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The angry Left

For a long time I used to go to bed early … Hold on. Oh, sorry. That’s Proust. For a long time I used to really struggle with the kind of anger evoked in me by the cruelty and catastrophic destructiveness of the neo-capitalist enterprise. It is after all a set of systems and imperatives that make complicity in criminal activity inevitable, and presents it as an equally inevitable good.

A system like that is always going to ratchet up one’s paranoia and guilt. In fact, the social inequities in which twenty-first-century capitalism excels fractures people to the degree that they start to behave in ways that can be described as serious mental illnesses.

Even when we establish a coherent political and ethical position in order to construct a meaningful life that can to some extent withstand the schizoid mindsets we are presented with as options for identity, things still fracture within us and those fractures foreshadow their appearance in odd and unexpected ways. We buy a cat or have a child when our relationship is just about to go south, we take on a job we hate right when we need to devote ourselves to writing poetry, or things just stop making sense in the middle of a sentence.

My own unreliable early warning system of incoming fracture points often manifests itself when my thoughts start snagging themselves on the thoughts of others, perhaps things I would expect to take as read, but that keep coming back to me, annoying me like flies in summer.

Somewhere in the lee of one approaching fracture I once found myself really struggling with something The Clash said in one of their songs. Of course this was a tiny peripheral event in my life that kept knocking on the wall of my closed introspection. And perhaps all the more reason why I should have taken notice. When a song gets stuck in your head, it’s not a random event. There’s always a meaning to be made, associations to be discovered if you take the time.

What The Clash said in their great and prophetic song ‘Clampdown’ was, ‘Let fury have the hour/ Anger can be power/ Do you know that you can use it?’

If I ever get a tattoo, I think I’d get the opening line of ‘Clampdown’ indelibly stamped on an as yet undecided part of my torso: ‘Taking off his turban, they said is this man a Jew?’ Or maybe a few lines from Sandinista!’s ‘Midnight Log’: ‘I don’t believe in books/ But I read them all the time/ For ciphers to the riddles/ And a reason to the rhymes.’ In fact maybe I should just get Joe Strummer’s entire lyric output inked on my body. I mean he’s never going to write more, so it’s not as if I’m going to run out of space. I’d become a walking poetry chapbook. Or perhaps I will be like a version of Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man, and the events of my life will start to take on a strange and prophetic quality, as the dreams of those people on the street I walk among will begin to rearrange themselves into a political shape that accepts no injustice. Or maybe everyone around me will suddenly develop a compulsion to learn to play a couple of power chords and scream like a paranoid ghoul or a drunken zombie trying to vomit up its own intestines. Whatever. It’s got to be worth trying. The tattoos I mean. I’d better get on to it.

Anyway, yes, when I first learned that music could be political I felt as if a great weight had been lifted off me. Someone was saying the things I wanted to say, saying them better and louder, so I didn’t have to say them. All I had to do was sing along. Sometimes, if I felt overwhelmed with poisonous thoughts about the state of the world and my inability to effect any change I’d turn a song like ‘Know Your Rights’ up to earbleeding volume, say, four or five times in a row. And get drunk.

In those days I took Strummer at his word, and thought ‘Yep, anger can be power’ and started working with young children as a political stance on masculinity, and throwing myself into work with Amnesty International, local environment groups and so on. Of course the reasons why we say we do things are never congruent with the reasons why we actually do things. But more on that another time. Anyhow, the kind of outrage that motivated me for several years was, in the end, unsustainable. I collapsed in a humiliating welter of weird decisions, burbling about children and justice and alcohol and even stopped reading books and listening to music.

But what struck me after a prolonged period of toxic melancholia, continual work, a bit of bad acid, and a lot of vodka and solitude was that maybe Strummer and company, like a lot of other voices on the Left, hadn’t distinguished between anger and fury well enough. I started to wonder if they were the same thing. These days, if I hear another paranoid angry outburst about the necessity of some fixed political utopia I’ll probably start turning the volume up again on ‘Know Your Rights’. And my stereo is louder these days, and has wheels.

The Left’s public fight against injustice often seems to me to rely on firing up everyone’s anger. Like a lot of well-meaning people, I’m signed up to Avaaz and GetUp!’s mailing lists and while I appreciate the work they try to do, the emails I get urging me to action seem so peculiar, so earnest, brimming with righteous tears and triumphal burning optimism, like an advertising campaign that substitutes ‘Burma’ for ‘Coke,’ that if I were younger and more fragile I’d go and lie down with a bottle. And it wouldn’t have Coke in it.

‘Wow!’ says a recent email from Avaaz. ‘Our people-powered community has just hit 15 million strong – the largest online political movement anywhere! Size matters, but spirit matters more and ours is on fire! Together we’re running more campaigns, taking more actions, winning more and winning bigger than ever before.’

Seriously, who wrote that? My best guess is Justin Bieber’s spin-doctor moonlighting for some street cred. It’s as if the Left has become a giant helping profession.

Continually having to crank up our anger and indignation is tiring and dispiriting. And it’s not as if it gets us anywhere. Whenever I’ve been angry, and the anger fades, I just feel washed out, as though the kitchen sink has drained of water and left a scum of vegie bits and bacon fat around the plughole.

In fact, working professionally in the area of violence prevention I quickly learned that anger will get you precisely absolutely nowhere. What that anger generally is of course, is a kind of righteous indignation. The person who has experienced violence doesn’t need anybody else’s indignation. They know too well that expressions of indignation are very often followed by impotent, self-serving and futile action that they are supposed to be grateful for.

But, to survive in this weird, networked, hyper-capitalist world something has to drive you; something that won’t fade, or buckle under pressure; something that can motivate and achieve change. And by that motive force, I mean something that underlies political understanding. Something that bedrocks it and keeps it firmly situated in the realm of the actual, that has the energy to begin the rewriting of human relationship where relationship has been deemed to be contemptible.

My money is on fury. Fury is directed not at people but at practices; at structures both external and internal. Fury doesn’t rant the way that anger does. Fury doesn’t wax and wane like anger, and, unlike anger, fury isn’t dependent on how you feel.

Anger often gives hangovers. But nobody ever woke up after igniting their fury with their pants round their ankles, a splitting headache and a lot of apologies to make. Fury never runs out of fuel. Injustice never ends, and fury is fuelled by injustice. Fury doesn’t consume us the way that anger does. Fury burns without consuming. Fury doesn’t humiliate anybody even when someone is at fault and unrepentant. If one of the consequences of anger is that things are said that will later be regretted, the consequence of fury is the knowledge that patience has to be never-ending. The slogan of fury is ‘No pasaran.’

Perhaps most significantly, fury has no truck with hatred. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova put it neatly in her closing statement at the Pussy Riot trial: ‘I have no private spite. But I have political spite.’ Fury has a long memory. To hate someone for robbing you is understandable, at least in the short term. But in the long term, being overwhelmed with hatred damages us beyond repair. Still, fury reminds us that to invite the robber back into our house would be an act of stupidity until the structural change has been achieved that only fury can drive. Forgiveness always has fury as its armature.

Generating outrage is easy. Often the Left, and especially the literary Left, excels in this. It’s not enough to be angry, and frankly, it looks pointless, more like a kind of narcissistic defence against one’s own helplessness than anything else. It’s the luxury of the bourgeoisie, a betrayal of the oppressed, who may well not be angry at all, but very very determined. The raped, the brutalised, the abandoned and the wretched don’t need the balm of our bourgeois anger, the petty expressions of our idiotic and unthinking hatreds.

The angry Left is a non-viable project. Things are unbelievably desperate and the cultivation of outrage, so easy to do, is just another way in which we bolster our weird neo-capitalist identities. We successfully keep radical change at a safe distance, even as we advocate for it, conspiring in the triumphal narratives of goodies and baddies, narratives in which the world changes but we remain the same, eternally comforted by our anger.

Stephen Wright lives in Nimbin on a land-sharing community. He has won some things (2009 Eureka Street Prize, 2013 Nature Conservancy Prize) and been shortlisted for others (2012 Creative NonFiction Prize, 2014 Calibre Prize). He is writer-in-residence at Blue Knob community cafe, Nimbin.

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    • No way. From memory Aeneas has a mission to found Rome and thereby lay the foundations of the future Roman empire. Vergil, because of his humanity and because Republic sentiments had not been entirely eradicated realised that empire came at a cost which was something like human suffering.

      Aeneas himself is conflicted in his political mission by social relationships and family obligations that constitute his identity.

      One of the most important words in the Aeneid is the Latin ‘furor’ whence fury. It is something that grips Aeneas at critical moments. It might be closer to Stephen’s anger than fury but if I recall correctly it entails a certain madness. (Perhaps a useful cognitive lapse, a brain explosion.) The central theme of Vergil could from memory be the paradoxes and ambiguities entailed in Aeneas’s states of furor. There. Nobody has to bother with reading it now.

  1. ‘Yep, anger can be power’ and started working with young children as a political stance on masculinity, and throwing myself into work with Amnesty International, local environment groups and so on. Of course the reasons why we say we do things are never congruent with the reasons why we actually do things. But more on that another time.

    I would argue that cultural norms and morality (constructed and fluid, of course!) would have us second guess ourselves- we often identify with the selfish reason or the reason that we think is closest to the heart of our instinctual nature. Eg. Isn’t the sociological imagination by it’s very nature driven by experience? We need to identify a problem to be able to truly know it and think about it. Do we resist education because we can’t do it or do we resist institutionalized education today because it is an unsatisfying experience which could hardly find a parallel with the standards of education of a few decades ago? Do we resist it because it’s an extension of capitalism and we don’t think education should (or rather CAN) be sold? It’s easy to think that you’re being lazy and making excuses for yourself, but when you look at why it is that you find it so unappealing an option, then you start to think about things with a little more clarity. You have to ignore the social conscious and go with your own- alas, if you let them battle it out, you’ll end up with one of those neuroses—freud was right. If that’s one thing that feminism has really achieved- it’s the importance of the personal and the political (and the dissolution of the boundary between the two) and finding ways to let them both form each other (as concepts). Experiences are fragmented, but we can still find patterns of oppression and trace them to their source. Any action motivated by that anger- or fury?- has a series of roots at it’s core.

    Toxic melancholia, should you ever experience a relapse, has a range of treatments which have been explored in a little book called The Anatomy of Melancholy. Ignore all the semi-noxious weed tincture curesand skip straight to the part where Burton talks about wine being good for balancing the humors. Sometimes all you need is a seventeenth century medical exploration of the ills of the world to make you realize that you need that glass of chardonnay. Not too much, though. Apparently you feel worse if you drink too much. I’m not speaking from experience- just relaying the details! (good tram read)

    I am also disillusioned with left wing organisations or rather certain representations of them- it’s almost sickening to read some of the angry, bitter and unreasonable comments that emerge (eg. Police presence at riots etc). The left seems to be imagined by many as the arena to enter when you’re dissatisfied (if even you’re not completely sure why). I think people do possess an energy associated with that dissatisfaction, but don’t really stop to deconstruct it. Maybe that’s why so many causes have been given up on (I keep asking my dad why education isn’t free- he can’t explain why it’s not). It makes me so angry that I want to twitter about it. Or like a related cause on Facebook. That’s where the real punch lies. Online. (it’s late and this is poorly articulated so I will just accentuate the SARCASTIC hue to the latter part of my rant).

    This is the most refreshing, heart warming, not-too-nauseatingly optimistic piece of writing that I have had the pleasure of accidentally encountering in a very long time! Thank you very much! How much solace I take to know that a mind that could produce such thought exists somewhere in the world.

  2. I think that generally, there’s not enough second-guessing around. Mostly we tend to take things as read I think. Especially the little stuff, which is often really the big stuff.
    The great thing about fury is that anything can usefully fuel it; bitterness, disappointment, happiness, breakfast. It’s completely omnivorous. This morning I read that the Fed Police have said that all young Muslim men are potential terrorists. I could really blow my stack about that, and hopefully an OL blogger will take the issue up, but it’s an issue that I can certainly use to stoke myself up for the day’s challenges.
    The toxic melancholia I addressed by learning to think. Useful capacity, thinking.

    • What a great article Stephen. I could not agree more. I hope comments at this late stage are still okay? I have been obsessed lately with exactly this point, the concept of anger in political debate (from both the left and right), the concept of goodies and baddies, and how this arrangement most often ends in no change to the status quo.

