On the off-chance that you are Australian and confused about how to vote tomorrow, patient I offer some nonsense that may just serve to confuse you further. Please note, this post is only for leftists. They are the only persons for whom I currently have any patience. Everyone else can go and clop themselves.
Just to save certain fuckers the trouble, let me tell them what this pre-election advice sorely lacks in advance. These are the things this post will not have:
- Any faith in the Coalition whatsoever. Seriously. Fuck these people or, more to the point, fuck their fictions that concentrated wealth produces broad prosperity or that broadly applied austerity ever produced anything but greater debt. I have no interest in arguing with neoliberalism and I rather think that the last forty years has proved that it just doesn’t deliver to anyone but a tiny group of turds.
- Any nostalgia for the ALP or admiration for its present. I have no personal positive memories of a party who introduced HECS fees by the time I was old enough to vote. I know that the organised dream of my mail-sorting grandparents was interrupted well before my conception. The only thing I really liked about Paul Keating was his (very) smart mouth. That guy spoke as Churchill would have if importuned to host an RSL floorshow. He was fucking hilarious. But, there’s a reason that the Coalition celebrates him today as a great economist. He was not an economist truly committed to the project of income equality. And, Bowen is not much better.
- Antony Green. I am not a psephologist. Of course, everyone and their data dog lays claim to understanding the mystery of the Senate ballot paper and the internet is full of suggested “hacks”. Many persons appear to believe that Australian democracy can be disrupted by voter ingenuity much in the way that transit was disrupted by Uber. This is actually true, but not in the way that is generally thought. Which is to say, Uber first smelled lemon-fresh, but quickly made things stink even worse of unequal arse. This brings me to my next shortcoming,
- Optimism. I do not have any at this time. I am pessimistic about the value of optimism, which is why I shall not vote Greens, both the most optimistic and most (putatively) left party.
I am not optimistic about the near future of Australian democracy. This is for many reasons, which I often describe in professional writing. But, I’m going to try to condense these concerns into just a few paragraphs because I know you don’t have very much time before you start drinking yourself into the paralysis necessary to endure the sham of tomorrow.
To do this, I’m going to look briefly at recent events in Britain. This is for two reasons. First, distance can be useful to make a point. Second, fuck me, how interesting have British politics become? As distinct from our own campaigning present, which has in recent days begun to focus on the dreary issue of same-sex marriage. Which I am going to have to talk about, for no more than a paragraph, I promise, before we get into Brexit.
I do not wish here to affront those of you wistful SSM romantics who believe that love is only love if it is ordained by the state. Let’s all pretend that same-sex marriage is a wonderful idea and let’s pretend that in 2008, there was no comprehensive Commonwealth legislation passed that extended to all Australian domestic partnerships, whether same- or opposite-sex, those rights previously only available in marriage. Even if I allow, for the purposes of argument, that same-sex marriage has some transformative power, you can probably allow that its passage into law is maybe not the big deal that both its opponents and proponents have made it appear. I mean. Come on. Do you never think that same-sex marriage is consuming a little more airtime than its likely social impact deserves? On both sides? It’s not going to ruin Australia and it’s not going to improve it, either.
So. Let’s now look at Brexit to explain why I am such a pessimist, who will pessimistically vote tomorrow for the ALP.
Many persons from the (putative) left, even and especially here in Australia, saw the Remain vote as the just choice. This was largely down to, as an old friend described to me by phone this morning, belief in the maxim that “you are judged by the company you keep”. Which is to say, if a Baby’s First Fascism playgroup like UKIP, led by Nigel Farage, supported Leave, you probably shouldn’t.
I told my old friend, who was distantly in favour of Remain, that I would therefore judge him by that pillock, David Cameron. And that he could judge Leave voters by their proximity to the dreamy Tariq Ali.
If you are a leftist who was unaware of #lexit, the campaign by leftists to exit the EU, then you may wish to look into it before despairing that Remain was defeated. Or, you just might be content to read my shit about it, which may demonstrate how our western political imaginations are presently so constrained, that there is no fucking point at the moment for voting for anyone other than those tools in the ALP.
While it is absolutely true that some people did vote Leave because they are racist, it is also true that some people voted Leave because no one gets to vote for any business that the EU does at all.
For many people in many member states, the EU has rained down shit. A greater proportion of UK citizens live in poverty now than did before the Maastricht Treaty—and this explains why older persons who have watched their incomes stagnate and social equity diminish were more likely to vote Leave than youngsters, who have no memory of life before the EU and see it largely as a provider of greater cross-border employment. Which, on the face of it, it is, but not without the fairly significant shortcoming of creating poverty throughout the union.
