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Re: <nettime> Naomi Klein: Activism After September 11
Willard Uncapher on Mon, 8 Oct 2001 03:53:11 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Naomi Klein: Activism After September 11


At 01:43 PM 10/5/2001 +1000, Naomi wrote:

>from: "Naomi Klein" <nklein {AT} sympatico.ca>
>sent: Friday, October 05, 2001 12:20 PM
><...>
>The obituaries are already appearing in newspapers around the world:
>"Anti-Globalization Is So Yesterday," reads a typical headline. It is,
>according to the Boston Globe, "in tatters." Is it true?

I must admit that reading Naomi Klein or even Edward Said's comments, I 
feel that they over-emphasize the US wardrums and ideological control 
aspect of the media coverage. The truth, at least up here in Northern 
California, has seemed more complex. As the public becomes more aware, or 
rather concerned with the fact that we, as planetary citizens (and where 
appropriate, as US citizens) are all inter-connected in complex global 
socio-cultural-economic- political- technological webs or networks, the 
more difficult it has becomes to posit problems (and 'enemies' as belonging 
'over there').

This makes for an almost hitherto unique (at least in the US), but newly 
emerging "network polity." Social-cultural attitudes and institutions can 
change. This can be hard to see in networks. When you represent 'things' 
that are networked together, a politics of approximation becomes more 
important, a politics be which approximate processes are turned into 
deliminated 'things' or categories  seen or argued about from a 'higher 
level' above the process. We move between levels, whether by means of 
digital technology, social scientific investigations, cultural 
interpretations, semiotic systemics, natural evolution, using mechanisms 
'approximation.'  Naomi Klein might be right about some of the edges, but 
what does this imply about the bulk of activities it contends these events 
represent?  I think network epistemologies (and their associated politics 
and arts) will deal with this issue more and more. In my view, 
approximation is part of the process of representation, part of the pattern 
of moving from one level to another. I would invoke von Neumann, G. 
Bateson, or Anthony Wilden who look at the 'digital' as a mode of 
approximation, of a necessary metonymy, as a perspective about a network, 
but from a position that claims to be outside of it. Accepting an 
approximation as a whole fact is part and parcel of the politics of 
epistemology. Older dialectical logical forms, with their assumptions of 
'ontology' over process cannot find a hold. At the same time 'systems 
views' need a more realistic approach to the emerging dynamics of power and 
surveillance.  We are becoming a verb that needs a new focus. This is an 
element of an emerging network epistemology and politics.

To return to specific responses,  it has been quite interested to see how 
the diverse responses to 911 have been, at least around here. While 
demonstrations against war, against the very concept of war have been 
subdued, there has been a certain exhaustion with the very concept of war. 
Even GWBush calls Islam a religion of peace before the joint houses of 
congresses. Who could imagine!  While this may be seen as part of getting 
the compliance of 'client states' in the Middle East, the mainstream 
reports I have seen on O. Bin Laden (as the alleged "mastermind" - what a 
concept), have plausibly pointed out that his group is angry at the 
US-Saudi client state relationships, and with assumptions of Saudi 
government economic injustice and socio-cultural repressions.. Nothing a 
progressive would find new, but an interesting change of pace for the 
mainstream press. Likewise, while progressive media report attacks against 
'Arab' looking groups, in fact these are condemned in the mainstream press, 
and are even reported as 'un-american.'  Yes, attacks and racist 
recrimination does happen, but the mainstream press does attempt to condemn 
these as racist. The issue of Japanese internment camps in the US during 
the second world war is brought up, for example, as a problem, the 
recognition of Arab-Americans as part of US polity is emphasized. Agreed 
there are a lot of stereotypes at work, but this is related to the 
assumption in the press that issue need to by 'simplified.'

