Mark Fisher memorial, Sunday 12th February 2017

Mark Fisher (kpunk)
1968-2017

Eulogies by Tariq Goddard, Jeremy Gilbert, Justin Barton (reading), Tristam Adams, Robin Mackay
Tariq Goddard

We will all remember Mark Fisher.

He took us and the things that interested us seriously because they mattered to him too. His attention to what we watched, read, and listened to endowed us with the intellectual self-confidence to stand up for ourselves and engage with a world that would not have noticed, much less be bothered by, our silence.

Encountering Mark was like joining a band; you shared a sense of purpose before you knew whether you were even going to like each other or not; the thrill of where you might be going rendering the conventional process of getting to know a person obsolete.

Owning up to fear, and overcoming what frightened him, was his dialectical method

Owning up to fear, and overcoming what frightened him, was his dialectical method. What on one day might be the cause of anxiety or paralysis, would, by the next, be an inconsequence he could humour, laugh at, and then ignore. Because encouraging trust was more important to him than the observation of social niceties, Mark led by example and gave freely of himself and often. People invigorated him but he lacked the necessary vanity and love of the limelight to become a public figure; trips to Disneyworld with the small family unit he loved and revered, were easily as welcome as the summons to revolutionary war.

Sadly his generosity did not always extend to himself, and Mark had a way of not allowing praise and compliments to really reach him. This was partly due to his distrust of flattery, innate modesty and shyness, but also because his eventual validation entailed a responsibility and a position to live up to.

Never leaving anything in reserve for himself rendered him susceptible to exhaustion, and as the pragmatism of cutting corners and making do was an anathema to him, withdrawal and inertia became a refuge. Mark’s fervent integrity and refusal to shy from life’s bottomless darkness meant that when robbed of energy, living could become a burden, to a point where he incorrectly identified himself as one.

It is cruelly ironic that a man who had such fair and realistic expectations of others, could not extend them to himself, and though none of us can agree with his decision to end his life, I believe he mistakenly felt that by doing so, he was sparing not himself, but those he loved most, from further suffering.

That his thinking, so full of insight and compassion, could have come to this, was his tragedy and our loss. He will be remembered as intensely as he will be missed, and I am sorry that he is not stood where I am now, to acknowledge how much he will always mean to us.

We will all remember Mark Fisher. Continue reading Mark Fisher memorial, Sunday 12th February 2017

The Great Digital Swindle

Mark Fisher

Who dares dissent from the gospel according to Silicon Valley? There is – we are insistently told – no alternative to the invasion of capitalist cyberspace into all areas of consciousness and culture.  Anyone who expresses even the mildest scepticism about social media and smartphones is roundly denounced as nostalgic.  The old, desperate not to seem out of touch, rarely dare question the young’s compulsive attachment to their smartphones. Anti-capitalists join with
tycoons to celebrate the potentials of network society. In article after article, conference after conference, the “new” is routinely equated with “the digital”, to such an extent that is now difficult to remember a time when “technology” wasn’t a shorthand for communicative software.  When mobile phones entered the marketplace, they were the object of mockery: who could be so self-important as to believe that they needed to be contactable everywhere and anywhere? Now, everyone is required to act like some cross between a hustler always on the make and an addict jonesing for contact.

But how has this model of progress, in which history culminates in the glorious invention of iPhones and apps, become so uncontested? And, if we attend closely, isn’t there a desperate quality to all this cheerleading? Addicts always rationalise their compulsions, but the desperation here belongs to capital itself, which has thrown everything at the great digital swindle. Capital might still swagger like some data cowboy, but iPhones plus Victorian values can only be a steampunk throwback.  The return to centuries’ old forms of exploitation is obfuscated by the distracting urgencies of digital communication.  Continue reading The Great Digital Swindle

Mark Fisher on #piggate and the death of British satire

Hug a Tory

‘From the early records of Greek and Latin slang, where [words for pig] were used to describe the female genitalia through to modern uses of ‘pig’ to mock the police, the fascist and the male chauvinist, pigs seems to have borne the brunt of our rage, fear, affection and desire for the ‘low’. [But] it was precisely the ambivalence of the pig, at the intersection of a number of symbolic thresholds, which had traditionally made it a useful animal to think with.’ – Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression

As I said earlier, it is hard not to enjoy the ridiculing of Cameron. But if we take a step back, it should be clear that an atmosphere of sexual humiliation is one that favours current forms of power rather than dismantles them. Robin James points out the role of hazing in sexual abuse, and in some ways we can consider the whole range of ways in which the English haute-bourgeoisie initiate children into its ranks as a form of abuse. This is one of the points I was trying to get across in my piece on humour in the latest New Humanist (below). Boarding school and the top end of Oxbridge are environments designed to produce the very hardening and insensitivity which allows Tories to dehumanise and demonise the poor. Class wounds everyone, especially the ‘privileged’.

George-Osborne-Pig-Gate

Continue reading Mark Fisher on #piggate and the death of British satire

Abandon hope (summer is coming) – kpunk election post #4

So, the election results are in and it’s 1992 but with “Ed Sheeran and Rudimental rather than Rufige Kru”. Depressing? Yup. But where do we go now? Below is an extract from kpunk’s most recent post, outlining some potential strategies we can adopt in the face of the election results. Read the whole post here.  – TS

I present below a number of strategies, practices and orientations, starting from the most immediate (something groups can do right now) and moving towards the more remotes. The list is of course not exhaustive; and I can’t claim credit for coming up with any of the strategies myself. The point is to share them, add to them, elaborate them.

The chief obstruction to all of these steps is what, in a trenchant and clear-eyed analysis, Ewa Jasiewicz calls “time poverty”:

Our time is under attack. Work will be intensified, worse paid, and more casualised – if we don’t have it, we’ll be working to have it; mandatory and supervised job searches and workfare will see people forced to spend their time locked into coerced, computerised distraction. A real, diverse, working class self-representative movement needs to include people facing and living these experiences, but how will that happen when we’re too tied up working?

Access to time and our own labour is key and will determine participation and the ability to organise. If we can’t have our own time to organise, we can’t organise, we can’t meet each other, we cannot find each other. Work and the benefits regime – which is work under different conditions and profit margins – are key sites of struggle. Solidarity will need to step up if we are to win workplace disputes and strikes, refusals of workfare and support for people getting sanctioned, so that people have more control over their time and labour.

All our commons are under attack. The condition of time poverty and its roots – intensification of labour, welfare repression, criminalisation and incarceration – have to be recognised as major obstacles to movement, diversity and power. These obstacles need to be tackled if we want to overcome the ideology of wage labour as a determinant of human value on a popular level.

Continue reading Abandon hope (summer is coming) – kpunk election post #4

Pain now – kpunk election post #3

New post on the elections by Mark Fisher, (cross-posted from his blog, k-punk– TS 

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,

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This was the front page of the Guardian on the day my son was born nearly five years ago. That year, my wife and I earned fifteen thousand pounds between us. I was working as an hourly paid lecturer in adult education and in a university, as well as doing some freelance writing and copy-editing. We were able to survive without living in penury because of the three hundred pounds a month in tax credits we received.

This was the way Brownism and Blairism worked: allowing low wages and precarity to proliferate with one hand, mitigating their effects with benefits on the other. By then, like most of the population, I loathed New Labour. Labour had become so capitalist realist that surely it couldn’t be much worse if the Tories got in? I shared the widespread view that elections don’t change much: all that’s on offer are minimally different versions of the same thing (neoliberalism).

It soon became very clear that this was not the case. Cameron and Osborne unleashed Capitalist Realism 2.0, the most audacious confidence trick in recent political history: make the poor and vulnerable pay for the bank crisis. Use the crisis as a pretext to destroy even more of the welfare state. Sigh their fake sighs, and tell us what “difficult choices” they had to make …

Today, if my wife and I earned what we did in 2010, we would receive only 50 pounds in tax credits a month.

Continue reading Pain now – kpunk election post #3

Limbo is Over – kpunk election post #1

New post on the elections, capitalist realism and left populism, by Mark Fisher, (cross-posted from his blog, k-punk ) – TS 

LIMBO IS OVER

Tony Blair’s brief appearance in this election campaign, offering tepid support for a tepid Ed Miliband, ought to have been irrelevant. In many ways it was: who needs yesterday’s man, the hawker of an outmoded “modernisation”? Except, like so much of today’s culture, Blairism is obsolete but it has not yet been surpassed.

In Blair’s Castle Grey Skull, it is always 1997. Blair is like some inverted Miss Havisham, frozen not at the moment of his defeat and failure, but just before his moment of greatest success. Be cautious, don’t do anything to jeapordise the project. Blairism was this particular form of false promise, this deferral – if we are careful now, tomorrow we can do more … But tomorrow never arrives, the aim is always to be in government, the price is always the lack of any real power to change the inherited parameters of the possible. This is the formula: government without power, an increasingly unpopular populism.

The illusion of Blairism is that it was an overcoming of the defeats of the 1980s rather than their final consequence. It was a post-traumatic normalisation of catastrophe, not any sort of new dawn. Its legacy is organisational as much as ideological: a Labour Party that napalmed its grass roots (contempt for, and fear of the working class being a signature element of Blair’s rendition of populism) and which now beams down policy and PR from some rarefied Thick Of It Oxford PPE helicarrier circling miles above earth. The project remains getting into government, but without Blair’s showman-messiah charisma to cover over the vacuum beneath this aspiration. Miliband’s awkwardness stems as much from this lack of any vision as from any personal quirks. There is nothing animating the transparently choreographed moves: tack to the right on immigration, a little to the left on taxation etc. The ambition – to be the slightly lesser evil – is painfully clear to all, and can inspire no-one.

All of this is exactly what we expected… But the entry of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens into the TV debates changed the atmosphere. Suddenly, the picture the reality managers have fed us for the last few years – the three ‘big’ parties each offering a slightly different version of capitalist realism, with Farage and UKIP offering capitalist realism with even more ultra-nationalism – was interrupted, and it was possible to imagine that Britain was “headed, in its nuanced way, leftward”. In their different ways, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett have widened the bandwidth of a media-political scene previously monopolised by the Oxbridge boys’ club. In terms of policy, there isn’t much on offer beyond a reset to social democracy (Plan B as opposed to Austerity’s Plan A), but capitalist realism is so deeply embedded that it was hard not to feel a frission when, for instance, Wood defended trade unions and the welfare state. Cameron’s refusal to appear in the BBC debate – and his banning of Clegg from doing so – was meant as a display of magisterial confidence, the only credible Prime Ministerrising above the irrelevant squabbling of lowly pretenders – but it ended up further reinforcing the sense of ennui that has attended his performances this campaign. Cameron’s appeal has always depended on his ruling class ease-in-the-world, but, in his case especially, insouciance always risks shading into an appearance of diffidence and hauteur. As for the Lib Dems – as Craig Mcvegas observed, their absence was barely even acknowledged in the last debate.

BBC election debate

Continue reading Limbo is Over – kpunk election post #1