February 11, 2010

Listening and Power


And yet the more I think about such questions, the more unclear I become as to what this other model might look or feel like. Might it be a model based on listening?

Listening to the enemy? Not dialogue, not some naïve belief in the power of communication. Simple listening as the first step before any move. But what if, as you are listening, all you hear are lies? What if, as you are listening, you receive three bullets in the back of the head (when one bullet would have been utterly sufficient.) How to transition from a state in which listening is dangerous and foolish towards a state in which it is, once again, constructive? Listening for the insecurity behind power. Thinking if there are other ways, less violent ways, to make it feel secure. And once again, as I write, I feel naïve.

Where is power in capital? In the things it makes us do? In the things it allows us to do (to ourselves, to others)? In the things it makes possible: the organization, hierarchy and destruction? The overwhelming imbalances of power that simply could not exist without it.

It seems misguided to attempt to make ‘power feel secure’, but if power is little more than a savage over-compensation for the most violent forms of insecurity, then perhaps there is no other way. But why do I think power is like that? Is it little more than projection. Or is it only because I don’t believe in evil. (No, Hitler wasn’t evil, he was just really, really, really insecure.)

Evolution doesn’t explain everything, no key can unlock every door. Capital is not omnipotent, cannot absorb every single resistance.

Where is the power in capital? In the fact that nothing seems possible without it, without a bit of dosh, that even the homeless panhandle, and must feel they have no choice, that it seems nearly impossible to imagine our world organized in some other way? Capital is not omnipotent, but neither does it have to be in order to maintain a fairly consistent and spectacular control.

Now I am writing in Toronto, the city that instilled in me a deep, but cautious, antipathy towards business, sports and post-modernism.

Nature is not based on competition, it is organized through and around ecosystems. In some sense we could make an analogy between ecosystems and listening.

Competition isn’t natural. Competition is produced like everything else. In the natural world they don’t compete because of some implicit ideology that competition lends value. Animals hunt for food out of necessity. Where is the necessity in everything around us? Where is the necessity in writing overly-earnest, anti-capitalist very long poems that will change nothing and will likely not even compel the average reader to continue reading even up until this point? Where is the average reader?

The overwhelming disillusionment of the atrocities of recent history. The overwhelming disillusionment of reading the newspaper on an average Wednesday. And the concurrent knowledge that, no matter what, people continue to fight and to hope and fucking beautiful things continue to happen all the time.

How to imagine deep, structural change, happening slowing over decades, overcoming the continuous onslaught of insurmountable obstacles and continuing to push through. Beginning with subtle but ongoing shifts in our most basic understanding of ourselves and of the world. Is that a place to begin? What would it mean to listen to the insecurity behind the savagery of power abused? It is possible to begin a dialog with people who only want to fuck up your shit? A series of rhetorical questions is cheap writing but cheap writing must not be dismissed. How rigid our personalities, our understanding of the world, becomes over time.

At the door of Kafka’s castle you can’t haggle. At the Wall Mart and gas station you cannot haggle. But in the marketplace, the dirty marketplace of ‘early capitalism’, my romantic misconception of a marketplace before the hard shock of industrial production, there was still a certain one-to-one lever of give-and-take. What would that marketplace look like without a king, without a church, growing out of some improvised combination of barter and local currencies? If they can have the psychotic fantasy of a pure, unregulated free market, why can’t I have the idyllic fantasy of some, future, down-to-earth, flexible, generous marketplace of necessities and ideas?



No comments: