Thursday, November 7, 2013

Going My Way? Anarchist Inclinations and Lorde

(I’m writing this in the wake of and as a way of thinking through a Twitter spat between a well-known blogger/postdoc and a very well known anthropologist who practices anarchism.)

It begins with a question, one rarely asked and so rarely responded to. Neither articulated nor answered, the question persists as an inchoate feeling for and vague orientation toward another. If we were to give voice to this question, to make it explicit, we would thematize the mystery of this orientation, this feeling-for-another that puts us in hesitant proximity with one another. The question might be phrased as “Going my way?” What this question inaugurates through its inarticulation is the astonishingly robust and ridiculously fragile collectivity that we are, whoever we are. In not asking this question explicitly, we refuse to ask it once and once only, we refuse to thematize a foundational orientation that would determine, once and for all, who we are. We’re not a party, no arche or nomos secures to us our identity as ourselves, and in refusing to ground our collectivity through an inaugural determination of who we are and what we want, we commit ourselves to the tense and uncertain work of feeling toward and with one another. We are nothing but the uncertain feeling that we’re oriented toward one another in our orientations toward something else. That we’re inclined toward one another in the multiplicity of our inclinations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about inclination recently. My thinking got started, believe it or not, with Lorde—or, rather, with a critique of Lorde that was making its rounds on the internet. It was a critique of the function of racial signifiers in Lorde’s “Royals,” concluding with a claim about Lorde’s functionality for a white supremacist patriarchal world. I didn’t have any problem with the specifics of the reading; it’s correct, as far as it goes. But I had the nagging suspicion that the critique was true to the extent that it was false, that the adoption of a hermeneutic of suspicion vis-à-vis Lorde was somehow inadequate. This, because I felt like the Lorde of Pure Heroine is, in some way, inclining toward me, toward us—that the speaker of the album is, in some way, a comrade-in-formation. Really truly. There’s too much class hatred and refusal in the lyrics that I can’t not. Silly stupid utopian perhaps. Culture industry people are free to laugh at me. But at stake for me here is the need to rethink the modes by which we orient ourselves to our cultural objects—and, in turn, to one another. (Let me keep talking about Lorde, but with the understanding that inquiry into cultural relations here functions as a propaedeutic for a consideration of political relations.) My worry is that we’re increasingly conflating the necessity of critique with the production of allergies, that critique has given way to simple criticism, that our critical performances are ultimately functional for liberalism’s pulverization of the political. The point here isn’t that Lorde’s lyrics in “Royals,” say, aren’t fucked up; they are, and should be treated as such. But to what end? What’s at stake in this critique? It’s striking to me that, while honest-to-Jesus political white supremacist movements are treated with a smirk, Lorde provokes outrage. It’s easy to ignore white supremacist movements or mock them away for the simple reason that we can’t imagine a world in which we would enter a political relation with them—that is, a political relation constituted by amity. (I would argue that liberals can’t really imagine a political relation of enmity with white supremacists either, and thus the predominance of irony in liberal approaches to these formations.) Simply put, we don’t share a world with white supremacists. For me, Lorde poses a different political and interpretive challenge, insofar as I can imagine sharing a world with her. (CLR JAMES READING GROUP WITH LORDE!) This possibility of world-sharing and world-forming, of politics, requires the adoption of an interpretive-critical mode that can simultaneously keep in view what I take to be the sincerity of her refusal of the given and the violence of the idiom through which she codes this refusal. We need, I think, a critical practice primed by the feeling of co-inclination.

And not just so we can read Lorde differently. Our impulse to critique, and our conversion of critique into mere criticism, is fucking us up. Sometimes I feel like we’ve imported modes of cultural critique subtended by a hermeneutics of suspicion into our relations with one another with the effect that we listen to one another to hear why we shouldn’t listen to one another. When I was thinking about the response to Lorde, I had this dream that we could shift the imagined scenography of cultural critique—that we could treat her less as an analysand rehashing symptomatic dreams on a Freudo-Marxian couch and more as a well-meaning subject who has found her way into a meeting of a radical collective but whose lack of an adequate idiom led her to mobilize a messed up metaphorics. What do we do—ideally—in these situations? As I understand the discourse ethics of such collectivities, the aim isn’t to reveal the fucked-up-ness of the person as an end in itself or in order to boot the person out, but to engage a practice of critique and correction with the assumption that there’s a commitment to the maintenance and flourishing of the relationship. Good intentions for bad actions don’t excuse anything, but remaining mindful of the former allows for the composition of a scene in which the latter can be refused and then repaired. It’s only our willingness to foster such scenes that distinguishes friends from enemies: we repair the fucked-up-ness of our friends, whereas we resist it in our enemies.

