Can you trust any society, state, culture, polity or organization which takes a sanitary approach to madness?
The short answer: no.
The slightly longer reply: Mental and emotional normalcy do not exist. The standard for clean mental health is imposed from without, in order to enforce service to hierarchy. That is its sole function. It divides persons into two broad categories: those who can perform assigned tasks adequately enough to be compensated and left alone to self-police, and those who must be isolated, lest their modes of life “infect” the employable, first of all because this “infection” is a core ungovernability.
Surely, the “mad” may suffer their various states of self, and there is neither cause nor reason to minimize the experience of schizophrenia or clinical depression, as but two of myriad examples.
But, a healthy society does not insist on mental health or emotional sanitation. It makes available every possible space and accommodation for all possible types of person, and personhood.
If a culture or society doesn’t make time and room for every iteration of person, and as a first and organizing principle, the “sickness,” such as this word applies, is always without. It is not within.
Privilege is not a commodity. It cannot be traded or exchanged. It cannot be given away. It cannot be left on the sidewalk or in a trash bin upon discovering that one has it. It is not produced by labor, and then appropriated by ownership and its management regimes. It takes labor to maintain it, and labor is very often forcibly employed towards this end, but labor does not produce privilege.
Privilege is not a trait. It cannot be identified as a characteristic of a single person, because it does not belong to bodies as aspects of their independent operation. It can be used to shape self-image, and to filter reality. It most certainly alters behavior, but it is no more a part of a person’s body than is the moon in the night sky. It is not inherited in the blood, or by DNA. Birth does not bestow advantage.
Privilege is not the outcome of a fair contest. It is not won in honorable competition, by noble and skilled volunteers who have all had equitable training, and access to the same resources. It is not gained from defeating an amiable opponent of good will upon a level playing field, in a game the rules of which everyone has approved in advance, and as refereed by honest and impartial judges. It does not derive from just desserts. It is not earned.
Privilege is a relationship to inferiors, wherein superiority and inferiority are created and maintained by force, dispersion of culture, punishment and the distribution of wealth in order to confer advantage. Privilege depends upon all parties in the relationship inhabiting their places, believing them, and acting out their roles, however unwillingly - often because, for those at disadvantage, survival is at stake. Privilege uses the pliability of memory to train people to believe that human created systems of control are ineluctable forces of nature. These regimes do not occur without effort. They do not operate without organization. Privilege is constructed advantage.
It is a machine, is a built thing. Built things can be unbuilt.
If privilege is a relation between persons, then it will not go away until those relations are changed. It is unrealistic to expect those who have advantage to surrender it. They cannot be shamed. They will not be persuaded. No volume of study will present a factual enough case to change the thinking of those who use power and feel its many desirable effects. The more facts are presented, the more likely they will be suppressed. No amount of inspiring narrative or good will or forgiveness will cause hierarchies to dismantle themselves.
Power cannot be talked into giving itself up.
The very, very, very obvious never really gets its due. In the spirit of giving the long overdue what it’s due, perhaps we can just fess up to a profoundly, stupidly impotent truth, already. (This won’t happen, which is also obvious, because there’s money to be made, but…):
"Small government" means "lethally efficient policing mechanism mostly funded by the very people against whom it will be employed."
Whenever a libertarian or conservative opens his mouth and begins to whimper and whine about “small government,” what he means is so patently obvious nobody ever pays it the attention it deserves. We are invited, instead, to pretend that he has good intentions, and is genuinely desirous of a social and economic polity where liberty obtains and every person (read here, natch: man) may obtain by skill and and honest labor such just rewards as are readily apparent to all.
That this same person (and his type) never manages to agitate or argue for the dissolution of standing armies, the dismantling of prisons, the elimination of corporate defense contracts, the abolition of the FBI, CIA and other acronymic secret societies, or the deconstruction of the complex of corporate fiefdoms which rule most cities and all of the productive countryside should stand testament to the meaning of “small government.”
Of course, anyone paying attention knows that occasionally a libertarian or conservative will “come out” in favor of ending the drug war. Cursory research and very rudimentary google-fu will invariably demonstrate that he has probably had a cousin or son caught up in the slaughterhouse of the American prison system, and being white, takes this very much to heart, since it is also obvious to all that prisons are for brown people, the immoral poor, bad mothers, women who have abortions, refugees from the central american fruit wars and prostitutes.
"Small government" never means "a government which cannot harm anyone, as it is built ground up from consensus, subject always to recall, comprised also and entirely of the entire body of people to whom it is responsible and which concerns itself mostly with the shared administration of the commonweal, and the distribution of the proceeds of labor."
Never. It just never means this.
Keep that it mind. Because it is so fucking, damned obvious…
A limitation common to leftists, in so much as there any in our triumphal corporate republic, is that they lack any useful appreciation for criminality. They are too firmly and too resolutely on the side of good, even if they’ve gone back to calling their ideal The People, or History, or the classless future.
The future is going to look like the present for as long as we keep dividing time up into manageable zones of past, present and future experience, because the diffusion of change is both slower than we imagine, and more obscure than we care to admit.
Change is always an exchange, a swapping of positions and perspectives, of techniques and tool use, of values and concentrations of potency distributed along knowable axes of population, information and power.
Let’s put this in ordinary language: for change to occur, things must move positions, and be known to have moved. That seems especially obvious, and yet if you spend any time observing how people use the word “change,” they will tend to treat it not as an exchange of value, but as an unexpected emergence.
Even though experienced change is really a set of exchanges over time, is a swapping of relative positions as recorded in memories, themselves not entirely reliable, we don’t tell ourselves stories about change according to those terms. We tell ourselves stories about change as if it bubbles up from unseen wells, which we might discover and describe, but which function according to laws originally independent from our participation.
Because of the ubiquity of this story about change, we tend to believe that it is a function of time, that it proceeds along courses of linear development, that it must occur at certain measurable rates the control over which we barely have, but for which - if we are good little boys and girls, and study very, very hard in school - we will develop increasingly agile facility, into the future.
Time does not accumulate value. Time disperses itself, seeks equilibrium at low states of energy. Time is a market*, and like all markets, time levels mercilessly.
The criminal in any given society operates according to this logic of time and change, even when he cannot knowingly elucidate it as such.
Criminality occurs within the artificial zone of the profane, where forbidden acts occur and are given exchange value exactly and only because they are verboten. Criminality disperses itself in wavefronts, in ripples and eddies of overlapping and constantly degrading strength. Because it cannot be maintained by legitimacy, protected by law, nor use up the surplus value produced by vast labor reserves captured in states and employment pools, criminal enterprise depends upon a treatment of time as the experience of temporary exchanges of success, or survival. And even where criminal organization more forcefully mimics the hierarchies in the protected world of legitimacy - especially in the mafias which have come to resemble corporate superstructures - this logic still prevails, as evidenced by the heavier value placed on murder. The government of a state or the management of a corporation can dispense with thousands of human lives, to almost no consequence, this only by the shifting of numbers in columns. Barring revolution or great political tumult, the bodies of those making these decisions will remain sacrosanct, even upon discovery. Power will not tolerate their murders, and very rarely their imprisonment. Ranking bosses and crime lords can be murdered, can be hunted, can be treated as property, as commodity flesh - and will be, if opponents or states are given the opportunity.
Time, for the criminalized, is always an exchange between the need to experience survival as essential, and the chance to thrive. For those cast out of legitimacy (and this is all criminals, from the unvalued to the unremarked to the destitute to the very poor all the way on up the food chain to celebrity dons with fashion model accessories) change, then, will not occur as a linear movement towards higher levels of being, or better futures.
Interruption in the quality of life, deteriorating living conditions, damage to the feeling of improvement, seem to leftists (and liberals) to be so much falling away from the correct way of being, from truth, from the obviously right and most desirable future. Entropy is experienced as failure, and very especially, as failure of will.
