Sunday, April 27, 2014

The World is a Flat Screen

While Daniel is trying to stir up rebellion with his Teaching Evaluation Strike, my response to Fisher is a bit more subdued. Even if his pop culture references are outdated, I thought this was a great little book with fresh insights. For example, the notion that capitalism has colonized our dreams by preemptively shaping our desires; that the old struggle between subversion and incorporation is over. Although Cobain and Nirvana have been overused as cultural examples, Fisher is right use it here: once Cobain realized that no amount of resistance would stop his music's absorption into the "mainstream," he chose the final form of resistance. Anytime I walk into a bar full of flat screens playing various football games, and the only chatter relates to the game, it reminds me two things: 1) Bradbury's visionary dystopian novel, Farenheit 451, and 2) Zizek's comment that it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. In fact, I think the final answer lies within that phrase. The recent series of environmental "near disasters" and financial "near crashes" has made our vision of the world's end is much more clear, though nobody wants to admit it. Perhaps something like a hurricane that wipes out New York, a tsunami that destroys California, a widespread water shortage, or hackers that penetrate the stock market and deplete everyone's net worth, will serve as the impetus for change. Fisher briefly mentions environmental dangers, but then he weirdly downplays it by saying the environment has become too politicized. Well, sir, if a mammoth hurricane takes out D.C., I think that might finally end the global warming debate. (Maybe a few Tea Party folks from Kansas and Kentucky would still cling to the "junk science" conspiracy theory.) Indeed, Fisher makes some great argument, particularly his claim that our mental health disorders are connected to the dysfunctionality of late capitalism. However, a problem like too much bureaucracy is not, by itself, powerful enough to change the system. There has always been some degree of bureaucracy and always will be. I prefer the "big bang" theory. The only question is how epic will the next disaster be?

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