The decision to repair instead of reject, to treat as flawed friend rather than infallibly flawed enemy, to (re)produce a fraying relation instead of developing an allergy, is ultimately organized by fictions of intention, sincerity, possibility, and so on. We feel that we’re inclined toward one another, that we’re going the same way, and this basic affect/orientation makes non-allergic critique both possible and necessary. We imagine we’re going the same way even if we sometimes decline from one another or swerve away into terrible things. We survive through these fictions. We live on them and through them for the simple reason that we are all too wounded by this world to not carry fucked-up-ness with us in ways we can’t even know without the rigorous, critical, sustaining, and enriching help of our revolutionary friends. If you read this blog, you’ve probably experienced the extraordinary act of love that is getting called out by a comrade. I can recall vividly each time I’ve been so called out, and I’m deeply grateful for all of them—even if thinking about what precipitated them makes me shudder in embarrassment. We don’t need to worry that this fiction makes us stupid, less-than-critical; there are obviously firm limits to the fiction of co-inclination. I read with Lorde, for instance, whereas I wouldn’t read with Miley Cyrus. In terms of real people doing real things, there probably wasn’t an Occupy encampment in the U.S. that didn’t have one figure (almost certainly a white guy) so resistant to others’ labor of critique and repair that the fiction of co-inclination dropped and this figure converted into an enemy. We need to trust our feelings, to prioritize in practice the weird orientations toward others that we can’t fully explain or thematize. It’s this feeling of co-inclination that prevents every critique from becoming a collective crisis, that allows critique to become a means of collectivity formation.

We, whoever we are, are constituted by felt fictions of co-inclination. Without these felt fictions, we are probably little more than the gaggle of isolated and auto-isolating idiots that Yankee Leninists take us to be when we say things like “Check your privilege” or “That’s fucked up.” Critique can only be the antonym of collective corrosion when we recall that we’re going to get in one another’s way as we go on our way, together, maybe. Indeed, critique is a mode of collective augmentation when its animated by a commitment, however vague, to maintaining the world that we co-produce, that we’re on the way toward. So, let’s rewrite the dictum of Kant, the one he put in the emperor’s mouth, the one that serves as a mantra for liberals and Leninists alike, the one that goes, “Argue as much as you like about whatever you like, but obey!” Let’s rewrite it as, “Argue as much as you like about whatever you like, but incline!” Critique and critique hard. But never suppress the felt possibility that we, whoever we are, are going one another’s way.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Brief Note on Why We’re Not in the Streets

The government “shut down,” and where are we? Not in the streets. My Twitter and Facebook feed are filled with people puzzling over this fact. We know the effects of the shutdown could be devastating for precarious populations—the poor, the food insecure, the sick. We know that the worst effects of the shutdown will be absorbed by raced, gendered, and classed subjects. We know that we’re angry. And we know that we’re not in the streets.

We’re being scolded for not being in the streets. We’re being told that Millennials aren’t serving their world-historical function of maintaining the liberal-capitalist state. We’re informed that we “should be vigorously protesting as the House GOP holds the state and the economy hostage.” We’re even offered a script: “It’s our government, they ought to declare.” We’re told that we are making “it harder for the progressives who do hold public office to do their jobs.”

But what if our puzzled self-descriptions index a political consciousness that all these pious prescriptions can’t want to think? What if we know something, we who don’t go out into the streets, what if we know something that we ourselves almost can’t let ourselves know, a knowledge that we can only become conscious of in the form of a half-shocked self-assessment: “We’re not in the streets?!”

What if we know that we Millennials were born into an already abandoned world? What if we only know the welfare state of yesteryear as a myth? What if we can only laugh when someone encourages us to declare, “it’s our government”? What if we only know a world of de-pegged dollars, of flexible production, of fast-moving finance? What if we only know a world in which the state at every turn functions to stack the world against us? What if we only know a world in which the state’s primary mode of being is as an agency dedicated to the proposition that black and brown people around the world should be incarcerated or killed? What if we only know a world in which our most “progressive” president was the one who gave us the horrible, racist Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act? What if we only know a world in which liberals justify the maintenance of the state by rhetorically gesturing to the very raced and gendered populations that the state only cares to fuck over? What if we know that the devastating abandonment to which precarious populations are now subject as a result of the “shutdown” is simply the agonizing materialization of an already established fact?

What if we’re not cruel optimists because we were never optimistic in the first place.

We want to be in the streets. We showed that. We want nothing more. We want to be in the streets. Dancing, laughing, arguing. Feeding one another, caring for one another, defending one another against the organs of the state that never shut down.  Shattering windows, tearing down fences, making the world our commons. We want to build worlds where the hungry can eat, where the sick can repair. Where black skin isn’t a marker of disposability and where bodies can embody as they like. Where the forms of ableism at times implied in the political shorthand of “the streets” are annulled.

For us, the streets are an impossible actuality. The streets are a place where the fantasy of contact and care becomes concrete. A place where we realize that we are abandoned to one another.  Where we hold on and hold together and, in so doing, get in touch with something new.

Why aren’t we in the streets? We’re already there, already in them, in and through our very withdrawal from them. We’re in them in our recognition that the state has always already abandoned us, that it has created a world in which speech cannot become act and our presence doesn’t matter. We’re in them in our decision to abandon the state in turn, in our refusal to participate in the statist scenography that congregates a crowd in order to re-ground itself.

We know this—vaguely, hazily, inchoately. The question, then, is not, “Why aren’t we in the streets?” It is, rather, “What will happen when we realize we’re already there?”

And we know this, too.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fake Empire; Or, Imperial Life Cannot Be Lived Rightly

The debate over possible U.S. intervention in Syria has brought to the fore a diverse set of U.S. anti-imperialist idioms. The right-wing idiom, as I understand it, is irreducibly linked to questions of expense: the expenditure of money, the expenditure of blood. The center-left idiom mobilizes considerations of expense, but these occupy a subordinate position in the general economy of its critique.  If the right worries over the loss of U.S. life and U.S. dollars, the center-left worries over the very construction of nonwhite life as losable and expendable, as well as the implication that non-NATO states’ enjoy but a tenuous sovereignty, one revocable at will by U.S. imperialists. What interests me here is that it is the nation-state that underwrites both the epistemology and political normativity of each idiom of critique. For both right and center-left, empire-building appears as a deviation from the natured (if not natural) course of being a nation—even if we know that hegemonic nations cannot not perform this deviation. But what if instead of casting empire as a (however inevitable) deviation from the script of the nation-state system, we understood empire in all its facticity, as something irreducible here and there in the world-system? To adopt this stance is already to begin asking why it is that empire can only appear as deviation. I want to suggest that the appearance of empire as deviation is an artifact of the deviousness of empire itself, a deviousness that corrupts our sense of the ontology of empire, a deviousness that constricts our understanding of the repertoires of power through which empire functions.

For, like, ever, empire has been the dominant state-form of the world-system. But in the mid-nineteenth century it became devious, was coded as deviant, and went into hiding. A wild claim, I know: the mid-nineteenth century witnessed extraordinary intensifications of empire-building on the part of both the U.S. and Great Britain. But the idiom of empire underwent a decisive shift, particularly in the realm of the emergent social sciences. This shift was long in the making, and if I had to mark a turning point—and, in my book, I do—I’d locate this point at 1776. Not simply because this was the year in which the 13 north American colonies declared independence, but because in this year Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith was a keen observer of events in the colonies—he delayed publication of his tome so as to incorporate the latest news from north America—and his position, presented both in Wealth of Nations and in a minute he wrote for the Powers that Were, was an indictment of empire. Basically, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze: the extractive mechanisms of mercantilist policies had negative effects on national economic growth, the costs of war and defense were too high, the effects of empire on colonists in the Americas and the colonized in both Indies were devastating, and so on. Smith did not dream that Britain would, in any real world sense, unilaterally institute a world of free trade or (because “free trade” necessarily entailed the dismantling of mercantilist structures, the putative raison d’être of empire) free nations. But this dream would become reality in the epistemic structure of emergent social-scientific thought from Smith on. Smithian political economy was not necessarily normatively against empire; Torrens, a somewhat heterodox Smithian, was broadly for empire, whatever that might mean. But, at a deeper epistemological level, empire was being recast as a form of polity that inherently lacked the substantiality or reality of the nation-state:

It was because the colonies were supposed to be provinces of the British empire that this expense was laid out upon them. But countries which contribute neither revenue nor military force towards the support of the empire cannot be considered as provinces. They may perhaps be considered as appendages, as a sort of splendid and showy equipage of the empire. But if the empire can no longer support the expense of keeping up this equipage, it ought certainly to lay it down. (my emphasis; Wealth of Nations, Book V, ch. 3)

All empire a fake empire.

