North Korea Is Not a Threat – Unveiling Hegemonic Discourses

That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC

Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.

Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.

(1) Race war discourse

While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons.  Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!

Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:

To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.

On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.

To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.

Read More …

Quote of the Week – 'Politics is a lot like Sex'

Jennifer Beals at the L5 Convention in UK this past weekend said as one of her parting messages that politics is a lot like sex:

“If you want something, you have to ask for it,
If they’re not doing it right you’ve got to speak up and show them and
If you still don’t get what you want, then there is nothing wrong with doing it yourself!”

I want the DREAM Act, an end to ICE raids and meaningful immigration reform. I want marriage equality for all — Actually I need the state to stop telling consenting adults what they can and cannot do with their bodies. I want an end to neo-liberalism and an overhauling of global financial institutions. I want an end to the war in Iraq and for the military to be used as a LAST resort when all else fails. Someday, I want a world without any borders. The list is quite long, but sitting with it is not going to translate those wants into realities. I need to take that list and go shopping for it myself.

Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful reports from L5. I am disappointed that there was little discussion about ‘politics’ [especially Prop. 8 ] given that it was the weekend of the Join the Impact International Action for Marriage Equality but we must remember that the core audience is not political. Hopefully, more people realize that the personal is indeed political and get more active in the fight for civil and human rights.

Marx Gets A Manga Makeover and More

While George Bush preached ‘market fundamentalism’ yet again at weekend the photo-op named the G-20 summit, the ‘leaders’ agreed upon further stimulatory spending to stabilize the financial system, and to ‘reform’ the IMF and World Bank as global financial instruments.

In the midst of this world recession precipitated by the U.S. housing crisis and poor economy that subsequently has quelled demand critical to the functioning of other economies that depend on American buying power, young disgruntled folk are taking another look at Karl Marx.

Reporting from Japan, the Times London:

Japanese bookstores expect a comic version of Das Kapital to become the publishing phenomenon of the year (Leo Lewis writes).

The manga comic, which goes on sale early next month and is expected to sell tens of thousands of copies before Christmas, plays into a growing fascination among Japanese workers with socialist literature and joins a collection of increasingly fierce literary critiques of the global capitalist system. A sneak preview of the publication given to The Times reveals that Marx’s central themes are relayed in the comic via a cast of suitably downtrodden workers. However, when Marx alerted economists to “the knell of capitalist private property”, he may not have imagined the phrase cropping up in one of the speech bubbles in a comic strip for commuters in Japan.

In Germany, sales of Karl Marx’s 1867 work Das Kapital have leapt 750 per cent this year. Much has been written about Karl Marx and the current crisis of capitalism (UPI, NDTV) Usually it is the young academics that read Marx and Engels and I sincerely do believe that everyone should try to read through some of what Marx actually wrote and not mere bastardized interpretations. On the Jewish Question is a particularly good critique of liberalism and a personal favorite — the Marxist Archive has an entire library on Karl Marx and other like-minded scholars.

Is the collapse of capitalism an inevitability? While Marx might have prophetically stated this in The Communist Manifesto, it is nonetheless important to step away from grand, universalizing narratives and dichotomies (i.e. bourgeoisie/proletariat) that do exist in his writings. Capitalism does sow the seeds for its own destruction but so does any other stagnant ideology. Marx did suggest that “men make their own history” and that capitalism wouldn’t fall till it had fully perpetuated itself:

No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind only sets itself such tasks as it can solve

Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

If we are to believe in the predictive qualities of Marx, we have a long way to go.

(Till global warming strikes at least…)

More articles

Marx and the Current Crisis of Capitalism

This Marxist Isn’t Laughing

The Perversion of Tolerance – I Don't want to be 'Tolerated' and neither should you

Tolerance is intolerant and demands assimilation.
—Herman Broch, cited in the Jewish Museum, Vienna, Austria

Conversely, what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.

-Herbert Marcuse

The mainstream, alternative press and bloggers are so inundated and knee-deep in the discourse of tolerance that hardly anyone has stopped to analyze the etymology and meaning of tolerance and its implications for society.

Tracy Hickman laments in The San Francisco Chronicle:

How ironic that the same people who call for tolerance of diverse lifestyles are perpetrating aggression against others for standing up for their beliefs and voting for the principles they hold dear?

Gary Bauer whines about “The Intolerance of the Same Sex Movement” (See also Lone Star Times, WorldNetDaily) while John Kass expresses disappointment at the lack of tolerance shown to T-shirts with political slogans.

Religious forces such as the LDS and Catholic Church take pleasure in pointing out the random and isolated attacks on churches, defacing of anti-gay yard signs, while right-wingers like Matt Barber are slamming the opponents of H8 for taking to the streets and not respecting the “rule of law” and democracy.

Even on the pro-migrant side, bloggers and organizations call for greater ‘tolerance’ as a response to the hate-crime against Latinos such as Marcello Lucero. The history of immigration discourse is ripe with tolerance discourse on all sides — tolerance for new immigrants, intolerance for ‘illegal immigrants’ and so on. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, religious minorities, gays and lesbians are all “tolerated” groups.

I have quietly sat on the side-lines for months, silently ‘tolerating’ the calls for tolerance. Enough.

I don’t want to be tolerated and neither should you. The discourse of tolerance–a noble and grandiose liberal experiment–must be stripped naked and exposed for what it really is: a colonizing discursive tool with the power to label and reproduce our identities, thereby designating minorities as permanent Others in civil society and globality, and justifying their ‘civilizing.’

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San Francisco May Become First City in the United States to Decriminalize Prostitution

And Michael Foucault wishes from his grave that he could have lived 25 years more had it not been for his misadventures in Iran.

(Hey, I love Foucault)

The jibe was in reference to his opposition to the repression of human sexuality and how governments had made ‘prostitution’ into a social problem. Government control of ‘prostitution’ does not just entail repressive mechanisms (following from Foucault’s repressive hypothesis), but has also created acceptable prostitution (the billion-dollar porn industry) and unacceptable ones (people forced to work the streets out of sheer desperation)

The ballot question technically would not legalize prostitution, since state law still prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes.

Often, innocent transgendered and transsexuals are targeted by law enforcement for just ‘standing there’ – That should stop.

The first thought in my head upon hearing about Proposition K was a Why Not? Whoring is already decriminalized Re:Capital Hill, handsomely rewarded and more virulent! Does it matter whether it’s whoring out your body, your conscience or your principles? San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris is protesting that ‘prostitution is not a victimless crime’ – Yes Ms. Harris, the American people know that by now.

Our bourgeois, not content with having the wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.

Alas, our wives and daughters are not enough. Now they are whoring out our livelihoods.

Vote Yes on Prop K