Virilio in [Obama’s] America


More musings on the economic state of things–this time from the perspective of Virilio.  In a sort of (maybe) interesting article –with the inexplicable title “City of Transformation: Virilio in Obama’s America”– Arthur and Marilouise Kroker ask if “we are beyond Speed and Politics:”

Economists are quoted as saying the financial crisis effects “everyone on earth.” Is this Virilio’s “global accident?” Quite certainly it is panic finance: that moment when the credit mechanisms necessary for capitalist liquidity slam shut, a time made to measure for Virilio’s brilliant theory of bunker archeology, with each bank its own toxic bunker of junk assets, each banker a born again socialist. For example, always vigilant automatic circuit breakers working in the darkness of night recently prevented a global plunge of the futures market. Allan Greenspan throws up his hands, exclaiming “I’m in shocked disbelief.”

The Krokers continue:

By one measure, the global economic meltdown is Virilio’s accident, a searing demonstration of the truth of Virilio’s proposition that every technology is born with a necessary accident in mind. This time it is not a trainwreck, a robotrader or even 9/11, but a massive financial accident. Here, the brilliant software innovations and computerized trading programs that run so much of the world’s economy move so quickly but respond so slowly to the complex information feedbacks of recursive loops of bank failures and toxic debt and storms of warring political opinions that they do the only logical thing possible. They quickly, globally, and simultaneously abandon their own hyperreal world of virtuality, and go to ground in a panic search for authentic value. The machine to machine communication that makes the posthuman economy possible wants, in effect, the gold standard of real, measurable value. It demands the bottom line, the unleveraged mortgage, the real asset that its digital operations have worked so zealously to accident. And just when you think you have finally got the financial capitalists — those unfettered deregulators — they instantly reverse course saying “Now that the capital is gone ‘something different’ is needed — an emergency provider of equity.” That emergency provider, of course, is us.

Here’s where the article gets more upbeat:

In 1996 Virilio may have originally predicted a “global accident” that would occur simultaneously to the world as a whole. Only twelve years later in the last autumn days of 2008 — exactly 40 years after the tumultuous political events of 1968 — is it possible that Virilio’s “global accident” has itself been accidented? Slowly, inexorably, one resistor at a time, one mobilization, one march, one individual dissent, one collective “no” at a time, with what Antonio Gramsci called the dynamism of the popular will, the global accident flips into a global political transformation. Signs of this at first political, and then technological, recircuiting of the popular will are everywhere. Entire empires have suddenly vanished, global social movements are everywhere on the rise, imperialisms have been checkmated, and the first tangible hints of a truly transformational politics is in the air. It’s the electricity of the technological noosphere. It’s the primal impulse, the desperate hope, of many progressive human hearts. It’s why beyond all the rules of normal politics that the popular American Will — the world Will– now unifies into a common current of information flows, of house-to-house organization, of state to state campaigning, of immense financial support by a microphysics of small donations — over 3 million at last count–, without illusions, without false hopes, that is on the verge of creating in American politics a truly transformational movement.

The article ends with a sort of inexplicable optimism, I wonder if this idea of “hope” is why the authors included “Obama’s America” in the title:

Marshall McLuhan once noted correctly that the United States is the world environment. Ironically then, just as the United States triggered Virilio’s global accident, it just might be on the verge of accidenting the accident, revealing that the City of Panic can also be an American City of Transformation.

Too cheery? Too optimistic? Or am I too cynical in thinking that such nefarious structures will simply reproduce themselves and at best we’re back to one ‘no’ at a time and fucking with our students? Maybe I’ve watched McCain’s idiotic commercials too many times about “the one.” But it’s so outrageous, I can’t help myself…

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