionary resonance” of the tumult spreading across the Arab world.

“The longer a resonance lasts and the farther it expands the stronger it becomes. During most of human history, the maximum speed at which a revolutionary resonance traveled was the speed of the bodies carrying it within them. [...]

“In the Egyptian Revolution, the synergy between the velocities generated on these networks of instant communication and in the urban terrain was decisive in allowing the multitude outmaneuver state violence and state propaganda. The revolution was fought at different yet inseparable velocities: the speed of swarms of bodies clashing with the police on the streets and the much-faster speed of the affective resonances generated by those clashes and amplified over the internet and TV networks not controlled by the Egyptian state like Al Jazeera. Disembodied and projected instantly as images, sounds, and text onto countless computers and TV screens, these resonances became embodied again by affecting the millions of bodies watching, listening, and reading. Not all bodies were affected the same way. Yet millions resonated positively, and not just in Egypt.”

Read the entire article here.

Revolutionary democracy

Here are a few thoughts after watching Frontline’s Revolution in Cairo, which is a very good 24-minute summary of how this particular democratic moment occurred, and after reading Badiou‘s, Hardt & Negri’s, Hallward‘s, Amit Rai‘s, and some other takes on the events.

(1) The recipe:

Tools + Techniques + Events + Vision = The revolution(s) we’ve been witnessing

The first three, in the Egyptian instance, are pretty easy to identify (click on the links). To oversimplify just a little, they are   View full article »

happy solstice

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Two revolutions are being marked this weekend. One of them is natural, cyclical, the revolution of the earth around the sun with the sun reaching its most northerly point (in closeness to the surface of the tilted planet we live on), standing still for a brief moment, and turning back to the south. The second is political: a periodic, and perhaps naturally recurring (since humans are natural), swelling of collective energy that’s gotten particularly concentrated this week at the nodal point of the “city of 72 nations,” Tehran (35 N latitude, 51 E longitude).

Phenomenologically speaking (in terms of how earth-bound humans experience it), it’s not the earth that goes around the sun; it’s the sun that comes closer and then recedes. The solstices mark the two end points, and northerly peoples traditionally — and as universally as anything religio-cultural — have found this to be the high point of the living year, the height of life’s potency in the dynamic interplay of birthing and deathing, Yanging (in the Chinese system) and Yining, expansion and contraction. (For southerly peoples it’s the opposite, a time of withdrawal, inwardness, contemplation, a time for telling stories about how to get through the winter, carrying the flame through the darkest nights. But winters aren’t as severe in the habitable south, on average, since there’s so much less of it than there is habitable north, and the southern tip of South America is only as far from the equator as the “Athens of the north,” Edinburgh.)

That height of expansion is something one can feel in a fairly obvious way in the wet and dark green hills of Vermont where I’ve spent the weekend. But with many people’s lives no longer dependent on a natural calendar these days — and with generations of separation, in many cases, from a time when that dependence was clearly marked in collective rituals — celebrating the solstice becomes an artificial activity, a personal option that realigns one’s identity with a turn ‘back’ (back in time, back to ‘nature’, back to reason, in a sense) but also marks one as part of a distinct minority, encompassable under the umbrella term ‘pagan.’

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I’m sure I’m not the only one following these events with excited trepidation and a feeling of almost wanting to be there (but glad also to be watching it from afar). Which makes me wonder: what is it about revolutionary moments that fires the imagination and keeps us, or me at least, plugged into them like to a virtual intravenous drip? Is it personal — that I grew up in the 1970s feeling that I had missed the 1960s; or a desire to re-experience the feeling I had living in Ukraine for a year during the tremendous societal opening-up of 1989-90 as the Soviet Union began crumbling all around? Or is it that these events capture, and never satisfy, that constant generic craving of something — to fill that lack or gap or “basic fault” in human nature that modern social relations exacerbate and that consumer capitalism is so expert at fueling (well beyond anything the Buddha could have imagined)? (For all its evident shortcomings and overextensions, Morris Berman’s Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West remains one of my favorite articulations of that gap, a quasi-Foucauldian psychosomatic excavation of the ‘modern soul.’)

Or is it mainly a hope for change, that utopian ‘principle of hope’ Ernst Bloch‘ writes about, that makes us want to believe that things can change for the better — which is why conservatives, who don’t believe change will ever be for the better, reject the whole idea as childish and annoying? But can this one turn out any better than, say, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of a few years ago? (A few things did improve after that one: media control was loosened dramatically, or at least decentralized among rival oligarchs, with arguably positive effects on the whole; and political options became more open and more imaginable. But the last few years have seen a constant, ongoing deflation of political spirit in Ukraine.) Will Iran’s ‘Green Revolution’ be messy and bloody (as it appears today) or will it triumph only to then dissipate into political machinations, co-opted like so many others? What’s the activists’ game plan for afterwards? For that matter, would I have been there alongside Foucault cheering on the students and clerics in the 1979 revolution, and how is this moment different from that one?

Understanding the dynamics of revolutionary or ‘open’ moments is important — which is part of what attracts me to the thinking of Deleuze, Guattari, DeLanda, William Connolly, Brian Massumi, Teresa Brennan, Nigel Thrift, and others for whom processes of “affective contagion” make up a crucial dimension of political change. In his summary of models of affective contagion (Non-Representational Theory, pp. 235ff.), Thrift describes an intensifying anxious obsessive-compulsive “time structure” in Western liberal-democratic polities, where “a growth in desengagement and detachment is paralleled by moments of high engagement and attachment” (p. 240), like this one unfolding in Iran.

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