Never Turn Yourself In

One doesn’t have to be an avid reader of Michel Foucault to see that our willing participation in social media is a new and invidious form of confession, which he understood as the most intimate instrument of institutional power and control. As we delineate and expose our wishes, wants and needs, our likes and dislikes, we willingly provide the information necessary for our own manipulation and subjugation. We make our selves into subjects, unless we learn instead to simulate, dissemble, bluff, fake, counterfeit, feign or sham. Never tell the truth. Never turn yourself in. That was, after all, the point of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Heidegger Is the Dubbyk of Twentieth-Century Philosophy

He and his vocabulary of charms haunt us, to the point that Dasein no longer needs the italics of a foreign word. The expurgation of Yiddish from German culture — admittedly a backhanded way to speak of the Holocaust — meant that a promising rival cognate of sorts was obliterated from wide currency. Doikayt could be translated as ‘here-and-now-ness” (Da-keit in German, as opposed to Da-sein, “being there”). It was a guiding principle of Bundism, the organized social democratic movement in eastern Europe whose focus was to seek alliances with other distinct and even sometimes hostile cultures, customs and religions in multicultural societies. After all, there is no escape possible from the principal contradiction, which is capitalism. So why go anywhere? Doikayt lost out to the escapist Zionist ideal of “somewhere-other-ness” (but a somewhere “we” once were). A relique of twentieth-century political nomencature, doikayt survived for only a few more decades, confined to the Yiddish-speaking diaspora, a seed without issue. As for Dasein, it has, alas, prospered, a fetish to wield within the English-speaking critical-theoretical academy, snaring us in convoluted tangles of speculative meaning from which there is no exit.

On the importance of Yiddish to high German literature, see Deutsch-Jüdischer Parnass: Literaturgeschichte eines Mythos, Willi Jasper.  As for the relation German once had with the Yiddish language: Was ist Deutsch?, Utz Maas. Finally, for bios and close-ups of the literary figures in the Canadian diaspora who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew, there is Cents ans de littérature yiddish et hébraïque au Canada, Heim-Lieb Fuks et Pierre Anctil. In the mid-twentieth century, small cells of Bundist affiliation influenced Canadian social democracy, in the big cities at least. The history of the Prairies was entirely different, but no less an extension of ideology forged in eastern Europe, not necessarily, it goes without saying, in the Pale. 

— H. H. N.

What’s in a Name?

“In the mid-1970s F.M. Esfandiary (Fereidoun M. Esfandiary / فریدون اسفندیاری) legally changed his name to FM-2030 … to break free of the widespread practice of naming conventions that he saw as rooted in a collectivist mentality, and existing only as a relic of humankind’s tribalistic past. He viewed traditional names as almost always stamping a label of collective identity—varying from gender to nationality—on the individual, thereby existing as prima facie elements of thought processes in the human cultural fabric which tended to degenerate into stereotyping, factionalism, and discrimination.”

< Wiki: FM-2030

Munich, not yet Vichy

Many, especially those in the pockets of the military industrial complex, think that at Munich in 1938 it should have been possible to foresee that allowing Germany to seize control of Czechoslovakia, even under a flmsy diplomatic veil, would have fearsome consequences.

A few days ago I re-posted on the July Agreement in which Germany and its Allies publicly inflicted abject status on Greece, this with we don’t know exactly which threats concerning the consequencces of a Grexit from the eurozone.

Was this, I asked, another Versailles, as the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis asserted? Or shouldn’t we better see this ukase in the light of the collaborationist Vichy government under Germany occupation, which the hobbled Greek one might then come to resemble?

Instead of Vichy, let me now paste in the trope of Munich. 

Vichy works as a simile up to a point, but there is an functioning parliament in Greece, with representatives  stretching from the openly fascist extreme right to what the bourgeois media call the extreme left, by which they mean those who speak openly of capitalism and class conflict. This was not the case in occupied France, where the only real opposition was underground and led by communists, who had, incidentally, stopped talking much about capitalism and class for the sake of national unity, résistance oblige.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but there are many analogies between what happened at Munich in 1938 and what Europe as a whole signed onto in July, 2015. Germany has not actually invaded Greece, but a crucial stage has now been passed in the developing crisis in which Europe finds itself. Instead of melting away, geopolitics is returning with a vengeance, dialectically one might say, right into heartland of those who were expressly trying to supercede it, wipe it by compromise away.  Henceforth it will be hard to speak of Europe without speaking of its internal power relations, in particular of German hegemony.

The eventual consequences of the Summer of 2015 are still latent, or as the French say, larvées. Only time will tell if this moment will mark the beginning of the end of Thomas Mann’s European Germany, as a German Europe becomes the new order of things, and as neo- and crypto-fascist movements proliferate outside of Germany but increasingly within.

The Surplus Value of Data

Data and ownership of it has increasingly become not just the measure but the object and engine of economic and political power. Corporations and states which do not control it on their own are merely producing it for others. From one perspective, data resembles property, property being, as Proudhon put it, theft, theft from the Commons. From another “neo-Marxist” perspective, data is analogous to “work value”. Our activities are the source of every bit of human data out there, but the value obtained from our data activities is alienated from us in the same way the surplus value of labor is extracted from workers in the old industrial order of things. Concern for privacy, typically turning around a question of “bourgeois” individual rights, is only a sideshow compared to the transformation in social relations occurring before our eyes.