Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

After the future, a lot of things don’t signify:

grades, literature, publishing, networking, money, an individual’s inaccurate opinion of himself, another’s accurate opinion of me, politics, careers (remember those?), price-points, extinction of non-food species, credit ratings, deadlines, immaterial definitions of success and failure, deadlines, software compatibility issues, 401k’s (boy do those really not signify), trying to impress people, weather events that don’t knock the power out, “people with influence,” blogs, predictions, deferred gratification, losing sleep, prevention, resistance, engagement, participation, energy, the “news.”

Replacing the car’s wiper blades still signifies.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Dying Elephant in the Middle of the Room

The one that no one really talks about: namely, that it's over. Democracy is over - has been for some time, in fact. The middle class is over, as is economic stability of any sort. Nature isn't over by a long shot, but it's changing a whole lot, very quickly, in ways that will disrupt everyone's life. People acknowledge that things are bad; but we keep behaving as though the future were going to be just a slightly worse version of the past. So people take on another job, looking forward to the day when things will start looking up; or they put money in their retirement accounts; they try to advance their careers; they try to raise their kids with essentially the same values and expectations they have. It's going to be more competitive to get a good job, but you will still be able to get a good job. A college degree will help you get there. If the Democrats can regain the House, then things will change in a big way!

But what if all that is self-delusion.

I recently read a couple of texts that take that premise seriously. The first, by Roy Scranton, "Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene," takes a rather philosophical approach - Stoic, even. He takes as a given that self-delusion is a bad thing; for him, there seems to be a certain nobility (or beauty?) in facing up to the facts.

The other, After the Future, by Autonomist theorist and activist Franco Berardi, posits that the future, understood as the possibility of progress, is at an end. There has been a "mutation," produced by finance capital, neoliberal politics, necroculture, and permanent natural changes, that prevents people from forming links of solidarity ("subjectivation") with one another. This is particularly true, according to Berardi, of the "cognitariat," those knowledge-workers in Palo Alto or Bangalore, who are ostensibly instantly and integrally interconnected. Instead, digital connections reinforce the culture of the cubicle.

Berardi does not end on a totally hopeless note. Rather, he believes that economic collapse will necessitate subjectivation, in the interests of survival. Moreover, the powerlessness of the individual may encourage the withdrawal of individuals from active participation in the economic and political systems that have led to this mess. The task now is to (a.) forget about the future as deferred gratification; pay attention to the present, and see what possibilities arise. Be willing to be surprised by new and unanticipated possibilities; and (b.) imagine what he (after Marx) calls the "general intellect" - that is, a self-consciousness of the collective intelligence of humanity.

There used to be these bumper stickers that said "I feel much better ever since I gave up hope," or something to that effect. Maybe hope is the problem, in fact.