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Findings from around the Internet.

 

“is that really what people are saying when they say they are sad about their parrot?”

July 7, 2014

Halberstam kind of makes a big deal of this generational gap, pointing to the “friendly adults” who erroneously install “narratives of damage that they [the youth] themselves may or may not have actually experienced.” It’s as if young people are stealing an earlier generation’s trauma, claiming it as their own when really they have it so good. In this bizarrely counterfactual linear temporality, the past is not only past but also dead, and you do not have the right to be traumatized by historical memory, only by things that have literally happened to you—even if you are eighteen and it’s all—all—news to you. We (the older generation) were there, and are over it, and so you (the younger generation) should root yourselves entirely in the ameliorated present and get over it, because it is over.

The result is an odd polemic against coddled millenials and their too-sensitive feelings, as if it were somehow ridiculous to be young and too sensitive, or for that matter, old and too sensitive. This cross-generational call to “get over it” is an example of what Sara Ahmed has called “overing”: “In assuming that we are over certain kinds of critique, they create the impression that we are over what is being critiqued.” It’s particularly perverse to demand that young people be “over it,” when they have perhaps only just left their parents’ homes, and have perhaps only recently come to any political consciousness at all. There’s a very good reason college students aren’t “over it”; they just got there. Have you met a college student? It’s all, all new.

It is its own kind of shock to learn about how you have been historically, rather than personally, hated. It is not about “trauma” but about developing a political consciousness that is also historical, a fundamentally utopian impulse to exist in solidarity with the dead. There is, to be sure, a fine line between identifying with the past and appropriating it, but I think we can allow our students some leeway in figuring out where this line is, and not getting it right every time. Certainly grown-ups need the same leeway.

Read More | “On the ‘neoliberal rhetoric of harm’” | Natalia Cecire | in response to “You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma

 

“Hitler understood the power of oratory”

July 3, 2014

Hitler rehearsing his gestures for a speech

As Orwell points out, Hitler’s appeal was largely symbolic, and, just as with every American president from FDR to Nixon to Reagan to Obama, he understood that public presentation has to be carefully staged and place a premium on non-verbal, one might even say precognitive aspects to politics and ceremony. In the preface to Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers.”

Hitler understood the power of oratory, and his success in that arena was not accidental; it was the product of a great deal of practice and careful adjustment. Heinrich Hoffmann was Hitler’s personal photographer, who took an astonishing two million pictures of the Führer. Here we see a series of photographs by Hoffmann of Hitler practicing his exaggerated hand gestures to be used in future speeches. Hitler actually characterized different effects for the various poses, such as “gebieterisch” (domineering) or “kämpferisch” (pugnacious).

After he saw the negatives, Hitler ordered that the photos be destroyed, but Hoffmann hid them away. After the seizure of his archives, they were released to the public.

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Read More | “Weird private photographs of Hitler practicing dramatic gestures for his speeches” | Martin Schneider | Dangerous Minds

 

“grass-in-ear behavior”

June 30, 2014

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To figure out if this was really a tradition, and not just chimpanzees sticking grass in their ears at random, van Leeuwen and his colleagues spent a year observing four chimp groups in Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary in Zambia. Only one troop performed the grass-in-ear behavior, although all of the chimps lived in the same grassy territory. There’s no genetic or ecological factors, the scientists believe, that would account for this behavior — only culture.

Lydia Luncz, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved with the research, agrees. This study shows how the chimpanzees who learned to put grass in their ears did so through the “natural transmission” of new behavior, she says.

The cultural quirk first popped up in 2010 when a chimpanzee, named Julie, was spotted sporting a long-stemmed piece of grass.

Julie acted as a role model for the other 11 chimpanzees in her group. As van Leeuwen points out, “everybody can wear rings in their ears, but you just have to come to the idea to do it.” The seven chimps who adopted the grass-in-ear tradition — and who would continue it after Julie’s death — repeatedly inspected her behavior before trying it themselves.

Read More | “For the First Time, Chimpanzees are Making a Fashion Statement” | Ben Guarino | The Dodo

 

“the pitchforks are going to come for us”

June 27, 2014

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No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

Read More | “The Pitchforks Are Coming” | Nick Hanauer | Politico

 

“enslave­ment, servi­tude, inden­tur­ing, impress­ment, con­scrip­tion, impris­on­ment, and coer­cion”

June 27, 2014

Convict_labourers_in_Australia_in_the_early_20th_century

By focus­ing on eighteenth-century ser­vants and slaves, those two largest cat­e­gories of labor­ers dur­ing ear­li­est cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion, we’re able to see the extremely var­ied labor regimes that sus­tained those processes, includ­ing those based on coer­cion. In some ways this argu­ment has affini­ties with ear­lier cri­tiques of the clas­si­cal nar­ra­tives of the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, which empha­sized instead proto-industrialization, small-scale rural indus­try, new forms of non-industrial man­u­fac­tur­ing, and the wide range of “alter­na­tives to mass pro­duc­tion.”9 Clearly we need to hold onto the nec­es­sary dis­tinc­tions between forms of “free” and “coer­cive” labor, because oth­er­wise cer­tain speci­fici­ties of the labor con­tract under indus­trial cap­i­tal­ism would become much harder to see, par­tic­u­larly those that require new domains of power and exploita­tion beyond the imme­di­ate labor process and the work­place per se.

To sum­ma­rize: on the one hand, there are strong grounds for see­ing servi­tude and slav­ery as the social forms of labor that were foun­da­tional to the cap­i­tal­ist moder­nity forged dur­ing the eigh­teenth cen­tury; and on the other hand, there is equally com­pelling evi­dence since the late twen­ti­eth cen­tury of the shap­ing of a new and rad­i­cally stripped-down ver­sion of the labor con­tract. These new forms of the exploita­tion of labor have been accu­mu­lat­ing around the grow­ing preva­lence of minimum-wage, dequal­i­fied and deskilled, dis­or­ga­nized and dereg­u­lated, semi-legal and migrant labor mar­kets, in which work­ers are sys­tem­i­cally stripped of most forms of secu­rity and orga­nized pro­tec­tions. This is what is char­ac­ter­is­tic for the cir­cu­la­tion of labor power in the glob­al­ized and post-Fordist economies of the late cap­i­tal­ist world, and this is where I think we should begin the task of spec­i­fy­ing the dis­tinc­tive­ness of the present. Whether from the stand­point of the “future” of cap­i­tal­ism or from the stand­point of its “ori­gins,” the more clas­si­cal under­stand­ing of cap­i­tal­ism and its social for­ma­tions as being cen­tered around indus­trial pro­duc­tion in man­u­fac­tur­ing begins to seem like an incred­i­bly par­tial and poten­tially dis­tortive one, a phase to be found over­whelm­ingly in the West, in ways that pre­sup­posed pre­cisely its absence from the rest of the world and lasted for a remark­ably brief slice of his­tor­i­cal time.

Read More | “No Need to Choose: History from Above, History from Below” | Geoff Eley | Viewpoint Magazine