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From NIKE to Anonymous: the Fantasy of Resistance

Photo Source Diogo Valério | CC BY 2.0

Nike stocks are up 31%. Apparently, we all dream that one day we’ll be defined, not by the color of our skin, but the swish on our chest.

Maybe not. I’ve had a week to ponder it. At first glance, Colin Kaepernick evoked one of Lombroso’s natural-born criminals or Agassiz’ ethnographic studies of slaves.  Somewhere in there was a joke about a nation that thinks of itself based on individualism using archetypes to promote liberty and racial justice.

At second glance, Bin Laden facing down the West from his spot-lit cave.  Or perhaps the US’ other most-famed, extra-legal killing, Che Guevara. Not the one on T-shirts, looking determinedly toward some future.  More like Che facing his killers.  They’re Che’s last words, ‘Just Shoot.  You are only killing a man.’  ‘Just do it’, in NIKE-speak.

‘Only a man’ because the revolution was so much more than him.  Our longing for social justice proved humankind was a community, not a cluster of gaming individuals.  And so the class-struggle would continue, no matter how many leaders they buried, because life had meaning, and was worth fighting, even dying for.

Consumerism, in contrast, is predicated on life nothaving meaning.  If we believed in ‘something’, we’d object to its over-arching nonsense (instead of just doing it).  NIKEs may come in pairs, but they don’t allow you a foot in both worlds. Instead, partnering with neo-slave-holders like NIKE, means #BlackLivesMatter only if they can afford sneakers, and don’t matter if they’re tasked with making them.

Furthermore, I doubt kneeling for an orgiastic toast to the Empire costs one ‘everything’. ‘Everything’, in Eric Garner’s case, meant death.  Yet Eric Garner, like so many others, wasn’t ‘standing for something’, but minding his business when his life was snuffed-out.  Unlike Che, he wasn’t killed to protect the status quo. Rather, he was killed because it was acceptable to kill him.

Still, he was just a man, in Che’s sense of the term.  Therefore, the movement doesn’t hinge on his state-sponsored murder.  It’s about the thread that stitches abusive cops to an abusive concept of ‘law’, built to uphold an abusive political structure, in-turn built to protect an abusive economic system.  All of which in-turn inform an abusive concept of society. Not an unjust society, but one based on injustice.

We have to look to a collapsed, not our own collapsing, empire for the words to describe it. Margaret Thatcher summed it best when she said, ‘there’s no such thing as society’.  Of course pinky-raising, Margaret Thatcher was no primativist. Rather she underscores the one tenet of capitalism:  that we are not lives, but capital.  Ergo, if society doesn’t exist, than we are only killing a man.  Not an idea, nor hope.  Just a man.

Of course, NIKE’s add won’t cost any lives, and might just end up a Jeopardy question.  But the broader, (not) resistance movement is helping define the Trump Era.  (And the Trump Era costs lives.)

I was, for example, shocked to hear Cory Booker offer to leak Kavanuagh’s records.  Not shocked because it stuck his neck out that far, but that he claimed to carry forth the ‘great tradition of American civil disobedience’. Mind, not in jail like Thoreau, or getting beaten like John Lewis and Martin Luther King, but by risking his Senate seat (which he must leave to become president). 

More hallucinatory still, Anonymousin the White House, along with the New York Times, fails to realize that assuring Trump doesn’t hang himself, isn’t an act of resistance, but exactly a servant’s job.  Besides, the other #resistance can assure things stay as they are.  To ponder which we should have, the centrists’ neo-imperialism or Trump’s ‘imperialism in one country’, is to endorse both.

Is it not safe to assume that if both the Liberals and Conservatives are suffering from the same delusion they’re having the same thought?       

It’s ten years since the two jointly ran us aground.  Both want to talk about economic recovery.  Apparently it’s a thing, since NIKE’s profits are through the roof.  But as more-or-less the equivalent of Mussolini’s trains; as if it’s worth the rest of their high-stakes fiasco.  Since then economic policy has been a mix of further-impunity and further-deregulation paraded as reconstruction.  There wasn’t time then to uphold the law, the ‘economy’ needed saving, despite that the economy amounted, and still amounts to, the very same thugs performing roughly the same fraud.  In fact, Larry Summers recently claimed he had ‘not seen a convincing causal argument linking the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the financial crisis’.  In fact he said repealing it helped resolve the crisis ‘by allowing the Fed to open its discount window to Goldman, otherwise a source of risk.’ [i]

Needless to say, 2008 was a political crisis, too.  Yet there was no talk of political reconstruction.  But there was hope that, literally, (the face of) the oppressed might offer absolution.

Ah!  Hope…  I said before Consumerism is predicated on life not having meaning.  But it does require ‘hope’.  That’s the other image Kaepernick evokes -not in likeness, but in contrast.  Kaepernick embodies what’s left of Obama’s Hope & Change.  The red and blue swatches of Liberty Leading the People replaced by tropes on personal achievement overlaying a phony mug-shot.  In NIKE’s capable hands the face of solidarity is as individual as the Marlborough Man.

Summers closed the afore-mentioned article by reminding us, ‘more important than litigating the past is thinking about the future’ -recycling Obama’s words from a decade ago. This is that future.  (Unless you own NIKE stocks) it looks worse, now that they fixed it.

Notes.

[i] https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/response-to-stiglitz-attack-on-secular-stagnation-by-lawrence-h–summers-2018-09

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