Attention Conservation Notice: a few hundred words on a hecture (hectoring lecture – see what I did there?) that I turned up late for (good move) and finally left (good move). Of interest to people who were there, or have insomnia (in which case, they really should have been there).
I rocked up just as one of my favourite academics was saying “in conclusion.” So sadly, I only heard ten minutes of what he had to say. He assured the 100 or so people present (mostly students, with a smattering of academics and groupies like me) that we were going to need “new modes of collective political organisation..” Yes indeed we are, but I can be pretty sure those won’t involve being hectured at for hours on end. Or maybe they will…
Next up we had someone who I’ll call Mr Smith. And given his heroic opposition to Big Brother (no, not the show that rewards you with status for making a tit of yourself; I mean the political concept), I’ll call him Winston Smith.
The last year (2011) was extraordinary, it turns out; Arab Spring (Winston quite rightly was unhappy with that label), the Anti-Austerity Movement in Europe, the Occupy “movement”, the cops in Winsconsin refusing to do the Governor’s dirty work. In Chile the students are revolting (here, it’s some of the lecturers. So it goes).
Winston told us that five years ago we all apparently thought the logic of neo-liberalism would dominate. Insert Badiou shout-out here. Insert Habermas line about modernity being “dead but dominant” here. (Surely the Gramsci thing about morbid symptoms is better, no? – )
Um… Jeffrey Sachs and Joe Stiglitz jumping from the neo-liberal ship after the “Asian” crisis of the late 90s. Isn’t the anti-globalisation/global justice/anti-capitalist movement totally fricking amazing. Um… Iraq War shows how clueless the American Elite is. (I’ve read Gopal Balakrishnan make same argument in NLR)… Latin American revolt.
Winston says there is “not much else to say,” and follows it with at least another ten minutes of not much else to say.
Occupy needs to get its act together to pull people in and to deal with the big build up of technologies of repression. May Day, May Day, May Day – I’m being hectured.
Third up, someone who says he agrees with pretty much everything speaker two had to say, and doesn’t have much to add… (See S-curve below). He uses pop songs as a framework for his argument. From the demands of the Doors (“We want the world and we want it now” )to the hopelessness of the Sex Pistols in 76 “No future” to 1984’s “We Are the World.”
Or, alternatively, Dwight thinks to himself – from the bleak anomie of the 60s (“I can’t get no satisfaction”, the Stones) to the demand for revolution NOW “Isn’t it time” by the Babys in the 70s through to the stunning Marxist critique, through popular song, of commodities and money
M-M’ (a sum of money is lent out at interest to obtain more money, or, one currency or financial claim is traded for another. “Money begets money.” (from here)
There was more of this. Much, much more. Lots of scribbled marx in my book. None of it particularly useful….
I kept looking around for the hidden cameras that would tell me I was in some reality TV show, or part of one of those devious social psychology experinents from the 50s and 60s. No such luck.
My favourite irony – the shout-out to Occupy for creating opportunities for “people [could] encounter each other in the public realm..” None of that tonight, though.
So, what do we have? We have three middle-aged middle-class white men, none of whom would be short of a bob, telling over a hundred people how important democracy is. For two hours. Non-stop
With straight faces.
Question time started at 6pm (from a 4pm start). Except it was supposed to be a “discussion”. This was taken as an opportunity for people in the audience to hone their speeching skills, so that, when jobs open up for “gurus” in 20 years or so (Dead Men’s Shoes, much?) then they have had some practice. Several of them grabbed the opportunity with both jaws.
Look, the medium, if you’ll forgive the mangled McLuhanism, is the message. If you sit people in a tiered lecture theatre and have them listen non-stop for two hours to three speakers, then what you are saying – whether you believe it or not, whether you intend it or not – is “we are smart. You should listen to us. Our voices are what matter in this space, not yours.” That seems at odds with the stated views all in favour of power-from-below. Just sayin’.
An hour later I bumped into some folks who had stuck around to the very bitter end. They looked suitably shell-shocked.
What I gained -
Time and motivation to propose the following
1) S curve
Inverse relationship between the amount of time for discussion/q and a after the speeh of an academic “star” that will actually happen and the frequency/vehemence of promises that they are going to keep their remarks short because they believe in dialectic… sorry, dialogue
The S-curve lets you know when you’re gonna be there for hours, bum and brain benumbed.
2) A new TLA! UFAs
“UFOs may not be a real phenomenon (clouds, Venus, military testing), but UFAs certainly are.
Useless Fucking Academics. Unutterably Fullofthemselves Academics. Unstoppably Flapjawing Academics.”
3. A portmanteau word for a particular sub-set of academics
Acadronics (as in “drone”)
Acadedics (as in “deadening”)
Acadefics (as in “tone deaf to irony”)
Acadessics (as in, dessicatingly boring)
Anhedonic Academics (as in, no pleasure)
Academic Allodynia (as in, painful when you wouldn’t expect it. )