      This does infuriate me but these days I would never make that apparent in a public debate, because that is all that is happening at the moment, continuously in fact, and I would not like to add to it. What would be the point? I’m not quite sure about the distinction you make between anger and fury. My personal distress about the injustices I see do inform what I say, but I fall firmly into the realm of reasoned, respectful debate, as the way to go, not name-calling or debasement of any kind.

      To illustrate, I would prefer never to see the word ‘misogyny’ again, because we have already been down that road, and the war was won. I personally feel very confident of my equality on a gender basis, and if I ever found myself in an abusive personal relationship, I would see it as a mental-health issue, not a gender one. If I am discriminated against on almost any ground you care to mention, I have the right to take the discriminator to court. It is not so great in other countries of course, but first things first. If you can get it right in your own backyard, it might be helpful elsewhere.

      I see the discrepancy between what is enshrined in our laws, and what is apparent in public life, as a lag in social education, and education in general, not about any kind of war.

      These wars always start with attacking some part of a person’s identity; their gender, their class, religion, culture, race or sexual orientation. The only response available when you do that is defence, hence the polarised views, and the goodies and baddies, etc.

      Instead by now, I think we should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder no matter the differences, and call unethical behaviour or speech for what it is – unethical, whether its roots are in one or the other of the usual ‘baddies’ list. People will always defend their identity, but I think few would support poor behaviour on its own.

      Education is the key, but how to go about it is a real mystery to me. I wish I had a magic wand. This possibly sounds like an extremely Utopian view, or perhaps a litany of motherhood statements, but I really think it is very possible to address things differently and more helpfully by taking a nice gentle Middle Path between the extremes you speak of. We should collectively put our minds to it.

      • Hi Karen
        comments at any time are fine. Sometimes I have to go back and check on what I have written though before I reply.
        My point about anger vs fury is fairly central. I’m arguing for a differentiation of some sort of energised, informed driven state that does not just engage all the old tropes of anger. I’m also arguing for such a state as being more sustainable even as it burns brighter.
        I’m afraid I disagree on the use of ‘misogyny’. In fact I have written an earlier post with that very title. I don’t think that battle has been won at all. In my work running a service that works with men who use violence it seems blatantly obvious that the battle has barely started. I don’t think that male violence is a mental health issue. I think it is a political issue to do with the structure of power, both personal and systemic, with gender as its marker. Anyway, even mental health often has political causes – that is, it is grounded in the way we build relationships and social orders. The violent man may well have problems with mental health, but lots of people do who do not use violence. Violence is part of the male domain of identity and that is why it is such a problem. I wish ending violence and discrimination were as straightforward as taking someone to court, but unfortunately that is often not a viable or useful solution.

        • Fair enough. I see that side too. But for sometime now the issue of violence has been spoken about in those terms and hasn’t changed much. I just cannot agree with your argument that because other people with mental-health issues aren’t violent, means a person’s use of violence doesn’t stem from mental-health issues.

          I have seen this argument applied to other problems such as child sexual abuse and addictions of all kinds, i.e “Other people have been sexually abused as children, and THEY didn’t go on to abuse others”, implying there is something intrinsically wrong with the person who was abused. Or, “Other people lived their childhood being beaten from pillar to post, and THEY didn’t stick a needle in their arm”, implying once again that these things are a matter of individual will and character, almost in a Biblical sense at times. This just heaps more shame onto an already shameful situation, as far as I can see.

          • Karen, I’m not arguing that being abusive is a matter of will and character. The causes of abusive behaviour are many and complex, but most people using violence in relationships are men. This is because masculinity tends to privilege certain kinds of practices, desires, modes of control and so on. Most of the people who have been abused will not repeat that behaviour with others. However, of those that do, most will be men.
            There are issues of gender and the operation of social systems that need to be looked at in terms of the use of violence. Mental illness doesn’t fall from the sky. It is largely created in the majority of cases by the kind of society and genders and relationships we are born into.

