RAGE and EXHAUSTION
by Arran James
Apparently, ‘We live in a post-ideological age. Absolutes and universals have not only fallen from fashion but have been proved categorically improper: moralising, totalising meta-narratives wholly inadequate to describe the conditions of the modern world. ‘Communism’ or ‘capitalism’, ‘existentialism’ or ‘humanism’: these are terms redolent of a long-dead world’ (Bones 2011).
This is our absolute. This is our ‘meta-narrative’. The article above reproduces the same old story we’ve heard before about our postmodern condition, talked about with such assurance and with such enthusiasm that I can’t help but get a sense of dream, of fantasy, of wish. The Exhausted Wish.
Bones, writing about the Occupy London Stock Exchange (and by extension the Occupy movement as a whole?), states explicitly that he does not ‘believe that their ambition will be achieved, but only that I think it a good thing that they are there, because by so doing they are forcing debates to be had that call into question the very substance of our democracy’.
This is the typical liberal or postmodernist (whichever word you prefer) response. Nothing will come of this but it’s jolly nice to talk about it.
To express how I feel about this in the most eloquent way I can conjure:
fuck and balls to that. The London Riots, apolitical, nihilistic, vehement spawn of consumerism, were the untamed explosion of what we’ve been told for too long we mustn’t allow out; the negative passions. The Nietzschean moment has sunk so deeply into us that even our last Truths have to follow the injunction to affirm when all they are is a violent negation.
Capitalism is included in Bone’s roll call of the dead indicating the extent to which something very much alive, something in such distressed paroxysms (can you confuse a convulsing body with a dead one?), has naturalised itself in Bone’s mind. There is reference to ‘would-be anarcho-syndicalists’, indicating the immediate suspicion that anyone might really be engaged, might really desire, might really believe in Truth. This is beyond postmodernity’s sceptical fear of Truth, born out of the dread that such claims might lead again to the gas chamber; this is the a priori injunction NOT to believe in any Truth. Hip-modernity doesn’t believe anything; Exhausted Modernity is incapable of a suspension of dis-belief. Even the statement that the recent riots, which already feel an age ago, were ‘modern’ strikes one as a statement that they were cool, startling, entertaining, a ‘relief’ from the interminable boredom of discourse, of ineffectual old men. Not the content of things but only the form counts? And of course that ‘they’- the protesters/rioters, even those who the author is convinced are pretending- are ‘they’…..the author is glad ‘they’ are there, perfect externalisations of his moral conscience acting on his behalf, appearing to his sensibility if not to his reason as the avatars of his own passivity. On a personal note, I’m now involved in work place politics, the politics of my job as a public sector worker and as far as my experience goes the working class hasn’t quite disappeared as fully as Bone states. Hard to point to, especially if you believe we’re beyond such trite and dead names as ‘worker’ which properly belong to capitalism and communism, but certainly not dead.
So fuck and balls to conversation, to the importance of talking it out. We will think and we will talk, that’s in our nature. What is really important now is the organisation of rage. That is the work of a new politics, no matter how tinged with psychopathology it might be; it’s the only politics we are capable of, the only that we deserve. Only an angry God can save us now.
What differentiates Exhaustion from postmodernity is that the former doesn’t buy into any ‘end’ or that there is anything that we are now clearly ‘after’, except the promise of a future. Exhastion is a state, not a historical period. There is no final instance…..isn’t that what is so exhausting?