words Colin Herring
Beyond unpacking democracy, I wish to enter the world of post-modernist discourse about governance and its evolution. I view parcelling concepts into binaries (or semiotics) of opposing forces (e.g. left and right wing politics) or ideologies, as unproductive, argumentative, stereotyping, distracting, divisive and polarising. Michel Foucault, toward the end of his highly influential oeuvre, informs how governance methodology incorporates biopolitics and biopower as a natural follow on of describing the vast histories of cultural populations in discussing the foundations of modern governance and subjection of people. This oeuvre of developmental post-modernist theory follows the mesh of coercions developed by Nation States, beyond sovereignty notions. Foremost, Foucault identifies the technologies of power.
In 2020, this can be viewed as the installation of mobile phone 5G towers for (amongst a lot of good reasons) efficiency of surveillance. Concepts like megacities, super-trains, diversion of natural water systems, to mega-farms. Foucault asserts that the notion of sovereign power is simply to take life or let live, whereas biopower fosters life but in meeting any resistance it can disallow life to the point of death. This biopolitics, invites new kinds of resistance, which occurs at different points in the process and assertion of biopower. As the world has evolved into corporative governance, with no allegiance to any particular nation state, a globalized corporatised governance system appears, which uses sovereignty to legislate favourable conditions for capitalism to continue unimpeded.
Protest over each stage becomes the focus. Resource exploitation and neo-liberalism are viewed as progressive, and protest or disagreement is repressed. It is important to note that this evolution from kings, queens and emperors, Magna Carta, sovereign nation state rights to global corporative concerns, has had plenty of time in planning (at least since the 17th century). Clearly, protest is subject to all kinds of interventions through regulatory controls. Foucault makes the clear association of biopower as an indispensable element in the development of capitalism. Colonialism and resource exploitation is modernised, propped up by an industrial/military complex and a domestic paramilitary force (police).
Foucault also cites the prison system as a means of manufacturing docile bodies for capitalist labour. [In Australia we must get a police clearance before engaging in any form of meaningful work]. The broader populations witness the imprisonment of dissenters and periodic massacres as a means of control; this includes the demolition of the way people gather via ecosystem isolation and protection, habitat control, disease spread, need for space to construct technologies and infrastructure, bushfires, weather enhancement, open warfare zones and covert activities.
Ultimately, now it doesn’t matter what genealogy of origin one belongs to, as long as their behaviour is that of the one true race. Foucault views racism as a tool of societal control, linked to the maintenance of statehood. The one that promotes capitalism, resource exploitation and technologies, provides the infrastructure and therefore physical manifestations of control. Then we have a society that can direct itself against itself, until it achieves the one range of social norms and the maintenance of the modern universal (perhaps global) state. If you don’t fit the description, you are labelled or channelled toward the status of a ‘non-person’ by the various means of coercion.
These notions have expanded beyond Foucauldian deconstruction. Achille Mbembe adds to Foucault’s biopolitical expressions of power in describing how biopower is utilized in the machinery and technologies as systems of violence and domination in determining who may live or die (Adams 2017) through his notion of Necropolitics. Pele (2020) reports, Mbembe claims the economic and political management of human populations can be controlled by exposure to death as a global phenomenon. This fits perfectly to the recent pandemic that has swept the world and become the ‘new normal’. In this sense Mbembe radicalises Foucault’s biopolitics. Foucault noted the positive power over life can become a deadly form of power where control is established by exposing society or whole populations to imminent death. Mbembe takes Foucault into the decolonising approach of Frantz Fanon, conceiving necropolitics as politically placing societies hovering between life and death, while serving the requirements of a labor force. The subjugation of the right to life, by the power of death itself, places us squarely into the pandemic status of the Covid-19 experience in 2020/21/22.
Modern capitalism has produced an excess of populations that can’t be exploited. Through various coercions, they become ‘nonpersons’: unemployable, bludgers, substance abusers, labelled criminals, parasites on the system, placed in detention centres and refugee camps as surplus to sovereignty status requirements. Remote Indigenous centres are shut down, surrounded by armies, police and ‘protected’ from an invisible cognitive foe. So, in the name of protection, corporatised Indigenous Nations are eliminated or granted a diminishing Native Title as ‘King Billies’, with a bizarre quasi-sovereign status that is always gazumped by the more radical title, belonging to exploiters and their profit margins; a continuing colonisation and genocide, justified by shape shifting definitions of what social justice commissions do and any consequent legislations actually mean (Pele 2020).
