The Accursed Sovereign

“Technological Leadership”

Posted in Criticism, Kibble, Political Philosophy by bradishn on July 19, 2011

I recently attended a panel discussion on New Zealand’s endeavor to vastly expand its broadband fiberoptics network.  At one point, the phrase “technological leadership” was spoken.  I can’t remove it from my thought.

At first approach, I think technological leadership may be a contradiction of terms.  Leadership, if I understand it correctly, falls into the political realm where humans govern their affairs (here I am referencing Hannah Arendt’s work The Human Condition, particularly her distinction between labor, work, and action).  It is distinctly a political form of action.  Technology, on the other hand, is a product of work.  Technological works can be unmade, at least in some sense.

Is technological leadership a leadership that is informed by technology and technological innovation?  Or is it the leadership of technological trends and development.  As in all ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ questions, it is probably both.  I find a distinct lack of the latter, however.  In a world where ebooks may come to dominate education and working from home is increasingly common, we may be laying the technological framework for the removal of distinction between private and public realms.  Theoretically, one could live one’s entire life in a house and be educated, work, and die without leaving a digital world.  Though I’ve no doubt people will dispute the reality of such a claim, the fact is that it is becoming a possibility, just as the creation of the nuclear bomb created the possibility of humanity’s death as a species.

I would like to think that technological leadership involves knowing when restraint should be shown in technological advancement.  I might be wrong.  I feel about technological development roughly the same way I feel about the harvesting of natural resources: if they are there, they will be collected.  Where there is coal, it will be mined, where there is oil, it shall be drilled, and where there are trees, they will be cut down; all for progress.  The wheels of capitalism and technological innovation cannot be stopped.  Perhaps we should take them to their conclusions, rather than trying to stop them.

The Goodness of a Human Being

Posted in Biography, Fiction, Kibble by bradishn on September 3, 2010

“I need to disappear.”  The voice on the other end of the line was hushed.  Spirited over who knows how many miles, carried by electronic angels, finally delivered unto me by the speaker of a cellular phone, this voice whispered the kind of urgency that could only be created by the machinations of one’s own perceptions.  I knew before he had even pitched any explanation that I would be on the road by the end of the day.

* * *

The labor-hours vibrated around me as I topped 80 miles per hour coming down a small rise.  I’d continue at this same pace if it weren’t for the fear of legal repercussions, vehicular failure, or the more lackadaisical drivers on the road.  They could continue at their leisurely pace; I had a goal.

And what was this goal?  Just some request for deliverance?  An excuse to get on the road and out of town?  Certainly my time should be worth more.  I could do anything I put my mind to, or at least that’s what they told me.  Those people who sit content in office chairs, who tell me that my poverty is so novel and interesting.  They don’t understand beyond their own comfort, which is why they’ll never understand the loathing I have for where I’m stuck.  Their appreciation lasts for as long as they need me.

No, this was nothing insignificant.  This was the only real request for help someone had put in front of me.  There was no challenge to it.  It was assistance at its purest.  This wasn’t for me, and there was no presumption that it was on either side.  This was a chance to answer some sort of a prayer, no matter how insignificant.  These opportunities did not come every day.

* * *

Everything he owned was in the vehicle in less than 2 minutes.  We began the return journey with less than 5 minutes of stopping time.  When the entire goal is movement, when displacement is the priority, the importance of place drops to an insignificance.  There’s only you, the myriad of -meters in the console, and the always-frustrating drivers around you.  This time they blur into a background as myself and my charge make our way towards his salvation.

He tells stories of the hell he’s seen.  The ignorance, the apathy, the depravity, I know it all before he says it.  I’m not a listener, but a sounding board for him, a chance to decompress the sublime experiences that come with throwing yourself into the fiery depths of society’s lowest-common-denominator.  It is some of the most beautiful and most ugly shit I’ve ever heard; I’ve seen it before, in a different time and place.  We were there together, separated and strangled only by miles, but we both saw and heard and felt and loathed.  He is a kindred spirit, though I am playing the savior.  He says as much, though I again know it before he speaks it.

* * *

Safe in his sanctuary, he hands me money for fuel.  I don’t ask for it, but only accept it.  I’d do the same for him, though we both recognize that it was never necessary.  Though he doesn’t know it, he’s given me something that few can give: a chance to be genuinely useful, to be needed.  In a society where surpluses abound around us, surpluses of goods, of food, of labor, there are these little exigencies that society as a total creature cannot ameliorate with its plethoras of consumables.  The filling of these exigencies will never have a market value, or be recognized for what little good they accomplish.  But it is only in their creation and their alleviation that we’ll ever know the goodness of a human being.

The Accursed Sovereign: an Aside

Posted in Biography, Kibble, Political Philosophy by bradishn on September 1, 2010

I suppose it’s been long in the coming, but I want to speak briefly about the name of this blog and what I believe to be it’s purposive significance.  To start, the name is clearly a play on the title of Georges Bataille’s The Accursed Share (La Part Maudite), a two-volume work which boils down to Georges Bataille’s take on political economy, which in turn departs from Marcel Mauss’s essay The Gift: the Form and Reason of Exchange in Archaic Societies (Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques).  In La Part Maudite, Bataille claims that the cornerstone to understanding any human society is to understand the way it deals with excessive energies.  These energies are accursed, that is, the only thing one can do is dissipate them.  Otherwise, they accumulate and, given enough time, explode (for example, imagine a nation has a budgetary surplus and decides to allocate these extra funds towards military armament.  Inevitably, this results in conflict, making the investment in war-making tools a self-fulfilling prophecy).  The need to deal with these energies is the burden of society.

In the same way, I consider the position of the sovereign to be an accursed one.  This is perhaps American society rearing its head through my beliefs, but often society dislikes those who fill the role of the sovereign (sometimes to the point of violence, as with the act of assassination).  While the position of head of state is prestigious, it is also accursed in that the individual that fills it is the subject of the worst slander and libel society can create.  In just my few situations of leadership, I have come to hate the uninformed and ignorant masses, while recognizing the importance of the role of the sovereign.  Sometimes I worry my politics have taken a turn for the fascistic.

However, the sovereign, while accursed in the eyes of society, cannot be done away with.  Unlike excessive expenditure, which dispels the energies of society, the sovereign is not done away with as easily.  Though events that channel these aforementioned energies can result in the removal of the sovereign, it is an act so destructive that it is tantamount to the body politic decapitating itself (such as with military coup).  In so doing, society often is presented with the chance to radically reconfigure itself, but it will never again be the same.

The head of state, the sovereign, maintains a social order through multiple facets, all of which are premised on the sovereigns very existence.  In some situations, the mere existence of the head of state is what creates social order, not through any particular will of his own.  Without him, society erupts into chaos.  I suppose Hobbes is next on my reading list.