April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Why is the military so keen on cutting war game programs and institutions, whose total budget amounts to less than the cost of a few Predator drones? Here we need to examine the nature of war as conceived through the use of war games and compare that to the one espoused by drone ideology. And the best way to do that is to consider how each attempts to create their own ‘Borges Map’, a 1:1 representation of reality placed on top of lived reality.
Consider the war game. Philip von Hilgers, in his history of ‘Kriegspiel’ in Germany, notes that war games allow one to play with various military hypotheses without being bound by the constraints of time.
“The war games and map exercises did not simply dissolve temporal references through a symbolic system, but allowed a temporal extension to occur that seemed to correspond to the hypothetical situation. It was precisely because war games granted time unlimited space that what was not planned could occur.”
Essentially, war games facilitate construction of a Borges Map through unlimited extension of time. Running various scenarios and potentials, the military mind can better map out all possible outcomes and create appropriate responses that will minimize casualties while inflicting maximum possible damage to the enemy. Compared to other military technologies, the war game allowed planners to layer multiple representations of reality on top of the actual reality of battle. The uncertainty of conflict, what many term the ‘fog of war’, becomes less obscure when one can eliminate the constraints of time. Despite its pursuit of rationalistic modeling, the war game nonetheless creates a space where metaphysical thought can mingle with the rational and produce a synthesis that not only affirms the humanity of the players but also places that humanity at the center of decision making. Descartes famous maxim, ‘I think, therefore I am’, could easily become, ‘I think, therefore I (war) game’.
Compare this to the ideology of Drones. read more
STILL: Benjamin Christensen
Winter always comes too soon. This year was the worst I can remember, except when I was five years old. Pushed open the front door, got lost in the snow
November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
Gay marriage, as framed in the United States, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy, in that it allows for a politics of the personal to masquerade as a necessity for policy change. In the process, it serves to distract us from the very real issues facing millions of U.S. citizens and residents. For instance, a primary argument for gay marriage has been that it would allow gays and lesbians to acquire health care and other benefits via their spouses. But this claim ignores the fact that the United States is the only Western nation that does not provide health care to its citizens, and that approximately 50 million Americans are without health care. The ability to marry would not help the millions of gays and lesbians without health care in the first place.
As law professor Nancy Polikoff points out in her comprehensive book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, the United States is unique in the way that it draws such sharp distinctions between the married and the unmarried. Countries like the Netherlands and Canada do treat gay and straight relationships equally in that they permit marriage, but what’s often ignored by U.S. gay marriage activists is the fact that these countries also treat married and unmarried people in equal ways. In other words, in Canada, you can be unmarried and still have health care and, in various instances, you can name a person who is not your romantic partner as the beneficiary of your estate. In the United States, however, your marital status is, increasingly, what determines your legal status as well as your legitimacy as a subject of the state.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the treatment accorded to single mothers on welfare. Following the egregiously named “Welfare Reform” package of 1996, poor women in particular have been subject to the kind of state intervention in their lives that would be held as unconstitutional if exerted on any other segment of society. With the collusion of the Religious Right, single mothers are required to undergo marriage counselling in an effort to get them to marry the fathers of their children. The stigma against unmarried people swirls around in U.S. culture at large, with an overwhelming array of messages in the media about single people as desperate, lonely souls who need to find their lifemates if they are ever to be considered as human beings. It is no coincidence that such a widespread delegitimisation of single people comes at a time when fewer people in the United States are getting married—currently, less than 50% of U.S. citizens are married. Divorce rates are higher than ever among those who do get married, sparking great anxiety on the part of the Right.
While the gay and lesbian community is widely seen as a liberal/progressive one, its rhetoric around marriage often mirrors the discourse of the Right on the need for marriage as a stabilising force. Gay marriage activists have taken to deploying the strategies of the Right in asserting that marriage is necessary to cure a host of ills, for instance even going so far as to claim that not having marriage increases the social stigma faced by the children of gay couples. But surely we live in an age where the children of unmarried straight people are not considered “bastards,” and are not disallowed from inheriting property or from receiving parental and state support because their parents were not married. In such claims to moral standards, gay marriage advocacy hearkens back to the conservatism of the 1950s and earlier eras. It’s this conservatism that allows for a blinkered distraction from the other, and more pressing, issues that face queers who are not, after all, immune from the ravages of the world. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Anni Leppälä
I’ve done boring jobs. I’ve worked in abattoirs stunning pigs and musicians and by the end of the day your back aches
October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
One historical irony of this transition from the intensive, state-coordinated investment in these grand projects (with their significant blue-sky R&D components) to our current model (with its emphasis on “results,” i.e., profitable applications) is the extent to which the current crop of profitable technologies came out of that previous era of state development.
Rather than a mystical substance exuded through the pores of entrepreneurial ubermenschen, like Steve Jobs, most of the actual innovations that have driven capitalist profitability over the last several decades—including computerization and the internet—were first developed through research intensive, collective state projects, like NASA or DARPA.
Entrepreneurial “innovation” in our neoliberal period could be likened to a process of enclosure, whereby, in John Gulick’s words, corporate capitalists and a reconfigured neoliberal capitalist state commodify and reapportion already existing technical infrastructure and cultural wealth, “rather than creating anything new.” Leigh Philips details these more recent uses of space technology in “Put Whitey Back On The Moon,” in the process of advocating a return to manned space exploration as part of a comprehensively social democratic program that includes “guaranteed incomes, well-funded pensions, a transformation to a low-carbon (or even carbon-negative) economy, and investment in space exploration.”
In other words, rather than ceding the utopian legacy of space travel to the likes of Newt Gingrich, while offering a standard neoliberal “austerian” justification for such a rejection, leftists should wholeheartedly embrace the old dream of modernity. The specter of communism, in interstellar form, haunts this call.
Communism put human beings in space. The Moon landing was the Soviets’ greatest accomplishment: a quip that transcends its most immediate nationalist point of reference, as evinced—Newt Gingrich aside—in the American right-wing’s longstanding antipathy toward the space program, or “big government” in space (unless it’s say Ronald Reagan touting a Star Wars-style space weapons program run by conservatives’ command economy of choice). read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Diane Arbus