Friday, January 22, 2010


I've been a fairly public critic of my university's administration, and of the CSU chancellor, just about from the time I first set foot on the campus. It's built into my personality to do that kind of thing, so it surprises me, even now, when I'm reminded that most of my colleagues and most employees are fearful of management's power. Fear might be the biggest obstacle to labor organizing, in fact.

I don't experience a lot of fear. Even this past couple of years, with my job becoming increasingly precarious, and the local administration becoming more tyrannical, I haven't had very much fear of losing my job. I've had some, but I don't think it has really changed my behavior that much.

Why I don't let fear get to me, I figure, boils down to two key factors. One is that I don't have a mortgage banker or children counting on me. But more important, in day-to-day life, is the joy of the struggle and the solidarity and love of my comrades. Sincerely, when I'm about to protest one way or another about the CSU's management, fear dissipates on contact with enjoyment of the task and with community spirit. Organizers have to bring that to the workers they're talking to, and to actions, to be successful, and to make it worth the risks - whatever they turn out to be.

I've just finished reading Multitude, in which Hardt and Negri conclude that the way to counter the violence of imperial war is, in part, through joy and love. I thought that was fairly obvious, in my own life, so it was good to have that affirmation. They even have a formulation of something I've been telling students for years: "Another world is possible." My phrase is: The world is a built world; it can be torn down and rebuilt.

[Though often repetitive, I think anyone interested in contemporary political struggle might get something from Hardt and Negri. You could probably get away with reading just the last chapter, though the stuff on empire and war in the first chapter set it up well.]

Multitude was the politics book I picked up right after reading Cynthia Willett's book Irony in the Age of Empire, in which she argues that satire is the best way to expose the thoroughgoing political corruption, and the destructiveness of chaos capitalism, in the contemporary world. Bracing stuff for hopeful pessimists like me. It allows me to realize that, if the worst I have to fear is losing my job because of destructive management practices, then, big deal. I doubt the administration is going to order a beat-down of faculty or student activists any time soon. And if they do (as has happened recently in California), we'll do our best to enjoy that. Meanwhile, I can't help it - there's just something intrinsically hilarious about the arrogant excesses of managerial power.

1 comment:

Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

For me, the saddest thing about this whole mess is my belief that it's all just book-keeping. I don't think California is out of money. I think the legislature's just hidden a good chunk of. They're just shoved it someplace we're not thinking to look. Because an economy is a built thing. We built it for our reasons, and if it gets fucked up it's because someone fucked it up. I think they're lying, the lying liars.

I went off on a ten minute rant on this subject in front of my father-in-law weekend before last. He laughed at me like I had gone insane.