By the mid-nineteenth century, Smith’s coding of empire as removable equipage had become commonsense among political economists, the metropole’s literati, and increasingly the broader populace. A whole set of middlebrow publications pumped out articles decrying the expense of sovereignty and the flawed economy of mercantilist policies—the Edinburgh Review, say, whose economics writing was under the control for a time of J.R. McCulloch, the dumbest person to ever get to be publicly dumb, or The Economist, a publication noteworthy for maintaining the same stupid truisms for 170 years. McCulloch's Descriptive and Statistical Account of the British Empire (1847) blithely slices off all of what we think of as the "empire" today from his two volume account of the polity. It was also the era of the Anti-Corn Law League, of Cobden and Bright running through provincial towns with the message of “Free trade or bust!” What is important here is the fact that, even as social scientists, their Gradgrindian popularizers, and free-trade activists were advocating reforms with potentially massive effects on imperial subjects in the colonies, the default unit of analysis through which these imperial-scale reforms were discussed was the nation-state. There were no Little Englanders quite as loud as the globalizers of the mid-Victorian era: indeed, they called themselves “anti-imperialists.” This anti-imperial normativity had cognitively dissonant effects. My favorite: Earl Grey, in his two-volume apology for The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell’s Administration (1853), is forced into a bizarre position of having to explain how, as a committed free-trader, his office of Colonial Secretary should even have existed at all. Empire had become so deviant that the head imperial administrator could only discuss his occupation in a spirit of bad faith—or through a racist rationale of extending humanity to the black masses of the world, one that codes empire as gratuitous gift. My point here is that the anti-imperialism that underwrote social-scientific epistemologies was forged without reference to the actual political desires of imperial subjects. That's because empire had been re-coded as a deviant socio-politico-economic object—not as a tense and taut reality within which imperial subjects in the colonial periphery might hope to co-decide on their own political futures.

In my own area of expertise, the British West Indies, the effects of the epistemic shift to anti-imperialism and the institutional shift to an anti-imperial free-trade empire were dramatic. In 1834/1838, Britain had built an emancipatory state, intending both to free enslaved humans in the colonies and, according to a particular modality, to incorporate ex-slaves into the empire as rights-bearing subjects; in 1846, Britain liberalized its sugar markets and instituted free trade with the massive slave economies of Brazil and Cuba, effectively tanking the economies of the colonies it had just emancipated. White and black creoles hated the turn to liberal globalization: they wrote novels and poems about it, they wrote scathing pamphlets and articles, and one Trinidadian mulatto even tried founding a socialist colony in Venezuela in response. But their concerns weren’t simply about economic effects. Rather, they were concerned that Britain’s understanding of empire through the watered-down, Economist-esque optic of political economy corroded the idea of empire as a polity—one in and for which they lived and labored, one that they had helped to build, one in which they considered themselves citizen-subjects. (Today, The Economist doesn't even remember that it once struggled to boot the West Indies out of the oikos of empire, and that this struggle was foundational to its identity. Four days ago, this on their website: "The Economist was founded in 1843 by James Wilson, a British businessman who objected to heavy import duties on foreign corn. Mr Wilson and his friends in the Anti-Corn Law League were classical liberals in the tradition of Adam Smith..." In the first issue, in fact, a critique of imperial structures supporting the West Indies preceded corn law talk. When Mr Wilson stood for Parliament, he was victorious against a quasi-creole, Matthew Higgins, who spent the better part of the '40s polemicizing against Mr Wilson's liberal ilk.) In a very real way, it was among colonial subjects that one can find explicitly pro-empire people in the era of liberal globalization (roughly, 1776-1888). Not because they couldn’t live autonomous lives, not because they did not desire to enjoy freedom, but because empire was the state-form through and in which autonomy and freedom materialized and made sense. In a world not yet entirely structured by the institutional form of the nation-state, why not stake a claim to empire? The index of nineteenth-century social science’s success in coding empire as deviant is the extent to which pro-imperial politics from subaltern subjects in the colonies still makes us squeamish. We want them to have wanted autonomy in nation-statist form, and so much of the scholarship I work with looks back on this period of creole history simply to find the roots of an emergent nationalism. The problem, though, is that so many of the good mid-Victorian British liberals wanted that too; even the arch conservative Disraeli could describe the colonies (the Canadas, in particular) as “millstones” about Britain’s collective neck, fit only to be cast off. Here, the nation-state was the form to which imperial subjects would devolve when empire flung them away.

The coding of empire as deviant was functional for an irreducibly imperial Britain. It enabled it to dismantle systems of support sustaining the economies of those in the peripheral zones of imperial formations past. It enabled Britain to proleptically code new sites of imperial incursion—which piled up throughout the anti-imperial era—as sites of imperial abandonment: we’re here just as long as it takes for us to get what we want, and, like, to civilize you too. It enabled Britain to avoid or neglect the claims made by subjects in the colonial world who felt entitled to a seat at the imperial table as co-deciders in the empire's future. When empire reappeared as a viable state-form with the close of the free-trade era and the dawn of neo-mercantilism, social-scientific epistemologies barely changed. There were some dissenters (like Sealy, maybe), but on the whole the nation-state continued to reign as the social sciences' durable, substantive, real object, its assumed reality, its a priori cognitive frame; empire continued to be posed as an aberration, even if it was an aberration coextensive with history itself. We still tend to see the 30 Years War of the 20th century as a war caused by imperialism, not as a war between empires. Empire was epistemically derealized even as it realized itself across the globe.

We live with this derealization today. Indeed, many of our critiques of a possible U.S. intervention into Syria rely upon this derealization. For many of us, empire reveals itself in the deviant excess of a positive act of power—a cruise missile, a bomb, boots on the ground. For others, it equally reveals itself in the architecture of the global economy—the WTO, the IMF, and so on. But imperial sovereignty engages other forms and tactics of power, too. Today, the mode of abandoning sites of incursion precedes the very act of incursion: empire forms an exit strategy before it even enters, as Randy Martin points out. Imperialism does not simply destroy forms of life; it also produces them while always already unbinding itself from them. I’m trying to locate but can’t find an article of Iraqis who lived near U.S. bases upon the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal. The affective ranges are complicated, but they map this dynamic of power. We didn’t fucking want you here, one Iraqi boy essentially says, but now that you’re here, now that you’ve produced a form of life to which I’m bound and in which my livelihood is bound up, what gives you the right to leave? Empire is the production of a state-form in which the complexity of that question cannot get any traction, in which its articulation has no institutional effects, in which the norms and epistemes underwriting U.S. culture can only transform that question into an alibi for empire at worst or as collaborationist bargaining at best. It is as much a form of inaction as action, of abandonment as incorporation, of neglect as making the world hyper-intelligible.

My point, basically, is that no matter what Obama does, empire is real. It is a fact, one that saturates imperial inaction as much as action, one that structures imperial intervention as much as non-intervention. We cannot possibly elaborate a radical political position vis-à-vis Syria if we do not see that any decision is already bound up within an imperial calculus, bound up within a world-system in which empire is a durable, structured, and decidedly not deviant fact. We need to get that bombing or not-bombing are both positively imperial acts. This might make U.S. passport holders pessimistic, hopeless even, and in certain ways it should: Imperial life cannot be lived rightly. My point isn’t to create an apologia for bombing—I’m against it wholeheartedly, whatever my good intentions or big heart mean here. Nor is my point to dissolve the real violence of empire into some kind of night where all the imperial cows are grey (which is how works like Burbank and Cooper’s on the historical facticity of empire are being perversely taken up). My point, rather, is that to code as deviant one response to the U.S.’s perennial question—to bomb or not to bomb?—is to disavow the falsity of imperial reality itself. It is at the moment of impossible choice—one U.S. citizens are all now making, at least in their heads—that the unbearable falsity of reality reveals itself. But we can only attune ourselves to this impossibility, feel this unbearability, and let the unliveability of the real charge us to realize new worlds if we are willing to ascribe to empire the substantive, non-deviant reality that it less-than-obviously possesses.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Good Worker, Property Destruction, and Trayvon Martin

