[-empyre-] Bio-Fascism: Eclipse of the Social /Decline of Politics

akroker akroker at uvic.ca
Fri Apr 17 10:16:12 AEST 2020

The moderators suggested that guests for the 3d week introduce
themselves by briefly speaking at first of their own experience of the
pandemic. So then, a brief autobiography of  (my) life in a time of
viral contagion and a brief political biography of its likely
consequences from my perspective. 

Like everyone,  I am sheltering in place at home  on Vancouver Island,
literally an island of attentive solitude in the global stream of viral
contagion. Here, the pandemic has been controlled  by means of  a strong
public health system and political leadership deferring to medical
expertise, relying on a widely shared sense of civic responsibility and
general care for the community in responding to the virus. Now more than
ever in this time of viral delirium,  I think  of Vancouver Island as a
rare, magical intersection of the four meridians  of air, earth, fire
and water, an undeclared republic tilting towards social justice just
off the western continental mass of North America.  Social solidarity in
the face of viral contagion. 

Ironically, the winter months preceding the pandemic were just the
opposite of isolation and social distancing. As part of a collective
political struggle during the winter months, many of us were involved in
an active alliance between youth and elders involved in indigenous
resurgence and environmental activists in protesting the armed
occupation of indigenous territories by Canadian federal police in
support of aggressive pipeline expansion. Like an epochal rip in the
fabric of normal time and space, the Legislature Building here was
surrounded by a large encampment of indigenous youth with the lighting
of  sacred fires, drumming, inspiring speeches, and a field of red
dresses symbolizing murdered and missing indigenous women, all of this
with a spirit of love, not violence, and very courageous, very
determined resolve on the part of indigenous youth and elders. I may
have been teaching a seminar on the politics of race and power by day
with that haunting trilogy of Black Skin/White Masks, Red Skin/White
Masks and Brown Skin/White Masks, but by night many students were at the
encampment in active solidarity with indigenous youth,  with others
responding to frequent appeals during the nighttime hours  to come to
the Legislature to help protect indigenous youth from possible police
violence. What I witnessed over the winter was a glimpse into the
possibility of a more just future traced out in all its social
creativity, political courage and profound ecological understanding by
indigenous thought and practice and by strong alliances between
indigenous youth and many other young people conscious of the historical
injustices of settler colonialism. 

Then, the pandemic, with all its globalized panic fear and political
cynicism. The darkness of this spring just the opposite of the lightness
of winter politics.  Watching Trump's daily televised orgies of
unconstrained narcissism and spasms of self-pity interspersed with
viscous scapegoating and cynical lies, all applauded by an enormous
popular following howling the rage of their discontents, I was reminded
of Deleuze and Guattari's description of the continuing power of 
appeals to the "inner fascist." Here the political virus of right-wing
populism,  fueled by panic fear and very real anxiety over the loss of
jobs in the very real life context for many people of work or starve. 
seeks to attach itself to the host cell of the television audience,
releasing its genetic instructions, and then waiting as the host cell
reproduces the virus, whether expressed in the form of  angry white male
hysteria, scapegoating of Asians, border violence against asylum
seekers, or studied popular silence concerning the cynical hijacking of
relief funds by large corporations in the United States and by
carbon-heavy energy companies in Canada. The immediate consequences of
viral contagion: the eclipse of the social/the death of politics. And
something else as well. Something now present as a faint intimation of
things to come on the horizon of perception, but then quickly inflating
into a really existent reality. And that reality is bio-fascism. The
signs are everywhere. A friend from New York texts me to express her
concern about how quickly people are eager to surrender civil liberties
in the face of the pandemic. She points to the WSJ with its recent
article on the alliance between Apple and Google in perfecting contact
tracing. Definitely a useful medical tool at the present moment, but
after the pandemic a vast extension of the power of corporate
surveillance over individual privacy for purposes of targeted relational
advertising and, for the national security state, an emblematic
breakthrough in power over the bodies of its citizens. Moralized first
in the name of public health but later likely to be made permanent in 
the name of national security and virtual capitalism, contact tracing
could well turn out to be a leading talisman of bio-fascism with the
workplace future likely to an experiment in bio-politics--segregation of
the population, temperature taking, sudden quarantines, rule by
emergency decree. All of this while the virtual capitalism of the 
ruling financial corporations views this as a convenient moment to
actualize what has already taken place--the shedding of unnecessary
living labor once commerce has fully transitioned to remote labor in the
age of the gig economy. Here, surging gun sales and panic hoarding are
only symptomatic signs of the death of the social and the eclipse of
politics, and all of this to the background music of the coming of age
of Bob Dylan's dirge, "Murder Most Fowl."
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