Not so for the criminal (which is not to suggest that people deprived of legitimacy don’t fail to achieve intended outcomes, or that they cannot perform their tasks poorly). The outcast experiences life as an exchange between now, and any one of a set of possible tomorrows, each with a different and unfixed value, and very many of them decidedly not an improvement. Relationships exist because they are maintained, or cultivated, or allowed to follow tracks which arise from need and its satisfaction. Tomorrow may very likely unfold worse than today, and that is no more a failure than it is the improper functioning of time’s rightful teleology.
Criminality endures, whilst revolutions almost always burn themselves out, or end up betraying their objects by forgetting their subjects. Revolutionism demands an inescapable linearity to time, to an apocalyptic fervor that reduces all human interaction to a teleology of forces and will and final resolution. There is no exit from revolution. Its adherents want all, or nothing, even those who are prepared to wait. Crime, in comparison, is the attempt to survive condemnation by being always willing to make an exchange, and while it is clearly not predicated on the equal value of all other encountered selves, it relies on an experience of time which recognizes the equality of their capacity to survive, and to have at least the opportunity to have some say in how this is accomplished.
This isn’t a solution to any problem, nor an answer to any of the questions waking up alive will pose. It doesn’t address how people organize themselves, or how they create relationships of use, abuse and oppression. It probably accomplishes nothing, in all truth. But, it’s probably worth noting that all societies produce outcasts, and then criminalize them, But very few produce revolutionaries…
[* - the term, market, is not here used with the same meaning as would occur to a vulgar capitalist, or a market ideologue. I refer back to Smith, the real one, not the imaginary saint of silly Randroidism, the guy who only used “invisible hand” once, buried in a throw away illustration, and who then spent tens of thousands of words dispelling any justification for spiritualizing it the way his prodigiously stupid “disciples” have subsequently done…]
About a year ago, I asked (mostly of myself):
"Why can’t we have a society where the sick, the depressed, the lonely, the broken are sheltered? Why is this anathema? Why are we actively thwarted in establishing a polity, a Commons, where a a person who is clinically depressed receives care as a priority? Why must society be arranged so that the cruel, the hard and the domineering receive all the social benefit, where people who can use others and dispose of them have all of the machinery of state and culture and advancement at their disposal, but where a child who cannot explain her sadness is just supposed to shut up and get tough in order to prove her moral worth?
Why is that men who rape and abuse are routinely forgiven their transgressions, in a set of networks organized to isolate their pasts as off-limits to their present, but a woman who “experiments” once is a whore now, was a whore then, and always ever after will be a whore?
How is it that a relatively small cabal of people who treat others as mere tools can order up and maintain vast armies, exploitative systems, niche polluting power systems, alienating transportation grids and whole continents as rent extraction regimes, but basic survival for the rest of us is a drain on the system?
Is this natural, inevitable, the consequence of merely being human, or is it in fact a history imposed from above, enforced with violence and privation, and therefore subject to alteration?
I am no closer to an answer, now. Nor would I expect to be. The questions don’t really matter without the proper context, which in this case is laughably simple: we don’t have societies organized as pleasurable cornucopias, accessible to all people, because we don’t really believe in them.
Before I get too far ahead of the script, I’m not suggesting that belief is efficacious of itself. That’s just stupid. What I mean to suggest is that most of human culture and communication is the competition for the control of narrative, and its tropes. These narratives do not create the human world. Only labor does that. But they do define it, and perhaps most significantly, define all that is and can be excluded from the possible.
If four people are put in a room and told they can eat only after a set of blocks is arranged in a meaningful pattern, nothing alters the ground level fact that the blocks will have to be moved. Labor will be done. But, who decides what is meaningful, and how? And who controls the narrative whereby people come to believe that they must arrange blocks (or face shelves, or write code, or push brooms, and scrub toilets) in a manner meaningful to an external authority, before they can receive permission to survive (which, in our society, comes in the form of company scrip doing business as currency).
The narratives limit choices, not because the material existence which goes on regardless of words is altered, but because alternatives are explained away, because the stories accrue the heft of credibility sometimes simply from long repetition.
So, what damages a narrative? What actually works to expand the scope of alternatives, to show that material existence is far less limited than our stories suggest?
It’s so obvious, it seems crude to mention it: