Thursday, November 22, 2012

Democratizing Truth

Considering the revolutions in the Middle East in light of the readings, particularly Ranciere, and lecture this week, it is difficult to conceive of all forms of government in any terms other than those which suggest a rigid and structured network. This is reinforced in democracy by the requirement of cohesion and control (which Ranciere points out are only able to be met by "superpowers") as a response to the double movement of mass-individualism.

But the question arises as to what prefigures the way in which a particular government structures itself. As Ranciere notes, the central paradox of democracy is "that the very ground for the power of ruling, is that there is no ground at all." If democracy is not a way of life or a governmental system, its process of flattening, the homogenization of power and the creation of freedom would seem to imply that it is in fact a system of relationships, and in its ideal form a network of homologous nodes all evenly spaced from one another. The paradox becomes even more apparent when we try and conceive of the shape of this network. It is not dimensional in any manner, but instead a single point at which all the nodes are located, the connections between the nodes are unnecessary because the nodes are the same. (It is all very much like Point Land from the wonderful book Flatland by Edward Abbott Abott)It is deceptively the most cognitively map-able imagined community. The ability to imagine the communion of others that make up the network (nation for Anderson) is at once necessary and impossible. The homogeneity of nodes forces us to interpolate them into our conception of a unified subject (ourselves). How could we imagine self-alterity beyond the democratic equivalent of the royal "We?"

This breakdown of differentiation is mirrored by the opposed claims of transparency made by the governments and revolutionary forces involved in the various Arab revolutions. All truth claims are brought into question and the messiness of actions that accompanies democratic society is matched by a messiness of the truth in a moment of mass hyper-individuation. In fact, it is only from this state of hyper indivudation that there cohesion can emerge. Because everyone is capable of producing a truth (“the sniper alley doesn’t exist until they provoke a response”) or of discounting their opposition’s truth claims (Hassan Nasrallah’s implication of Israeli complicity in the death of the former Lebanese Prime Minister) new relationships of trust must be formed through the economics of affect and common passion and through which networks and thus particular governmental forms/structures emerge.

This brings into question the claims of centrality to the success of the Arab revolutions on the parts of Facebook and Twitter. While they do provide the framework for phatic or preliminary connections to be made, the prefigured manner in which connections are made and their relative lack of depth (what is a retweet or a like compared to someone standing by your side in a march?) dissociates them from the economics of affect which were central to the revolution. Even some of the “facebook kids” themselves said that they stopped paying attention to what was being broadcast on social media and just showed up at Tahrir Square each morning because that’s where they felt they should be.
social networking as prefiguring the work of bloggers, providing the phatic connection upon which real communication can be built

No comments: