Sunday evening, as I mentioned in my previous post, I hung out with heraclitus
for the first time in six months. Fun was most certainly had, talking about a whole variety of topics. Most of these topics seemed to relate in one way or another to the ways in which communities manage to constitute themselves, in both the ancient and modern worlds (Greek age-related homosexuality, for instance). Overall, our conclusions were pessimistic; it wasn't coincidental that that very day, Henry Giroux
's article in the Sunday Star
, "The politics of disposability"
was published, talking about the biopower
in the modern United States.
With its pathological disdain for social values and public life, and its celebration of an unbridled individualism and acquisitiveness, the Bush administration does more than undermine the nature of social obligation and civic responsibility; it also sends a message to unwanted populations: Society neither wants, cares about, or needs you. Katrina revealed with startling and disturbing clarity who these unwanted are: African-Americans who occupy the poorest sections of New Orleans, those ghettoized frontier zones created by racism coupled with economic inequality. Cut out of any long-term goals and a decent vision of the future, these are the populations, as Bauman points out, who have been rendered redundant and disposable in the age of neoliberal global capitalism.
Katrina reveals that we are living in dark times. One of its most obvious lessons — that race and racism still matter in America — is fully operational through a biopolitics not unlike the kind described by scholar Achille Mbembe as "necropolitics," in which "sovereignty resides in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who may die." Those poor minorities of colour and class, unable to contribute to the prevailing consumerist ethic, are vanishing into the sinkhole of poverty in desolate and abandoned enclaves of decaying cities and rural spaces, or in America's ever-expanding prison empire.
Not that the United States is that distinct, not in the context of growing hysterical anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, say, or in the ability of Estonians to tolerate HIV so long as it's concentrated among Russophones, or in the disposability of the Chinese peasantry, or in the many, many other ways in which people nowadays are willing to overlook wrongs done to others so long as these others are inconvenient. If they
disappear, well, who'll notice? I can only hope that Canada won't succumb; hope, mind, not believe with any degree of wholeheartedness.
"Oh, you little sick little fucks," as Tori Amos sang
back in the innocent days of 2001 on Strange Little Girls
, that album presciently released on the 17th of September of that year, "yes, it's the beginning of the new age."