Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon

Conscious and permanent visibility’…’ Apparantly this is what Mark Zuckerberg thinks social media is all about. By making our actions and shares visible to a crowd, social media exposes us to a kind of virtual Panopticon. This is not just because our activities are monitored and recorded by the social media service for the purposes of producing market analysis or generating targeted advertising. For the most part, we can and do ignore this kind of data harvesting. The surveillance that directly affects us and impacts on our behaviour comes from the people with whom we share.

Tim Rayner likens (via Foucault) social media to a virtual panopticon—a circular prison with a guard occupying the center, from which the behavior of all prisoners is visible.

The American civil war didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president

We never cleaned up after the civil war, never made it anathema, as the Germans have since the second world war, to support the losing side. We never had a truth and reconciliation process like South Africa did. We’ve allowed statues to go up across the country glorifying the traitors and losers, treated the pro-slavery flag as sentimental, fun, Dukes of Hazzard, white identity politics.

Rebecca Solnit argues (convincingly, as always) that we are, in a very real sense, still fighting the Civil War.

Rediscovering my daughter through Instagram

Social media has been blamed for ruining our democracy, shortening our children’s attention spans and undermining the fabric of society. But through it, I was able to be with Paulina out in the world again, to see what she sees, to virtually stand beside her and witness the people and places she moves through, in nearly real time.

Incredibly moving piece about a mom who wants nothing more than to understand her daughter, and who discovered that Instagram is an excellent way to do just that.

The language of capitalism isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous

Rather than attacking the conditions that make “grit” necessary, the word’s proponents ask women, people of color, and the poor to overcompensate for the unjust world into which they’ve been born.

Words gain their power not only from the class position of their speakers: they depend on acquiescence by the listeners.

Words matter. Their work is subtle and gradual… but they shape our reality in profound ways. The language of capitalism, in particular, laid the groundwork for many of our most deeply held biases toward our mode of production. The language of capitalism isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous. We’d do well to take our language back.

How do we move beyond commodified feminism?

Feminism itself is a practice, a tool, a weapon, an insight. It is the truth that in our current world, women are often intentionally, systematically disadvantaged and exploited because of their gender. Therefore, “feminist” should be regarded as a promise, a mode of being, a commitment carried into all our efforts to recognize and reject sexism, and to let that inform our rejection of all types of injustice.

Conflict materializes when we buy into the notion that feminism is a narrow aperture through which to consider our world, one that can only inform our analysis on issues that break down neatly around gender.

Sabotage feminism, the feminism that’s visible to most Americans and to most women, that’s espoused by both celebrities and op-ed columnists, has trouble grappling with this. It can say plenty about how Trump habitually demeans women, but it hasn’t developed the sort of trenchant, comprehensive critique that would allow it to speak meaningfully on the racist and fascist legacy he has adopted so completely, one in which the state is entitled to any and all of our personal data; to carry out massive attacks overseas with heavy civilian casualties in countries with which we’re not even officially at war; to cage its own citizens before they’re found guilty of any crime and then indefinitely thereafter; to violently aggress against peaceful protesters and to murder citizens with impunity through an unrestrained and anti-Black police force.

Charlotte Shane on what we need to do now.

What Thucydides Knew About the US Today

As a rule those who were least remarkable for intelligence showed the greater powers of survival. Such people recognized their own deficiencies and the superior intelligence of their opponents; fearing that they might lose a debate or find themselves out-maneuvered in intrigue by their quick-witted enemies, they boldly launched straight into action; while their opponents, overconfident in the belief that they would see what was happening in advance, and not thinking it necessary to seize by force what they could secure by policy, were the more easily destroyed because they were off their guard.

Man, Thucydides nailed the current political climate… in the fifth century BC

Antisemitism Is Our Problem

Technology is not a thing. What counts for technological innovation involves capitalists, in the face of competition, being driven to produce faster, cheaper, and in ever-greater volumes. And, to this end, it is the ratio of workers to machines that changes, mostly to the detriment of workers, with the trend toward ever-more-proficient machines replacing humans in all sectors of the economy. Note, however, that in certain sectors, and especially during recessions, investment in machines may be too expensive, and in this case capitalists will readily revert to living labor.

Saving the planet, rather than changing the world, is surely the most urgent political challenge facing humanity today. And yet one would be foolish to underestimate the extent to which the crisis can be blamed on the social division of labor and the private wealth accumulation that have dominated our economies and depleted our planet’s resources since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

If we want to confront Islamaphobia, people must actually be wiling to study Islam, to get to know Muslims, to learn about its teaching, its history, its extraordinary variety, just as those wishing to do something about racism in America cannot pretend a blithe ignorance of its effects or history is compatible with real social justice.

On antisemitism and our role in it.

What unites us

being honest with each other is underrated …. honesty brings about meaningful connections and lessens the feeling of alienation ….. thinking that we have to present the best versions of ourselves at all times is a result of living in a capitalist society that reduces us to our most “admirable” traits and not the whole spectrum of feeling which is what unites us all as human beings …..

Thinking itself is dangerous

Away from the glaring light of public life, between the “four walls,” as she calls them, we are able to retreat from the world of appearances and take refuge in solitude. Solitude, which is necessary for that two-in-one conversation, is only possible when we can be alone without being lonely, when we can exist freely away from the eyes and ears of others. We may act in concert with others, but we think in private by ourselves.

Dialectical thinking is determinant, which for Arendt means that it forecloses the possibility of new beginnings, because history is always turning back upon itself. Her criticisms of Marx pivot around his understanding of labor, which lies at the center of his philosophy. For Marx, labor is the defining quality of man; it is his ability to transform the natural world into objects through the labor of his body. In Arendt’s view, instead of thinking about people as unique individuals capable of reason, word, and action, Marx leveled all to their bodily capacities, to animal laborans. If the point for Marx was to free people from the laboring activity, which could only be achieved through labor, then what were people being liberated to? Marx turned the Western tradition of political theory upside down, orienting our gaze away from the life of the mind toward the life of action.