          • Steve, thankyou for being so open to discussion and for your patience, as I am having quite a lot of difficulty explaining myself. Violence is a very complex subject, and you are right on so many points. Mental illness does not fall from the sky, and I agree that cultural assumptions need to be addressed, but I see it as a human problem, rather than a gender one. That men are more capable of inflicting injury because of their relative size is one thing but I have seen many instances of essentially violent thinking from both genders, and many verbal put-downs stemming from our gender wars. Some of them are funny and can be endearing. I use them myself at times, like “have a girl-look” if something can’t be found. But if I hear somebody putting men down because they see their gender as a deficit, I turn away or else do my best to defend the integrity of men, if appropriate. I have raised two boys (and a girl) who showed me repeatedly how capable men are of compassion and heroic acts in everyday life. My sons have taught me a lot, as has my daughter.

            I have a lot of faith in humanity and our ability to work to work this stuff out, if as I said earlier, we can stand shoulder to shoulder as equals.

            It is very complicated. I think we still have a long way to go with our understanding of mental illness, its origins and effects on behaviour. Very complicated indeed. Thankyou for all your thoughts Stephen.

          • No problem. Thanks for taking the time out of your life to read what I was saying.
            We can still identify gender as an issue without demonising men as individuals. I happen to be one myself.

          • I can see that. :) All the more reason to be circumspect. I hate it that criticism does fall indirectly on men in general, the same when it falls on women, or white people, or black people etc. It always feels like we are collectively shooting ourselves in the foot. Anyway the pleasure has been all mine. Keep up the good work, and thanks again.

  3. I was joking about the melancholia cure. The book is good, though! It’s almost a cure in itself- unless you are talking about a sort of melancholy which manifests itself in apathy. I think that is indicative of not acting rather than not thinking. I see it as a manifestation of a sort of death instinct or submission to circumstance- makes me think of Ophelia floating down a stream with a garland and algae reflecting the stillness and beauty of sitting back. Swimming against the current can become exhausting sometimes and I think that melancholy can lend you the necessary strength (and introspection) to get back into the swing of things…or orientate yourself. I think our passions (even political) wax and wane over the course of our lives. Perhaps we shouldn’t think of melancholy or silence (Camus) as the opposite of being politically motivated or active. Disatisfaction, reflection, submission, grief and retreating into the self are arguably very helpful.

    • It’s Ok, I got the joke.
      Melancholia is largely a failure to mourn. I suspect a lot of fiction writers are melancholic. In my last post on Obama I talked about the Left’s failure to sucessfully challenge neoliberlaism as a failure to mourn, and that melancholy actually becoming a source of enjoyment. Writers can ne people who secretly enjoy their own melancholy.

  4. How and where did you get that definition of melancholia? I think the general consensus on the term is that it IS a state of depression. I always imagined it as being able to accept and almost enjoy a certain sort of sadness. So the ‘failure to mourn’ would almost make it the opposite? I know that the term is used within postcolonial studies to describe a certain attitude towards our history. Do you differentiate the term according to it’s application to an individual/state level? I have not read your other posts so am not able to contextualise your work- but I would imagine that it doesn’t require a familiarity with anything else that youv’e said.

    • I don’t think the consensus is anything of the sort. Melancholia, like hysteria, has often a marginal description for unfathomable states. ‘Depression’ is something of a problematic term clinically, a rubber stamp that covers a multitude of states that could all do with better articulation. As far as definitions go I have my professional and personal interest in Lacan, Winnicott, Kristeva, etc etc all the way back to Freud’s paper on ‘Mourning and Melancholia.’
      Yes, I think one can use the term to describe cultural and political states. In fact it’s a useful tool to think this way, especially when looking at traumatic events. Enjoyment of ‘depression’ or of melancholy is precisely the problem, as is enjoyment of a lot politically problematic positions. In the post of mine I referenced I argued (using the arguments of others) that we won’t give up a lot of problematic things (our dependence on technologies produced by cruel and persecutory industrial practices, for example) because of our enjoyment, and we might benefit a little from prioritising the politics of enjoyment a little more.

      • I think I’m missing the point (this happens a lot, but I don’t mind). As for melancholia, I thought that perhaps there might be varied definitions (my perception of it is influenced more by literature and artistic reflections on it- and I have read most of Burton’s, which is very different from Freud’s. Have you seen the Lars Von Trier film? I wonder if you have any insights on that? I understood it to be contrasted with science, and all the theoretical developments after modernism- or which emerged with them—I’m sure your lack of clarification wasn’t crucial to the quality of your point. I will go and READ Mourning and Melancholia! Thank you for the reference.

        I disagree strongly with your point about technology. That’s just political apathy- human beings are like monkeys. You give them a computer and they’ll use it. Technology is a distraction. I’d bring 1984 into this but I don’t even think I need to make the connection. That was one thing that Marx got wrong. They further estrange us from the products of labour and actually increase our dependence on capitalism since we are being robbed of all the skills necessary to do things for ourself- we don’t fix our cars or darn our socks, or do our banking in person- we pay someone else to do it or press a few buttons. It’s not a coincidence that our jobs are highly specific. We’re all just happy little cogs in a big machine. But mostly monkeys.

        • I haven’t seen the Trier film, or any Trier film come to that. But I have been immersed in Swedish noir, which is both weird and also melancholy squared.
          The best rough guide to the psychology of melancholia I’ve come across is Darian Leader’s ‘The New Black.’ Short and easy and lucid.
          We might be talking past each other on the issue of tech I think. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but I’m just using tech as an example. I’m more interested in the role of enjoyment in examining complicity with capitalist systems.

  5. Stephen,
    I think I get the distinction between anger and fury you are making and why getting angry is a road to burn out.

    But I’m finding it hard to imagine what fury, being furious, is. I get angry and know what that feels like, but I’m not sure I ever get furious. Can you elaborate?…

    • Perhaps not much. I think I’m probably asking any interested readers to engage in an imaginative act; but I think it’s part of the difference between being angry at people or being angry at the conditions that produce disturbed people.
      A sentence that was in my original submission to OL but didn’t make the cut was:” We start behaving as if we are persons rather than being persons.” The OL Ed didn’t understand it, so I figured if she didn’t then others wouldn’t either, but I think on reflection it was probably the heart of the post, inasmuch as it could be said to have one.
      Being angry is easy, and makes us feel real for a bit. But it’s a sham. It took me a long time to work that out,far too long. These days I’m furious all the time. I wake up furious, go to bed furious.

    • There’s something in the upended cop’s posture as he strives to recover his composure, that says he knows he now looks ridiculous.

  6. Nice post, Stephen, to which I add and deduce the following –: A simple statement about anger made by Krishnamurti many years ago when in conversation with the physicist Niels Bohr allowed me to realise the futility of anger, and I can make the imaginative leap to a more positively directed fury so long as it’s not mired in ego, which is where, referring to a previous post of yours, I believe Freud gets trauma wrong, by seeing it within the psychical structure of the individual rather than being formed socially through faulty relationships within family and social structures, which is where also, I go along with the missing heart and soul of your post re behaving as if we are persons rather than being persons, except for me, leaning here on Kristeva, it is more about becoming rather then being persons, because the current socio-political conditions under which most of us live is not such a good place to be in and rarely desires or allows for the becoming of better relationships.

    • Trauma is both an internal event and an outside event. There’s the external ‘puncture’ of course, but at least in Western societies something internal that responds to that (following Lacan here.) It’s as if what we think of as ‘personality’ is just a traumatic residue shaped by the social/political pressures of the era.
      You’re right on ‘becoming’ vs being I think. But late hypercapitalism makes everyone complicit in going through the motions of becoming

      • On reflection I was suggesting that particular syntax or ordering for trauma formation: firstly as a result of punctured or blocked human relationships; then becoming intrapsychic. The other way about sees trauma as a sort of original sin, thereby inalterable, meaning no hope.

