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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

REVIEW: Micah White's The End of Protest-Reading Through Foucault, Baudrillard, Steinbeck and McLuhan

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White has critiqued the present template of Protest as ineffective. He says that the narrative protesters use to tell themselves is in error and he lays down the necessary and sufficient conditions for an effective protest.

1.Surprise - never protest the same way twice
2..Do not fall into the trap of thinking numbers will lead to change. It doesn't now and it won't. As Bush said about overwhelming protest numbers, "I don't pay attention to focus groups."
3. .Do not believe the narrative you have been telling yourselves.
4. A spiritual element is necessary

Reading through Foucault here in a genealogical reading of protest through history.: Genealogy is not continuous,historical,progressive,or LINEAR.

ALL the great protests of history have NEVER been linear. 

The one we are all most familiar with is 9-11. A surprise out of the brilliant BLUE sky of a September morning in New York City. It perfectly fits the definition of an EVENT cutting into the linear world we are living in. Our Episteme. It was an act coupled with suicide. It was the SYMBOLIC GIFT which requires the COUNTER-GIFT which the US has not been able to come up with yet and faces suicide if it can't according to the template of rules in the Symbolic Order. No one needs to ask if it was an effective protest.IT CHANGED THE WORLD

The other protest we are also completely familiar with was Jesus turning over the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. This was his last act of defiance and the one that the priests of the Temple could not overlook, so they demanded retribution. The priests of that time were in dire danger of losing their power - their jobs and careers as Temple Officials.Jesus was following Isaiah and he is choosing his end accordingly. LINK

Does this resonate with you for our time?

Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle

The reviews at Amazon say this fictional account of the strike of apple pickers in the California Torgas Valley is NOT a manual for protest/strike.

But I think it is.
It has all of White's necessary and sufficient conditions.
 Mac is instructing Jim, a new admittance to The Party - read Red Communist - and tells him when asked how they are going to do it, that he is going to use what is available. They are going to improvise with what they have, what happens and the situation as it develops.Surprise is all over this novel, it is all over everything they do. We are not really reading a narrative but constant dialogue and their actions.

Mac is constantly focused on the EFFECTS of what they are doing and planning to do next. It all keeps changing even on them. Mac is planning it as he is experienced, but he doesn't have a plan written in stone, so in that it is not a 1,2,3 manual but a manual just the same.
It is a non manual manual.An anti-manual we can say.

It is a thrilling account and some say Steinbeck's best book and certainly a very beloved book
Obama has said it is one of his. (cough cough)

Soon a movie directed and starred in by James Franco
Published in 1936 by Colliers

Towards the end of this novel, Jim the novice apprentice begins to assert dominance over Mac, his supervisor and trainer. He sees that the superb organization of the powers in the valley are going to defeat them. So he begins to plan, to order the workers into a military structure. At this point you see spontaneity, singularity, EVENT, being swallowed into THE PRODUCTION OF A PROTEST, A STRIKE.It is at this moment when Jim takes control with cool calculating moves that the protest changes from the SYMBOLIC ORDER of living, passion, love, the sacred, and reversibility into the ORDER OF PRODUCTION of survival, repetition, exchange, and irreversibility. It is coupled with Jim's suicide, taking it back into the Order of the SACRED.

 My point here is that it is a beginning of the subversion of the singular into the replication, the oncoming simulacrum of PROTEST.

The great social activist, community and union organizer SAUL ALINSKY
was called in to handle the union organizing at Eastman - Kodak in Rochester New York. The workers were getting nowhere and had been stonewalled for too long.

Saul Alinsky
In a Playboy Interview Alinsky said he was the type of person who would be walking down the sidewalk until he saw a sign saying KEEP OFF THE GRASS. Having had no intention of walking on the grass he immediately felt like doing just that.

Eastman-Kodak was inordinately proud of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra which they founded and funded. 


plan was simple, surprising, non-narrative and effective.
And joyous

The workers planned to attend the concert that Friday - Saturday? - night. Before the concert they had a huge banquet of BAKED BEANS and ate them all up, just like Goldilocks.

And they of course,
the night away at the concert. Eastman- Kodak surrendered and the union got their demands.
Again surprise,an EVENT, non linear, and is laughing joy not spiritual?

SPARTACUS is another great protest against the Roman Empire's institution of slavery.

 And then there is Abbie Hoffman and the Chicago 8 becoming the Chicago 7 as Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers opted out and wished to be tried separately as he was so outrageous. Us oldsters remember this PROTEST, this extravaganza against the Judicial System of the USA. Abbie entered the courtroom dressed in a shirt made out of the  American flag. Bobby Seale gave the judge such impassioned long rants that he was taken out, tied to a chair and his mouth taped shut. They all made a travesty of that courtroom. So here is that link in more detail. Don't miss it.But it is one of those EVENTS that if you weren't there it sort of doesn't count.