Monday, 4 January 2016

Capital and the use of tropes

What's disturbing is how specific events, movements, ideas, books, and other things become misappropriated and turned to other uses by various powerful forces in different societies. You see it in the speech acts deployed by conservative political parties, for example, who are trying to coerce people into foregoing their privileges in favour of Capital. You see it all the time. You get tired of it and you know better because you have read the history but it just becomes like shooting at shadows on the wall. Shadows cast by the flickering flame of Time burning away in the centre of the room.

Take the way the Australian party of conservatism, the Liberal Party, appropriates the tropes of liberty spawned originally in the Renaissance by the Humanists, but then later by the men and women of the Enlightenment. Men and women who, if they were alive today, would be horrified to see how their words and their ideas are coopted for oppressive purposes by the powers on the right. It used to be Parliament versus the King. Now it is progressives versus conservatives but they both drink from the same trough. One man's applicable trope is another man's applicable trope.

How do ideas become so worn and decontextualised that they seem to fit into the palm of your hand like a smooth pebble? The onward movement of Time like a great river helps to break off the rough edges, the specific origins disappearing along with the original phraseology, so that the end product can be comfortably pocketed and then used to hurl at the next enemy passing down the mainstreet. In broad daylight. Without shame.

The narrative within which the trope is embedded like a gem in the watch-works of Time is everything. The narrative keeps the watch wound up and the clock ticking. It impels everything forward, it conscripts followers and provides them with the stones they need to fling at the next enemy walking down the mainstreet.

Possibly the thing that galls so much is the lack of shame. The shameless way that specific events, movements, ideas, books, and other things are taken out of context and reappropriated in different ways for different purposes by different players. The brazen, bald-faced lies and outright falsehoods that are perpetrated by otherwise intelligent men and women as we go about our daily business. They do it for their own purposes and we resent it. The shamelessness of it.

But who's to put them right? You can feed a man for a day by giving him a fish, or you can feed a man for a lifetime by teaching him to fish. But how to imbue in everyone the essential information - hidden within the visible remnants of history - that will enable them to accurately pick out the shameless reappropriations perpetrated every day by the forces of conservatism? Do you make media literacy a secondary school subject? Do you mandate teaching of the history of Europe? How do you frame the various strands of history that go together to make up the complex of institutions and ideas that, assembled, enable us to protect our freedoms against the forces of Darkness? Do you teach courses in the Enlightenment? Do you tell people they'll be more interesting at dinner parties if they enrol in your school? Where do you start?

It's like the plethora of fact-checkers that have sprung up of late as the quantum of effort in the public sphere tilts away from journalism to public relations. We all need someone who has access to the truth to be able to pull up the lying scum as they spew forth filth, and reveal the nature of the matter that come out of their dreadful faces. We need a new type of geek-hero who can deconstruct the lies and falsehoods of Capital as it moves inexorably forward like some monstrous Kraken of the depths, a world-devouring beast that must be checked by the polis lest we lose everything.

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