Of course, many of these young people, who did not, in any case, vote in large numbers in the referendum, claim that their Remain stance had less to do with personal advantage and much more to do with their hope for an inclusive, anti-racist Europe.
I believe them. But, I also believe that they are wrong to think that the EU is not itself a kinda racist and certainly exclusive institution.
Think about what that ideological latrine Farage says, and then I’m going to ask you to compare it to what some powerful advocates of the EU say and ask if you can spot the difference.
Farage talks about national character. He is quite cunning, so he doesn’t out-and-out say that foreigners are bad, but he does lay the blame for the destitution of the British underclass at their feet.
Farage rode around in a bus with “We send the EU 350 million pounds a week. Let’s fund our NHS (national health service) instead” written on the sides. You can probably agree that many people saw the sense in such a slogan, especially as their own health had become palpably worse under the EU. But, hours after Farage had disembarked the big red social equity bus, he told Good Morning Britain that it had been a “mistake”. And then he started banging on about the Commonwealth. Like that’s even a thing.
Farage took a perfectly decent political impulse from the electorate and shat on it as soon as he could. He knew that people were hurting. But, the material pain that many people feel as the result of the EU is not, I’ll wager, as important to him as the cultural pain he feels every time he sees someone in Glorious England with brown skin.
Farage is vile, but interesting. His operations provide a fascinating, almost reverse illustration of what is currently occurring on the liberal-left. Farage conceals his cultural bias from others inside a material one. The liberal-left conceals its material bias (even, increasingly, from itself) with a cultural one.
Farage, I believe, has a cultural agenda, but he pretends it is a material one. He says “I want to give you back your social safety net”, but what he actually means is “I want to give you back your pale nation”. The liberal left, such as many of those who support Remain, say “I want to ensure that we have a colourful and diverse nation!” when what the actually produce in their radically uncritical support for the EU is, in fact, an undemocratic system of trade relations that has created (and was intended to create) real, demonstrable inequality.
So, what we have in the UK is a shrewd right that pretends it’s being all economically rational, but is ultimately committed, à la Trump, to some bunghole idea of cultural purity. And we have an intellectually muted liberal-left that pretends it’s being culturally inclusive, but is ultimately committed to a program of trade that makes quite a few Germans and some rotters in London rather rich.
You can say you’re inclusive and that you love diversity until you’re a uniform shade of blue in the face. But, if you’re simultaneously lending your faith to an organisation that is accountable to nothing but the highest tiers of the finance sector, then the possibilities for this inclusivity are extraordinarily limited.
Now, even if you happen to be the sort of liberal-leftist who thinks that “equal opportunity” is the mark and the goal of a good society—you know, you’re happy if there are more women on boards and more people of colour with their unequal share of the wealth and more lesbians on TV etc.—you kind of have to admit that certain ethnic groups have been fucked by the EU. Notably, those with whom we enjoy a particularly intimate relationship here in Australia, the Greeks.
Angela Merkel leads a nation that is the greatest beneficiary of the EU and so, of course, she is one of its strongest advocates. It’s worth looking at how her speech becomes quite racialized when it suits her, which is usually around the time of some financial crisis.
It was in 2008 that this champion of the EU first brought up the figure of the Swabian Housewife. This fictional creature is praised by Merkel for her inspirational thrift. This housewife makes do! This housewife doesn’t overspend! This housewife works hard and is all that is good about Germans.
It was during talks with Greece on what was never a Greek financial crisis that Merkel relied, however subtly, on some less positive ethnic stereotyping. The Lazy and Corrupt Greek who Retires Too Early was invoked to chastise an entire nation.
Now, if you want to read about the self-serving practice of the EU elite from someone who was actually pro Remain, see Yanis Varoufakis, the guy that actually had to sit there as Merkel, the Swabian Housewife, made all sorts of slights against the character of his countrymen. No matter that Greeks work longer hours than Germans, receive asmaller post-retirement pension than Germans, sustain less household debt than Germans and employ fewer public servants than Germans. The EU applied punitive measures to Greeks on the fucking basis that they were lazy good-for-nothing Anthony Quinns who cared to do little more than daub themselves in ouzo oil as they baked in the Aegean.
Fuck off. Germany needed Greek poverty much more than Greece needed German cars. Germany needs poor member nations, inter alia, to keep its trading currency low enough to export its (admittedly very good) stuff to China. For the EU to punish Greece on the basis that it was “irresponsible”, which it actually isn’t, and to keep it firmly in its impoverished place (austerity doesn’t work to improve a national economy for all; I mean, how are you going to sell shit to people who have no money and need to spend more money on things the government no longer provides, like the NHS?) was an act of material violence greased by bigotry. Which is not that dissimilar from Farage, who commits acts of bigotry by pretending to hate material violence.
So THIS is what we think of as “left” or, at least, as diverse and inclusive? You know, it is entirely possible to think of trade that crosses borders as undesirable and still think of asylum seekers crossing borders as something that needs, very urgently, to happen.
None of which is to say that I would have certainly voted Leave in the UK. I may have been swayed by Varoufakis’ argument to Remain and make those fucks accountable. But, I certainly wouldn’t have got all poopy with Jeremy Corbyn, the popularly elected Labour leader who is now in the shitter for not doing his bit to convince his supporters, who have been fucked by the undemocratic power of the EU, to vote for the undemocratic power of the EU. And now these liberal-leftists are turning on him, accusing him of anti-Semitism and calling him “unelectable”. When what they mean is undesirable, because Corbyn’s argument is largely a material one. And the liberal-left has a great fear of the material, which it has now given over entirely to the right side of politics.
If you talk about money, apparently, you’re a racist or a fascist. Or, at best, insensitive. I have heard many times people form the putative left say “We live in a society! Not an economy!” What the blind shit does that even mean?
Impoverished people do not have the luxury of believing that they live only in a “society”, which has now become a synonym for culture. If you’ve ever been short of the rent one month, you’ll know what I mean. I can pretend that I live only in a “society” in those years where my gross income exceeds 60K. Otherwise, I am keenly aware of life within an economy.
As I have written elsewhere, tomorrow I will vote 1 Labor, and not for the belief, such as Varoufakis has, that this is an institution that can be reformed. I think they’re fucked and, as I have written elsewhere, I think many of their candidates are as enamoured of the idea of a “society” or a “culture” and their role in forming these things than they are in even acquiring a basic understanding of how the labour market works. I genuinely think I understand labour supply and demand better than some ALP candidates, and that is fucking depressing because I am really not that good on shit like that. As will be plain to more economically literate readers.
I will Vote 1 Labor because it is the party that least elevates the idea of the culture. The cultural right of the Coalition wants a better (read: whiter and more uniform) culture and its material right just wants the same falsely “equal opportunity” as Merkel. And the Greens want a better culture, too. And, yes, I know they have their private conversations about transforming the economy, but unless they lead us all openly in this material conversation, there is really not much point. Particularly at this moment in time where we see large numbers of people actually attending lectures by Varoufakis or the born-again Keynesian Paul Krugman or turning out in the tens of millions to hear Bernie Sanders offer his new New Deal. We are ready in the west for some boring conversation about money, especially as so many of us find we have so little of it. And if the Greens led that conversation and didn’t conceal it with a “We Need To Be More Inclusive and Care More” moralising message of culture, I would vote for them. I would tell you to vote for them.
The idea of the culture has become such a preoccupation. Of course, I’m not saying that the culture doesn’t matter and I am not saying that you shouldn’t call sexism out when you see it or crowdfund more inclusive TV shows or whatever. Do that stuff. But, do not allow this to be a proxy for the things of the everyday: education, health, leisure, transport, labour etc
By no means do I think that the ALP offers Australia anything close to the radical reorganisation that would provide these things. The one thing it offers is a scintilla of tedious, economic talk—and I am referring particularly here to the debate on negative gearing which is a great example of something very boring becoming a hot topic. The end itself to the negative gearing concession on established properties won’t change our housing crisis much. But that we have been engaged with that fucking tedious conversation to the point where many of us actually understand it—and I am so heartened by how many young commentators have explained it to their peers outrunning the typical “old people culture blows” and restoring a “neoliberal economics blows” material perspective—is a really good thing.
Our political imagination has been impoverished by the topic of the culture. While it is absolutely true that the ALP has made only the merest efforts to enrich it, it’s the only party that has. And, yes, they are fucks. And, yes, there are true problems with the aging ideologues of the right. And there are one or two Labor MPs whose likely defeat by the Greens I will privately enjoy because they are doucheburps whose interest in their constituents does not even come close to their fondness for their careers. And, yes, there are some really awesome people in the Greens. I would much rather be stuck next to Senator Ludlam on a bus than someone from the Shoppies.
But until the Greens have the courage, and the confidence, to commit themselves, and all of us, to a frank economic discussion, I cannot vote for the culture.
I am sorry this was so long. I hope this clears things up in your mind about the relationship of the material and the cultural a little (which I KNOW is a mutually constituting relationship because I don’t live in 1870, but I think many people on the left have forgotten that it is a mutual relationship, when they attribute so much to the culture, or are afraid to attribute it publicly). I hope that I have expressed that the fear that I have about how the dominance of the culture in our political imaginations limits our material future, which expresses itself as cultural in any case. Less importantly, I hope you don’t think I have any sort of real or abstract intimacy with the ALP, who can bite me, but for whom I will still vote. Because without an economic conversation, there will be no economic future for so many of us.
And, no. The “economic” conversation neoliberals have is not authentically economic. It is deeply moralising and cultural; it is about the undeserving poor. For more on that, see this very readable book, which I linked to earlier, on the profoundly moral history of economic liberalism.
I realise “Vote Labor to guarantee the future open conversation of the left” is a statement about as convincing as “David Bowie’s best single was Blue Jean”. I understand why some might think I am either a party hack or a naïf or an oldie clinging to a verdant shred of youth. My claim is that I think we need to put the culture in its proper place. Which is not nowhere, but just a little south of everywhere. And I do respect your decision to vote Green, and I don’t think you’re dumb or guileless for casting it.
Right. I’m not much of a drinker, but I think a fucking sparkling is deffo on the cards.
Currently in Australia, pfizer
noted foreign policy adviser breakfast television host is at the hub of what now passes for “controversy”. You’ve heard this story, or a similar one, before. Some normally mild, not-terribly-astute servant of mass culture says something more than mildly bigoted. Persons who are the target of this bigotry are, very understandably, distressed. First on social media and then in press, they, and their allies, seek to reason with the bigotry.
Before the matter accelerates into a big fast nothing (it always does) good people see an opportunity to discuss aggressions faced every day. They mean very well. They make their case in a positive spirit. They even invite bigots ‘round for tea. Thanks to the renewable resource of optimism, they believe they can take a moment from the mass culture and use it to throw some sunshine on society’s darkest impulses.
Except, of course, that enlightenment never occurs. We believe we are “shining a light”, but what occurs is a much deeper obfuscation. I won’t write here about the false revelation electronic media inevitably bring us, as I want to make another, simpler point. I’ll just offer one of the better critical descriptions of mass culture I have ever read: it behaves like “psychoanalysis in reverse”. (Adorno, for the curious baby wanker.)
I want to be very clear before I recommend silence in matters like these, I’m not expecting silence. If I were a person, especially a woman, with Islamic heritage or faith, I would never shut up about bigotry. I mean, how does anyone deal with this shite? People who are clearly sexist tell me that I am oppressed by my brothers. People who are clearly idiots tell me that my choice to worship is idiocy. People who have faith in an empty sausage like Trump tell me my faith is empty of everything but evil. People who I KNOW have heard me and my fellows apologise for terrorism, even though it had nothing to do with me, say “Muslims never apologise for terrorism”. People who have sought canonical rulings from their own church keep screaming “Sharia Law!” And, FFS, then they send me a YouTube of that intolerable vacancy, Sam Harris.
I’d be Malcolm X-ing the shit out of everyone if I were Muslim.
So, if you are a Muslim reading this, please know I do not expect you to quit your reasonable speech. I know shutting up would not be physically possible for me were I in your hijab and, frankly, how so many of you stay so sane in the face of bigoted insanity makes me occasionally wonder if the prophet, Peace be Upon Him, didn’t have some good stuff to say. Well, I have actually read your holy text, but I can’t say it grabbed me. I’m more of a Capital lady. But, we’re cool, right, you and me? I fucking totally affirm the right to your beliefs, which have never caused me or my mind-bogglingly dumb nation harm, and you should totally fucking expect this. Because, we do prance about in the west, don’t we, boasting we’re the most tolerant civilisation ever to be upchucked by history.
In short, you are behaving a whole lot better than I would. I do not request nor expect your silence.
You non-Muslims allies, though. You might want to think about zipping it in this case. Or, at least, not responding to every critique of your critique. Because, back to the plot, what happens after you reasonable people get upset (as you are justified in doing) is that fans of bigotry poke you. And then, the conversation turns to ash with a half-dozen turds writing tedious but influential opinion pieces about “my right to have an opinion” (notably, without actually bothering to form an opinion) and then, a few people on the anti-bigotry side get, apparently, so upset, they begin to say dumb shit which emboldens the bigots and gives them opportunity to say “see, I TOLD you our bigotry was justified”.
Now, I know this is a version of the bad playground advice your mum gave you: just ignore the bullies. This is, as I understand it, no longer official playground policy, probably because it doesn’t really work. But, in this curious era, the bullies are very often best ignored. Because sometimes, they’re not real bullies.
As I watched the Sonia Kruger matter unfold on social media, I noted the creation of dozens of new Twitter accounts. About half of them are devoted to supporting ultra-nationalism, and the other half to opposing it. All of them mention Sonia Kruger.
I am pretty sure these are sock-puppet accounts. Their reliance on almost identical and identically misspelled “argument” is a tip off. Their hyperbole, never as funny as 4chan, is similar. It’s generally centred around women’s reproductive parts. I do not wish to link to these accounts nor do I wish to repeat their substance, which I find unfunny and distasteful. But, ugh, there’s a lot of stuff about enforced sterilisation of Muslim women on one side, and then stuff about brutal rape of the television host on the other.
The function of the anti-Muslim sock-puppet accounts is to make progressive persons angry enough to say something stupid, and “newsworthy”. The functions of the “anti-racist” misogynist bile is to make progressive people angry with each other. I want to focus on this second category of sock-puppet and urge you not to “call them out”.
I have seen accounts created in the last half hour currently threatening the television host with rape. These represent leftist Australians like IS represents Muslims. To be clear for the hard of thinking: that is, not at all.
What they do represent is a new trend of manufactured misogyny which serves conservative ends by undoing the left.
A “softer” version of this can be seen in the Clinton campaign. As anyone with a calculator knows, former candidate Bernie Sanders is far more legitimately “left” than Hillary. In order to make Hillary appear progressive, especially to the large number of young voters who found her financialisation and foreign policies offensive (they are offensive), the idea of the “Bernie Bro” was exaggerated by Clinton campaigners.
Now, I have no doubt that a candidate like Sanders who attracted crowds and donors of historic volume also attracted a few fuckwits. I am certain that a few of them were sexist fuckwits. But, this handful of men were used, very effectively, as camouflage for Clinton’s aggressive conservatism.
We can see, sadly, similar tactics currently playing out in the UK. While Angela Eagle and other pro-war, pro-austerity “New Labour” representatives have yet to convince us that Corbyn is sexist (they’re trying) they’ve done a pretty good job of presenting him as an anti-Semite. The message, by a very conservative part of British Labour, is that Corbyn, an actual anti-war, anti-austerity socialist, is not as progressive as we think. Look, he hates Jews, etc. And Eagle won’t shut up about how Corbyn has created uncivilised conditions. This is a woman who supported the uncivilised invasion of Iraq.
If you create the idea that someone who opposes you is vulgar, you get to hide your own vulgarity. And I am seeing that play out, rather crudely, on social media today.
I don’t know which Australian right-wing organisation has learnt so much from the Eagle and Clinton campaigns, but I can just smell today that it’s one of them. Look. I am not a fan of Chomsky and I loathe conspiracy theories, preferring always to think that the mass produces its own irrationalism. But, this is very Chomsky. It’s such manufactured dissent.
I have counted many new accounts apparently opposed to racism, but apparently in favour of gang rape. I suggest that open border advocates aren’t generally known for their threats of brutal sodomy. I suggest that whether sock-puppet or “genuine”, “leftist” socmed misogyny should not be “called out”, but avoided like the toxin it is.
Honestly. Please stop “calling out” performance hatred. The only kindness you’re doing is to News Corp. If Team Rupert hasn’t reported already on the faux-accounts making vile threats as “evidence” that the left is crazy, it soon will. “Look. People who like Muslims also want to do our Dancing with the Stars hostess in the bum.”
The right, as we have seen in the US and the UK, are losing ground. After forty years of their supply-side malarkey, young people feel, very keenly and correctly, that they have been cheated. Very few on the right can actually preach “trickle down” convincingly any more. The right has lost the skill of explaining its economic bullshit. But, it’s become very good at AstroTurf outrage.
If you are truly of the left, do the revolution a favour and dismiss the ultra-trolls we see this afternoon as fiction as divisive as financialisation.
Of course, a small number of anti-racist persons may also be big fans of femicide. Even if real, they are beyond your reason. So, zip it.
I know this is difficult. I often think about “calling out” the men who threaten to rape my dusty old arse etc. But, it’s important to resist. Block and report hate speech, if it helps. Then proceed to your own productive speech. Do not engage with these fake trolls.
Unless, of course, you enjoy helping out conservatives. In which case, just cut out the middle-man and join the IPA.
Fuck the right. Fuck their serfs who mine the seam of our *actual* ethics and try to rob us of this wealth. Be strong. Know that strength comes from evolving your thought with your comrades. Weakness is speaking into a vacuum.
Finally, to my Muslim comrades: I apologise for the mass atrocities of violent politicians against those of your faith. These extremists do not represent me or the best of my western heritage. Sorry. I really am.