January 30, 2008
Disinterest, intervention, and "democratic liberation"
Foucalt had taken a very radical and critical look at the history of interventionist institutions of Europe, in Discipline and Punish. Think about the very negative argument that he makes in this book. Modern prisons were not produced by a structural change of the aristocratic system of jails. Prisons were built on the pretext of "reform" and "discipline." The penal courts of Europe were another arbitrary institution, merely carrying out the laws created and defined by the values of the new ruling bourgeois class, without regard to an objective, central definition of civility and just behavior. Within the foundations of the prison system, Foucault points out, there was a strikingly large assumption that the codes of behavior instituted by "common laws" were based on just and ordered behavior. This rings true of the emergence of the American bourgeoisie in the post Reconstruction era with national prohibition declared in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, supported by the Women's Temperance movement, ironically before women's suffrage. "Civilized" America passed a law to restrict the freedoms of the populace. What does prohibition have to do with temperance? Moderation? Justice? With such narrow, concrete and specific definitions of law, we can see the fundamental alienation of truth from arbitrary law. No. Alcohol consumption has nothing to do with any of those. A national amendment could be seen as the red flag of the nonobjective opinions of the ruling class (consumed with fear, apparently, from the undeveloped and "uncivilized" state of America) being instituted within the administrative structures.
This is widely applicable to much of American law: abortion is a separate term from murder, even though the pretext of making abortion illegal is defining this term with the established definition of murder (trouble is, it is also established as a medical practice, making culpability almost impossible in a courtroom, or at bare minimum, a greater waste of public funds than prosecuting a murder case with the intent of capital punishment); marijuana is a plant that produces high levels of the chemical THC, illegal by the statutes of the US Code, a plant which is part of an existing ecosystem cannot be considered illegal (it would be like saying your dog's fur is illegal for citizens to touch and that Fido can exist, but you cannot touch your doggy) but making a part of the plant with no pretense other than the profound effects on the body (which include the alluring ability to synthesize treatments for Alzheimer's, Dementia, etc, etc); a contrary example would be the household cleaning supplies used to manufacture methamphetamines are legal despite the high concentration of poisonous chemicals and questionable value of their usage, but in synthesis, rather than analysis, they are illegal.
If we wanted to stop drug usage or sexual activity, we would need to change the culture (the age-old evil socialism). Instead, to stop the drug culture from exchanging chemicals, we brand certain specific substances as dangerous (even with the questionable content of cigarettes, colas, and fast food) and declare their usage, possession (which this legal term is justified with preemptive rhetoric of "with intent to ___"), and exchange. Is this disinterest? I would argue it is class indoctrination. Laws of substances have circumstantial connection with justice and order. It's not the profundity of the chemical effects on the body, society, etc, it is the culture that is looked down upon with fear and ignorance, so the due process of law and order is circumvented and preemptive interventionism is carried out. Drug usage has nothing to do with order. People use conscious-altering drugs everyday. If drugs had a causal promotion of crime, chocoholics would all be in prison. Faulty assumptions, again. The leaders of the ruling class call it an "intervention," claiming it is based in disinterest. But how can drugs be defined as a crime if they are a promotion of crime? Money is exchanged so freely that IBM has concretely been linked to economic support of the South African Apartheid regime. But it's more than money here in America. It's fear and ignorance. That is why I can sit here and deconstruct American Law. If a teenage pothead can be held accountable for a little escape from the harsh oppressive world in his/her freetime, then all parties tied to the large corporate exchange of resources to oppressive dictatorships should be held accountable without any extenuating pretense or exception. How is the Law able to permit illegal actions like Enron, yet crack down on a group of reckless teenagers that have indisputably less impact on society? Why target the small, decentralized actions of certain people. That is your answer. Certain people. Antidepressants are distributed like candy. Psychiatry does not know enough nor do the "professionals" invest the time for clearly and accurately diagnosing such problems. You come in feeling the blues, they give you pills you feel happy.
This is a problem because the same antidepressants can increase thoughts of suicide and not just ideations, but plans as well. Here is clear culpability because of the lack of scientific rigor in large-market drugs. But drugs that impair or enhance certain processes of the endocrine and nervous systems to produce the "high" are all lumped into the same category: detrimental to social order. However, if such drugs are against such order, why must there be a "war on drugs" which relies on leads and arrests of recreational users to catch distributors? If drugs promote social disarray, it should be easy to end "the drug problem." But the assumption that certain drugs promote crime in all people is a faulty assumption. Dosage, interaction with other substances, and individual differences in the way each person processes chemicals all come into play with the effects of a drug on behavior. Go back to physiology or neuropsychology. And the issue is social disorder and the promotion of crime, which is a choice. Right-winged political movements can say they promote individual integrity and personal responsibility, but the rhetoric of the drug laws out of the heyday of American conservatism prove otherwise. You will not be held accountable to cause social disorder because we won't even give you the chance is the message. The assumptions lead one to see the oligarchical class interests present in the policies of our institutions. Guns have also been scientifically verified to promote violent thoughts and behaviors instinctively, that is, across cultures, genders, and age groups. If you want to stop social disarray, the best place to start would be the total prohibition of the production of weaponry. Just a thought.
I think people brand Foucault as a skeptic unfairly. Yes, this is skepticism, but also a call to re-evaluate the way we approach topics of justice, to be aware of the difference between justice and rationalization.
Now, what does this all have to do with Chomsky? Simple. Here, with two very contrasting philosophies (Chomsky is a very traditional, "old-skool" rationalist who places a large emphasis on free and objective inquiry), you can see an overlap. Chomsky addresses the same issues as Foucault with careful examination of the policies and going directly to the contradictions, not the gaps. There are both in the oligarchical, indoctrinational policies of American Law and also foreign policy. Prescription drugs are often released before real stability is achieved, and side effects that promote violent, antisocial actions can be observed. What a contradiction! You would think in a world of "free entreprise" that someone could create a meth lab and make a tightly-controlled factory of narcotics. You just have to scratch your head at such "disinterest." Can there be order? If there can be contradiction, I whole-heartedly believe there can be order. Laws, taxes, and other elements of American government privilege the privileged. America, the public institution does not support economic democracy. In fact, the favor is not on the person with a new idea or a better way to organize society. The favor is on the people with money and power to gain more money and power. Our "economic democracy" slipped away like the free citizens of Athens to a state of oligarchy. The top 10% of the economic class spectrum increased salaries by twice as much as the bottom 20% in the last decade. This is not real freedom. This is arbitrary "every man for himself" with hardly any accountability for actions. The social contract has expired. Bigger is the new better. And Reaganomics and deregulation has expanded into corporate welfare. As we can note in the application of social order and substance, it is easy to catch someone down below. Expand police deployment in an area and the amount of criminals caught and persecuted increases, that is the most certain statistic. People can be caught in a regional placement. Can a person with a private jet be caught? Do we deploy police to hospitals rampant with faulty medical practices? To pharmaceutical companies that release drugs before the recommended date by the scientists that make the drugs? Do we listen to the factory worker about whether an increase in production is feasible?
Regional economies work much more effectively because they rely on the presumption that people are capable of doing bad things. In fact, social psychology holds that people are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior if they know they are not being watched. The destructive effects of selfishness and antisocial views of people are easier to address in a smaller, decentralized, and organized grouping of people. The bystander effect increases in magnitude with an increase in bystanders and after a certain point, where there is a mass of people, a crowd, there becomes no noticeable change in this effect and a crowd simply becomes an impersonal crowd. We all don't like much of the Bush administration's actions, left and right alike, but what can we do? The President is so far removed from the people that direct arrest of this person is impossible. And conversely, the president is so far removed, the effects of the agenda set by his network of power elite leaders cannot be seen and comprehended. A CEO cannot ask his workers directly about the conditions, nor does he care. The social structures we cling to objectify the people who work who are the foundation of order and create all the stuff. You are just a number in the grid. War is a video game and soldiers no longer have to carry the burden of a bayonet and kill the enemy directly. Lower class society is placed in a depersonalized machine to produce for the people with the drive and agenda to do whatever they want. Criticize the ruling class and the only thing they can produce is insults, interruptions and rationalizations, as seen in the video where this "American" talks with a pompous, unnecessary, and fake British accent to assert some intelligence that he lacks, while interrupting Chomsky, who remains composed, rational and attentive to each question. Chomsky responds with careful, nuanced analysis to irrelevant metaphor, historical revisionism, and just outright snobbery.
Who can watch the watchmen when they are held in the safety of their penthouse and mansions? If the people below can be held accountable in the eyes of the law, so can the ruling class.
Freedom is the ability to make choices. Liberty is the freedom from being forced to make choices. In America, there are few who have both freedom and liberty. The social contract is not a computer algorithm, it cannot be expanded into infinity. I agree with Chomsky. The American fixation of imposing "democracy" upon the world goes against America's roots in Libertarianism (Classic libertarian. Emphasis is always on liberty and absence of coercion, not right to property. "pursuit of happiness" not "pursuit of financial gain." Conservatism is revisionism). Indoctrination, and policies that border on cultural hegemony are what we are dealing with. I salute Richard Rodriguez for rejecting the myths of both "melting pot" ideology and "multiculturalism." I am incredulous of such metanarratives of American culture. And yes, I am a skeptic. There is no term or image to replace these with. Such issues are frivolous and waste intellectual energy defining a culture that formed out of the Founding Fathers project to end the bullshit of Europe and allow pure liberation to evolve. We have a common history, that is the most important part of American identity. Any indoctrination about who we are, the food(s) we eat, the language(s) we speak are all detractions from the real issues: the promise of liberty and the institutions that corrupted that promise.
Posted by EvanReynolds at January 30, 2008 10:39 PM
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