Who’s “we”? / Whose “we”? (I)

This quote has been making the rounds:

We need to talk about gun control and mental health, but we also need to have a conversation about American masculinity.

[attached to a rather macho gun advert]

… and when I asked, “who’s we”?, there opened a long-thread Facebook conversation…. Indeed, the emptiness of this “we need to do something” language, perhaps characterizes the frustrated explosion of spectacular “Facebook chatter” that accompanied Adam Lanza’s shooting. If the rise of Barack Obama shows anything, it is that the America state will keep mobilizing public but the opinions outside the tight confines of the high bureaucrats will be entirely excluded (for example: “Obamacare”, accompanied by a discussion circus but written by health insurance companies). Even intelligent liberal policy-makers like Paul Krugman, who only want to warn that capital might try a longer-term strategy are entirely frozen out. But perhaps to compensate, perhaps because their quotas have been raised, leftist commentators seem to be moving to regain the “we” (Jodi Dean says “…we can finally say ‘we’ again…” as she imagines the resurrection of the hideous, bureaucratic capitalist so-call “communist parties”).

So our colorful description for the present moment would be; there is less “real” “we” than ever before, but more fake-we-ness than ever before. Policy will be decided at the highest level and the rest of the discussion is to justify or falsify the result but policy will be justified in more than ever before in the fashion of a camp counselor getting the kids together to have a talk (you “practice your listening skills”, we practice our “talking at you skills”).

But why even bothering talking about this “we” language? Why look at this when there are mountains of other bullshit out there? The reason to challenge left-bureaucratic pablum like “we need to have a conversation about American masculinity” is that honest language can allow us to notice when an actual community comes into existence. At the point the proletariat is a collective force, say if something like Occupy become more advanced, then it could makes sense to talk about a “we”. Until then it doesn’t and noticing that difference is a small step that is within our powers.

This relates to the whole question of what a modern proletarian upsurge looks like or could look like. But we’ll catch up to that question in the next exciting episode.



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