        • I don’t think that’s the case Dennis. maybe if I take a generalised vignette from my clinical practice; If I am working with a woman who has been raped, the traumatic external event needs to be heard on the terms she wants it heard and some sort of long process of redescription engaged with. From my side, my understanding of the event needs to be politicised – that the woman wasn’t just subject to a random predator, but had become unfortunately violently engaged with the violent structure of masculinity, constructed as it is by hypercapitalist priorities etc etc.
          But what also happens – and this is the pernicious thing about trauma – all the already existing fractures in the political subjectivity we call ‘personality’ also are now laid bare. This is the cruellest thing in some ways. All the things that a non-traumatised person can successfully (for the most part) cover up in polite company are suddenly uncovered, alive and poisonous. It’s as if trauma reveals all the hideous toxic workings of personality, and says, this is what you really are. For someone who has encountered gendered violence, that toxic revealing can be really shattering, because we are all gendered and gender speaks in ways we would prefer it not to, but is also the earliest thing we learn as social beings; that there are genders and that there are subtle political expectations of gender. Gender is the most highly politicised part of us and often the most fundamental.

          • I would argue that gender doesn’t “speak” but that we create a language out of it. It’s the language that needs to change. Gender doesn’t “speak”- gender is the social construct part. Why is gender the most “highly politicized part of us”? Because it is more bound up with power than race?

            (Thank you for the reference. Freud always makes too much sense for me. I noted that you distinguish melancholy (anger turned inward) from anger (anger turned outwards)- and was wondering whether you perhaps identify “fury” as something which is experienced beyond the two?)

          • Thanks for the distinctions. I guess both might be true. I do think that gender speaks AND we turn that speaking into a vocabulary or even language of our own.
            As far as gender vs race goes – I doubt if there’s any research on this, because I’m not sure how you would carry it out, but I’m just guessing that gendering is the first thing we learn and gender is of course a cumbersome and complex and subtle and strange idea that saturates the political world at a very fundamental level. But you may be right, perhaps race is learned first. Just anecdotally, in the 2008 US contest for presidential nomination there was a choice between a Black man and White woman. I always had the idea (with no evidence to support it) that Obama beat Clinton because he was a man. Dealing with the politics of race is one thing, the politics of gender another.
            Oh, and on fury; as I think of it anyway, it’s nothing to do with anger or rage. Maybe it’s a kind of determination or resolve, but it has fire in it. I might be completely bonkers of course.

          • I’m unconvinced but with nothing to back up my assertion other than hope I’ll defer to your understanding as you work in the field. Cheers!

          • “Dealing with the poetics of race is one thing and the politics of gender another” :I think that gender and race intersect (as in the concept of the “double colonization” of women) (you cannot separate the experience of being a black female, for example- there is a very specific kind of disadvantage at work here—we have an increasingly fragmented and therefore disguised criteria for oppression- again I mention the bogan delusion as being representative of this— the whole element of “choice” which is tied into capitalism plays a role, too). These ideas and signifiers of human difference are themselves cultural constructs (there’s really no such thing as race or gender, remember). We define and negotiate these terms- and thank goodness for that. In the same way that language evolves- perhaps as a reflection of culture- culture can evolve with language. We can create a new language around the signifiers (like sex) to make society more equitable.

            I really like your idea about capitalism and enjoyment- I feel like you opened up a whole new way of looking at peoples behavior in my mind. It is sort of hegemonic in the sense that it (As a system) defines what is enjoyable and accessible(advertising, creating technologies that deal explicitly with new and existing media, publishing companys, censorship laws etc) and that these must necessarily reinforce it’s validity- either subtly (as in participation in such an economy) or covertly/subliminally in movies or music videos, computer games etc. It made me think a lot about the ways in which we leave ourselves open to consuming these products and then making excuses for ourselves (goes back to what you said perhaps about why we do things not always being why we do them) or trying to align them with our ethics so that our consumption patterns make sense to ourselves, rather than ourselves making sense of (or regulating) our consumption patterns. Thank you for all the thought provoking discussion! :) (Sorry if this is a badly articulated post but I’ve been at work all day and my brain is still busy ridding itself of sounds of barcodes and the RFID detritus)

          • Thanks for the ‘double colonisation’ metaphor. I realised as I was writing that I was responding to you clumsily. I’m wondering if children might get a ‘triple-colonisation’ – Black, girl, child.
            Yeah, our idea of enjoyment is very sinister and while thinking about it opened my eyes, it also made me realise I have to rewrite my life.

  7. Wait… which is better “behaving as if persons” or “being persons”. Sorry, I’m finding it hard to track this one…

    • I’m saying that capitalism as we find it supports us in behaving as though we are persons, rather than us actually becoming persons.

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