So sure, the press and various political camps jumped to consolidate their 
positions. There was probably some fear about what would happen if they did 
not play out their expected roles. But there is still general 
confusion:  War, but against whom? Retaliation, but by what means? Fortress 
America, but things have become so interdependent!  Indeed, it would seem 
that in grand terms, the 'people' in the US are waking up to being a part 
of the world, and as such, connected to the effects that their patterns of 
consumption and exploitation might be having world-wide.  There has been an 
interest in understanding the origins of this hatred, and as such this 
represents an obvious opening for the 'global economic justice' campaigns. 
That is one of the key points in this note.

Revolutionary change in popular mythos does happen, although how it 
consolidates itself is not always anticipated by those who set it in 
motion. For example, I think it could be argued that when the Nixon tapes 
became public, the venal economic motives of American politics became 
clearer to a grand class of patriotic Americans (America, love it or leave 
it.). The Right for awhile begins to sound like the left ("corporate 
power,' economic interests, etc.) - but then the final pattern on 'the 
right' was to simply affirm the position that it was the patriotic duty of 
American's to fight for their economic interests (as opposed to just 
defeating this or that ideology and its consequences).

At this point, a lot of everyday people around Stateside seem more confused 
about how to react or who their enemy is. While not a fount of clear info 
or comprehensive data, NPR reports that sales of the Koran have expanded 
five-fold since August (listen at: 
<http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/atc/20011005.atc.08.ram> ). They interview 
booksellers who suggest that the question in these reader's minds is not 
whether the text allows 'infidels' (like the reader) to be killed under 
certain circumstances, but who this 'other' actually is. Further, the 
government jump to claim new surveillance powers without oversight is not 
simply being universally accepted- and that includes 'the Right.' It will 
be interesting to see to what extent so-called anti-terrorism surveillance 
legislation take hold- but I do know that my friends on a sort of 
libertarian right are in the same camp as civil liberties activists on the 
left.  Perhaps we are ripe to investigate what should be investigated- the 
causes of such extreme anger, frustration, and worry in the first place.

One other point:
At 01:43 PM 10/5/2001 +1000, Naomi wrote:
 >>As someone whose life is thoroughly entwined with what some people call 
"the antiglobalization movement," others call "anticapitalism" (and I tend 
to just sloppily call "the movement"), >>

The term 'antiglobalization' is up for grabs. Most non-activists I talk 
with think of globalization in more than economic terms- it something that 
is cultural, demographic, media bound, a way of thinking about 
interconnectedness of many systems, a way of thinking even about natural 
interconnectedness- global warming. The *response* to complicated, yet 
often diffused strategies of non-sustainable exploitation of natural or 
cultural resources need to involve 'transnational' alliances and 
appropriate responses. I start with the assumption of the importance of 
place, with an appeal to a new form of hybrid cyborg-bio-regionalism, but 
suggest that translocal leverage on many scales is often critical in 
eliminating the exploitation of an isolated place, person, people, culture, 
or process.  That was the theoretical problem in bioregionalism to begin 
with.

The real struggle should be how to define and implement positive goals: 
economic justice, civil rights, democratic frameworks, balances of power, 
regulatory transparency, and so on.  Globalization to an anthropologist 
means a lot more than cultural homogenization, or modernist / colonialist 
universalism.  And to the public, the demand and struggle for 'economic 
justice' and cultural and natural sustainability sounds a lot different 
than 'antiglobalization' and its protests. Indeed, I would have thought 
that the term antiglobalization was invented by the mainstream press to 
isolate, humiliate, and belittle 'progressive activists.'

As we know, many in the US are among the most isolated people in the world, 
by the mistaken assumption that they were connected to and knowledgeable 
about the world (as a financial and cultural 'center,' as a media-savvy 
people, as the recipients of the power of information technologies).  But 
that has or can change.  People around here who are feeling newly open to 
the world, exposed to the world, vulnerable to the world, are asking about 
some of the causes and consequences of violence, and even anger- it is a 
moment that will change; but one in which there is a need for a new 
languages and theories of interdependence, sustainability, and justice.

W.

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