From the time of slave plantations, we continue as apparent stable societies who constantly witness the whippings, as what happens if we don’t comply with our master’s plans by the political making of spaces and subjectivities in between status of life and death. Mbembe investigates this subjugation of contemporaneity, giving it the names of climate change, global warming, sea level rise [and now disease through pandemics]. Whether it is real or not, does not matter. It all demands to be managed through exposure to deadly dangers and risks. We enter the new normal of death worlds, where if you don’t comply you will end up in the refugee camps, detention centres, prisons, ghettoes, ‘sluburbs’, missions and remote settlements, fined or forcibly detained—it has become the way of managing and governing unwanted populations (Pele 2020).
However, if we all behave like the one true race, there is redemption for all, including the Native Title holder, who can be compensated in return for the extinguishment of their rights and then relegated to cultural welcomes of a country via exotic dance, makeup, costume and song.
Mbembe describes the illusion of large-scale death as a method of control, as a system of exiting democracy through stately sponsored terror, use of shared violence (police, army, security personnel) and status through material possessions, war, exploitation of natural resources, multiple methods of killing (drones, missiles, disease, technologies) counterpoised by mass media, strategic commentators who provide multiple justifications. This entrenchment of triple bottom line methodologies, toward small, regrettable “mistakes” of death within the everyday lives of all individuals, has been taken toward its extremity through “Necropolitics” (Pele 2020).
The recent murder of George Floyd, barely before the lifting of social isolation measures, is a perfect example of the public massacres or murders that often take place. In Australia, it is termed ‘Deaths in Custody’. The mass gatherings of people protesting has an equal but opposite reaction via the many who view such gatherings as violations of pandemic cautionary behaviour. So, we all hover, as death and life in death play dice for our souls, as we are shipwrecked on the iceberg of inevitability.
To survive, we have to at least put on the face mask of compliance to ward off the symbolic violence of an invisible foe; we sit poised on the edge of life, waiting for that ‘second wave’ of infection because our lives are fragile, and death is lurking around that unwashed corner of extreme exposure to dangers of precarious existence. We start to hate those Chinese, the (racist) otherness for all our woes. It is everywhere, on social media, mainstream media; our Prime Minister demands answers from those bat eating, dog munching, Chinamen.
Our society has released upon them a series of micro-aggressions and nano-hates of people visiting their parents in old folks’ homes, and magicians use sleight of hand to redirect our aggressions with a bias towards otherness within classic racisms, albeit contemporized (Pele 2020). The big question becomes; are you a useful, compliant human? If not, then this status, as a non-person, could easily become you.
However, this is all a distraction. The purity of the one true race must be maintained, says the technological organism-come-machine-Daleks. ‘Resistance is futile’; we must all be re-programmed to become the Borg and be managed by the collective (don’t mention communism). Somewhere, in all this, we wonder where our rights have gone to become individuals or even an alternate collective and practice our cultures that (may) have developed over millennia.
Rather than entertain notions of the brave new world, of 1984 come 2020 nightmare scenario of 5G surveillance apps, I wish to evade the trap of being minimized and stereotyped as one of them there red necked, conspiracy theorist, Trump voting, deluded paranoiacs.
Maybe I should change my name to ‘Who’, in applying for candidature to a doctorate and in adopting Earth as my mother, protect it. Alternatively, I can join Elon Musk to escape the wastelands of earth and pioneer an escape to Mars. Either way, I have to wear my ‘trekies’ aspiration and assume the post holocaust realisation of the global federated corporation.
Another alternative is to embrace Frantz Fanon’s belief in the violent dismantling of colonisation and all its historic evolutions by revolution. The anger that swells in realising our holocausts, and the desire to dismantle it all becomes the trap of modernity. Most Indigenous Nations know, this can only lead to their extermination and takes us further away from our simple objective—that is to practice our cultures unimpeded.
Our warrior spirits are then systematically destroyed by the one true culture, which knows exactly how to obliterate, incarcerate, maim and through their propaganda machinations, confirm how the consequences were for the collective good. They’ll even pay for the funerals to display the deep respect they have for the horror of their own actions.