Even before the city street fully absorbs the resonant sounding of shattering glass, the press—mainstream media or citizen journos, it doesn’t matter which—introduces us to a stock figure whose words are nonetheless accorded a special status. You’ve met him or her before. We’re now all old friends with The Worker Who Doesn’t Like Property Damage. The prolie who picks up the shards after the anarchists have had their smashy-smashy fun.  The employee who tells us he is sympathetic to the anger, but there must be another way. Days after Trayvon Martin suffered his second death—the juridico-political death that retroactively strips him of property in himself, the juridico-political death that came after but always came before, the juridico-political death that laid down the path that Zimmerman would follow—media outlets have dusted off the Good Worker and set her to work to chastise those whose outrage at Martin’s second death has taken the form of smashed windows, burning dumpsters, courthouse graffiti admonishing us to kill all the pigs.

The Good Worker knows that property damage is no way to protest the fact that Martin had no property in himself. The Good Worker knows that violence dishonors Martin’s memory. Of course, everyone already knows that; this is the USA, after all. But the Good Worker knows something special, something more. She possesses a particular knowledge derived from a quotidian detail of her life. She is the one who has to sweep up the glass. He is the one who has to wash off the paint. After the party of anarchy, the Good Worker appears on the scene and, with a sigh, dispenses his special knowledge: the infantile leftism of the anarchists and the outraged hurts no one but those whom they claim to defend.

Through the Good Worker’s resigned affect—“I’m the one who has to clean up”—liberals convert dependence on capital into an alibi for capitalism, transform the worker’s binding to the propertied as property’s normative basis. Relations between capital and labor never seem so free from compulsion as when the Good Worker laments the extra work imposed upon her by…other workers, maybe, but more likely dropouts and nogoodniks. The discordant symphony of shattering glass resolves itself in Careyite harmonies. One is encouraged to imagine that the Good Worker’s Good Boss never demands a little overtime, never subjects her to work that go beyond the parameters of the job. But that is precisely what is happening, and not just because he is sweeping up a window: the very articulation of the lament is itself a form of surplus extraction. After all, the political geography of smashy-smashy and political economy of U.S. cities ensures that the Good Worker’s skills will tend toward the communicative, the affective. He doesn’t work in a factory, but in a shoe shop, a restaurant, a boutique cheese store. And she possesses the corresponding skills: she can read inchoate desires and conduct them toward an object, respond to pressing demands, defuse awkward situations. After the windows come smashing down, the general capital exploits these affective competencies. It shoves a microphone, recorder, or someone with a Twitter account in his face and asks him to work a little bit longer, to piece the shattered norms of capitalist society back together with his words. And she does, bearing tidings that an assault on property is an assault on workers, because workers have nothing but the property of others. To harm property is to harm ourselves. The Good Worker’s stoic acceptance of her lot is converted into a quasi-proprietorial care that simulates a property in something that could never be hers.

This equation has been literalized in the case of the Oakland protests over the juridical fact that Martin had no property in himself. In an article entitled “Waiter attacked, freeway blocked in 3rd Oakland protest,” the reader is informed, “As the night wore on, violence grew. About 11 p.m., a masked protester hit a waiter at Flora Restaurant and Bar on Telegraph Avenue in the face with a hammer as he tried to protect the restaurant, whose windows were broken two nights ago.” That this happened is undeniable, terrible, and has been condemned by pretty much everyone (minus some with what I think are fantasies of an agent provocateur). I can’t think of any anarchist who would approve non-defensive violence, particularly against a worker, during a demo; we’d gladly leave a window untouched so as to not harm a human. As the masked protestor’s action strikes us all as aberrant and abhorrent, what intrigues me is the description and naturalization of the waiter’s (named Drew Cribley) act. The causal determination of the worker’s intention is established—windows had been broken before. The deeper emplotting of the event comes at the end of the sentence, and retroactively accords his action—tensed with “as he tried…”—a drawn out, durational quality where one might only read temporal simultaneity or, indeed, spontaneity.

