This week, as Zero Hedge reports, the student loan bubble is bursting. According to the Fed:
Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion since last quarter. However, of the $42 billion, $23 billion is new debt while the remaining $19 billion is attributed to previously defaulted student loans that have been updated on credit reports this quarter. As a result, the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increased to 11 percent this quarter.
Let’s face it, one of the major impediments to radical political change is that those committed to it lack the resources or access to mobilize them. Here we see a rare opportunity, where some of those who are struggling have considerable leverage. You don’t need to band together by the thousands and take to the streets (though that would be helpful). You merely need to not pull out your checkbook for the next year and let your student loans go into default. Refuse to repay your loans, because in an opulent society like ours, free education should be standard. Force the banking institutions into a crisis, and demand a jubilee through loan forgiveness programs.
All along the East Coast, Americans are bracing for a weather disaster of some sort. The further north Hurricane Sandy travels, those of us in the mid-Atlantic and New England anticipate its merger with a Nor’easter and at a time when pressure systems will cause the hurricane to take a sharp westerly turn.
We are now hearing that degraded satellite and other weather monitoring equipment is likely to impact the accuracy of prediction. The infrastructure hasn’t been maintained as well as it should, and glitches and poor data quality are probable.
What they used to call ‘global warming’ had transformed into ‘climate change’ since, after all, weather wasn’t merely heating up, it was also cooling, and other weather events were significantly altering. It eventually got so out of whack that many now call it ‘global weirding,’ which seems to me an appropriate phrase. But when a National Weather Service meteorologist referred to this unprecedented storm that is about to ravage the East Coast, he called it ‘a monstrous hybrid vortex.’
Such a description seems to describe the climate events we should anticipate, not only over the next few days, and along a few hundred miles of coastline on one particular continent. Instead, we might recognize that in what some are calling the Anthropocene, the atmosphere around this planet is an aggregation of monstrous vortices that rejects accurate modelling, not purely because of our decaying technological infrastructure, but because the unfolding events confound human cognition and the devices we use to scaffold our feeble minds to an unhinged and uncontrollable natural universe. In this age, our monsters are the air we breathe, and they are far more restless than Frankenstein’s.
I just completed a fascinating interview with McKenzie Wark about his recent book, The Beach Beneath The Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International. The book profiles the ideas and activities of various characters involved in the preceding and formative years of SI. Part of this interview will be included in an “interactive review” of the text in an upcoming issue of Humanity & Society, and the full content will be submitted elsewhere.
In describing his motivation for writing this book, Wark says:
The book began as preliminary research for writing about the digital avant-garde of the 1990s, which was sort of rhizomatic, dispersed, and transnational. I was struggling for a point of entry, and I thought ‘What was one book that everyone would have read who was on this scene?’ And I thought ‘Society of the Spectacle! We all read that!’ Everyone read that book. So I re-read it and I thought, ‘This is a really amazing book! We thought we’d superseded this or transcended this, but we really haven’t. ‘Everyone reads the first chapter. You know, Debord’s famous account: ‘The world appears as a vast accumulation of spectacles’ and so on… But the meat of the book is in the later chapters. It’s really a book about detournement and the practice of plagiarism, that culture is always a commons, that’s collectively produced and so on. Actually, that’s the central idea of the book. So, I wanted to know the context of that book. What was the movement that produced it? So I read about the Situationist International. And I thought, ‘I want to know more about the context that produced them.’
This led him to the point where The Beach Beneath the Street begins, in post-war France. In this time, a variety of Marxist tendencies were emerging, from the existentialism of Sartre to Leninist and Maoist groups. For Wark, this is a time that continues to inspire intellectuals today, but they are often taking a “wrong turn.” He describes himself “as someone who always identified with a critical, libertarian, Marxist set of intellectual currents.” This turn is toward a popular tendency in cultural criticism and theory among twenty-first century inheritors who are bringing forward hyperacademic and idealist work that emerged in this period, alongside the Situationists.
Reviving Leninism in the twenty-first century, it struck me, seemed like a really terrible idea. Reviving Maoism seemed like an even worse idea. So I wanted to tell a story that would open up some other pathways through a kind of resolutely non-Stalinist, libertarian, nonacademic but very intellectually serious set of avant-garde movements. It struck me that telling the story of the Situationist International was one way to really start that. An alternative to reading Jacque Lacan is to read his exact contemporary, Henri Lefebvre. An alternative to reading Althusser is to read his almost exact contemporary, Asger Jorn. It was just a way to open up these other paths, another way of doing works that, I think, are much more interesting. They [Situationists] are partly about doing intellectual work, but they’re also about practices. They’re about forming collaborative practices with people who work in other forms, in other media, and so on. So I was just trying to make a gesture toward all these things, all these other ways of working that are antecedents to things you could do now, other than things that seem hypertheoretical but in a vacuum and to politically go back to some of the worst choices you could possibly make and bring them into the twenty-first century.
For more, see the articles to come…
News is spreading about a protest by leading websites that plan to shut down in response to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Hundreds, maybe thousands are following suit. This will not be one of them.
Many suffer the delusion that the internet is or can be a wonderland for democratic activity.
I say this is delusional because it neglects practical and technical aspects of the internet. In practice, the internet is a source of cognitive strain and disengagement from political life. To punctuate the latter point, consider that adult websites receive 10,000 times the traffic of political websites (see The Myth of Digital Democracy). Technically, the internet depends upon highly centralized protocols that allow for controls like SOPA to function in the first place. I have read expressions of the idea that SOPA is antithetical to the principles embedded in the internet (one of the better examples is from Cory Doctorow) and this legislation will effectively “break the internet.” This is pure fantasy, a fool’s paradise. It might be antithetical to this fool’s paradise, but not to the internet’s technical and socio-political realities. Continue reading
On Friday, 26 members of Occupy Albany were arrested, and another 13 on Saturday. Eight of those arrested were members of the Radical Caucus.
The following “Statement by the Members of Occupy Albany’s Radical Caucus Arrested Saturday and Sunday Evenings in Lafayette Park” was released today:
On Saturday evening 26 people were arrested and on Sunday evening 13 were arrested for remaining in Lafayette Park past a curfew. This curfew did not exist until days before the first General Assembly in Lafayette Park. Among each night’s arrestees were 8 members of the Occupy Albany Radical Caucus. While we took part in this action, we would like to make it known we are not of the view that occupying public spaces and appealing to the Bill of Rights is sufficient action for the creation of a just society. No government can grant us rights; they can merely take away our autonomy. This was demonstrated last night when we were arrested.
The privatization of public space and resources must be thoughtfully and effectively resisted. We feel it is essential to defend against this offensive by the 1% and their lapdogs such as Andrew Cuomo. But we also recognize that it will be necessary to challenge the property rights system which forms the legal basis for many of the material injustices done upon the 99%. Eviction of persons from their homes by banks and landlords, the idling and off-shoring of our productive capacity, falling wages for those who remain employed, and the elimination of an already miserly social safety net are all methods by which the wealth of our nation is being consolidated to the richest 1%. This extraction can only be ended by moving beyond a system which affirms the property rights of owners to act with profit driven self-interest and towards a system that holds people accountable for the shared costs they impose on society.
Stage One: Occupy Public Space.
Occupy Together, an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street, has seen tens of thousands of people in cities all over the world reclaiming public spaces.
Stage Two: Occupy Unused Property.
Occupy Oakland, perhaps the most radical — and perhaps most effective — of the occupations has moved on to the logical “next stage,” and movements everywhere should take note.
This is not without precedent in this movement and those that inspired it. Last week in Madrid, a hotel was occupied and opened up to people evicted in foreclosures:
The abandoned Hotel Madrid, which was taken over by an unknown number of squatters on October 16 after a mass rally in the capital organized by the 15-M movement, opened its doors on Monday to the first person to take up the group’s stated strategy of “freeing up spaces for common use.”
In an interesting piece by Tom Engelhart , he writes about “the second occupation” going on in New York City right now. By this, he is referring to the police protection of the New York Stock Exchange and its immediate vicinity, which they’ve had locked down since before the marchers arrived on September 17.
He wrote about a recent trip to Wall Street where he saw “the streets around the Stock Exchange barricaded and blocked off to traffic, and police everywhere in every form (in and out of uniform) — on foot, on scooters, on motorcycles, in squad cars with lights flashing, on horses, in paddy wagons or minivans, you name it.” Continue reading
“People don’t want to get involved. They’d rather watch on TV,” said Troy Simmons, 47, who joined demonstrators as he left work. 
“The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching! The whole world is watching!”
The crowd resounds, chanting condemnation in unison to an army of police abusing Occupy Wall Street protesters.They are, of course, referring to a contingent of protesters and media armed with still and video cameras, who appear to outnumber those protesters without.
Let’s consider this chant, and what’s being said. Continue reading
The Occupy Wall Street movement more effectively addresses the cause of the financial crisis than economists and discussions in the mainstream press. Further, this movement embodies democratic solutions for a way beyond the crisis. This essay focuses on Occupy Wall Street’s facilitating of political action from disparate, heterogeneous partisans; increasing of transparency and participation in decision-making; and relying upon both human-scaled and participatory technologies. Through these processes, the Occupy Wall Street micro-community embodies a vision for a pluralistic, direct democratic society and demonstrates it through practice. Continue reading