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Wang Yi's Other Life

A listener of the podcast writes me about a Christian pastor in China who was recently detained. The pastor Wang Yi has released a personal and theoretical statement that followers of my work (and readers of late Foucault) may find compelling. My listener summarizes the background:

In your podcasts I've often heard you talk about religion and revolution so I thought you might find some inspiration from this letter. Wang Yi was a former academic who became a leader in the house church movement in China. He, along with his wife and over 100 followers, was arrested the other day and has not been heard from since. This letter was written with instructions to release it if Wang Yi went missing for more than 48 hours. It's a profound combination of a statement of faith and a meditation on revolution.

Here is his statement. It's worth reading in full if you're into this kind of stuff. Here are some choice bits as a TLDR.

The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world...

This does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China...

From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world.

That's the "kynical" model of radical politics right there, dating back to Diogenes of Sinope, as discussed by Foucault in The Courage of Truth and by Peter Sloterdijk in The Critique of Cynical Reason.

There's also the following line, which encapsulate the Spinozan dictate "no hope, no fear."

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power.

I wish him the best.

You can be neutral on a moving train

There's a popular idea that one can't avoid taking some political position because having no position is to support the status quo. In the words of Howard Zinn, "You can't be neutral on a moving train." For a while, I agreed with this, but I don't think I believe it anymore. The lack of a position on some political question only defaults to the status quo if you presume there's a meaningful choice between the status quo and some preferable alternative. This presumption of a choice, and some agency over effectuating one's choice, now appears to me wrong, with respect to many of the supposedly most important political questions.

The compulsion to take positions is arguably one of the more malignant aspects of the status quo, perhaps even a basis for its worst injustices. If you think choice and agency in political affairs is negligible, then deliberating and expressing one's choice has the same political valence as declining to do so — but declining saves a lot of time, energy, and mental health, all of which can be spent on the immanent politics of one's shared life with others. If most people stopped paying attention to politics, and had no opinions, overall social welfare would be improved relative to the status quo. A popular lament is that voters are not sufficiently informed, but as far as I can tell, huge masses of people are now irreconcilably passionate about too many problems, precisely because they have too much information and education relative to their processing power. Once upon a time, ignoring macro-politics was seen as immature, uneducated ignorance and passivity, but perhaps it will increasingly become a mark of educated sagacity and radical honesty.

Left Singularity

…modern political history has a characteristic shape, which combines a duration of escalating ‘progress’ with a terminal, quasi-punctual interruption, or catastrophe – a restoration or ‘reboot’. Like mould in a Petri dish, progressive polities ‘develop’ explosively until all available resources have been consumed, but unlike slime colonies they exhibit a dynamism that is further exaggerated (from the exponential to the hyperbolic) by the fact that resource depletion accelerates the development trend.

Economic decay erodes productive potential and increases dependency, binding populations ever more desperately to the promise of political remedy. The progressive slope steepens towards the precipice of supreme radicality, or total absorption into the state…

#11 - Will Sharkey

Will Sharkey is an ultraleft Catholic schoolteacher and Philosophy PhD. He is a member of the UK-based anti-capitalist organization Plan C. You can find more about Will and his work on his website, williamduncansharkey.com. You can also find him as @Anonyleftcommie.

A lot of people ask how I can be interested in Catholicism and communism at the same time. With Will's help, this is now the single best thing I've produced on this topic to date.

Will is also above average in his tolerance for what some people might consider outrage-worthy notions. Not that he necessarily agrees, but he has a very open-minded and generous conversational ethic. I think there are a few vaguely dicey talking points I float here and there, and Will was totally unperturbed. In my recent intellectual and political conflicts of late, Will hasn't always agreed with me, but he's never rejected our relationship as people and interlocutors because of it.

So I count Will as a model open-minded left-revolutionary who I am very lucky to know.

Timestamps

The first 30 minutes is chatting about schools and teaching and just general chit-chat.

Things get deeper at around 33 minutes when Will starts to tell me about Pier Paolo Pasolini, the famous Italian anarchist communist intellectual (about whom I know nearly nothing). From there it's off to the races, mostly about our different views on the three things we both share: Catholicism, anarchism, communism, and how those things add up.

A Talk on "Immediate Collective Liberation"

This is the audio from a talk I gave to Plan C London on January 19, 2016. You can find the slides for this talk at the following links: PDF or HTML.

#7 - Mindy Isser

There's a tiny bit of static at the beginning but it goes away!

Mindy Isser writes a low-key advice column newsletter in all lowercase. She is a labor organizer but also a very funny and sweet person who is fun to talk with. We used to be internet enemies but then became friends. We also made a movie together a few years ago. Here we talk about our romantic relationships, our different models of revolutionary politics, Drake (his record label made us remove the song we played, sorry Drizzy we still cool though right?), and a few other things.

There is a video version of this conversation on Youtube, here.

Here is the movie we made forever ago, "Meeting Mindy Isser in Real Life" (30 min)

Here is Mindy on Twitter (@mindyisser)

Here is Mindy's low-key radical hipster (in a good way) advice column newsletter written in all lowercase, "towards a fully automated luxury communist future"

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