Yet, as another article reveals, the waiter’s defense of the restaurant was indeed spontaneous:

Cribley said his black-masked attacker passed him on the sidewalk, then started pounding on windows with a hammer when Cribley turned and told him to stop. "I kind of instinctively pushed him away," Cribley said. "That's when he turned back at me and cracked me in the cheekbone."[…] "Looking back on it, it was a really stupid thing if you thought I was going to interfere," he said.

Strikingly, Cribley didn’t think he was going to interfere, he didn’t intend to, not consciously, but a “kind of instinct[]” drove him to “turn…and [tell] him to stop.” It is as if the thump of the hammer on the window sounded out like Althusser’s policeman’s hail: Cribley can’t not turn, even if he doesn’t know what he’s turning toward, turning for. With its direct access to the habits of head and heart of liberal capitalism, the newspaper reveals why. Cribley turned to “protect the restaurant”—not himself, not a window, but the corporate/fictive entity of the restaurant. According to the paper, he wasn’t protecting an object so much as the idea of property itself.

It seems perfectly natural, even laudable, that a worker’s body would absorb the blow intended for a capitalist’s window. Indeed, the article establishes a striking fungibility between (capitalists’) objects and (workers’) bodies. Both are, in effect, absorbed into the fictive person of the firm and, indeed, are little more than the business’ precipitates, the accidental bearers of capital’s personhood. (The assault on Cribley doesn’t even make it into the lede; it is only reported after destruction of other property is detailed.) After the windows come smashing down, the press impresses the Good Worker to restore the commensurability of bodies and objects, people and things.

It was this form of commensuration that killed Trayvon Martin, and killed him twice. The trial of Zimmerman briefly extended to Martin something that could never be his—a proper claim to himself, a juridico-political identity that did not position him as some bizarre thing midway between object and person. If the court’s decision confirmed Martin’s status as a being that could be killed but not murdered, the discourse surrounding property destruction in Oakland confirms neoliberal capitalism’s commitment to reproducing and repairing that order. Through the Good Worker, it first indicts those who actively refuse this commensuration with the charge of exposing its ugliness, for directing conversation from Trayvon Martin to smashed windows (as if anarchists are to blame that the media cannot control its vulgarity, as if anarchists are to blame that the media can’t not stop a conversation about Martin because a violated property hails). It then tells us that Martin would not approve of this violence, that violence against property is no way to honor Martin. Indeed, it posthumously transforms Martin into the Good Worker, someone who knows that to harm property is to harm ourselves. Someone who knows that because we have no property, because the property of others has subsumed any claim to property in ourselves, we have to identify ourselves with it. Someone who knows that our being can be exchanged with objects and things and that, indeed, we should be prepared to “protect” windows—even if we risk extreme bodily harm in so doing.

Feigning outrage, the media is hard at work restoring the logic of racial, neoliberal capitalism that killed Trayvon Martin twice. But there’s grumbling in the ranks: the Good Worker isn’t complying. The follow up article on Cribley concludes with the paper asking him to play his appointed role.

Cribley said he sympathized with protesters and their right to voice outrage, yet feared the violence would overshadow their goals. "It sucks for the people who are really trying to be heard because it starts to take away from their message," he said. "People around the country look at Oakland and feel like there's a bunch of vandalism and violence rather than intelligent people with an actual cause they believe in. Instead of talking about that, you're talking about the guy who got hit in the face with a hammer."

Note the striking disparity between the paper’s gloss and Cribley’s words. Cribley’s final quote is introduced as if what follows is pure Good-Workerism. He’s sympathetic to the protestors, sure, but, like, he wonders: this couldn’t be the right way. But, as his words actually reveal—his words, what he thinks when his personality is not subsumed into the indirect discourse of capital’s mouthpiece—he does not disavow property destruction. He does not oppose “vandalism and violence” to “an actual cause.” Rather, “people” do, people who “feel” a certain way about Oakland because the reporter, instead of talking about the cause of the demonstrators, is busy “talking about the guy who got hit in the face with a hammer.” Cribley is basically asking the reporter, the you of his address, to write about something else, to write about the actual cause of the violence, the actual meanings it conveys. Cribley refuses to be the Good Worker, to simulate investment in an order of property, of proper being, that left him with a hammer to the head, that left a black boy twice dead in Florida.

But the propertied order has the last word: “Cribley said he'll return to work Thursday.” And the windows will be repaired by then, too.