Format: video with audio
Running time: approx. 26 min 37 sec
Summary: Pinky's insomnia has recently been centered around questions of class treason: What happens when we do so many things in our lives 'automatically'? What can we really do to make this world better? And what will we have to give up or risk in order to achieve it? (This video is part of the Class Treason Stories (excerpts) exhibition.)
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In the course of our ongoing notation and probing of The Eternal Good Machine, we have noticed that the logic and patterns embodied by its institutional components has produced disaster-level human stupidity, as well as a corresponding material crisis that all (remaining) living beings are now attempting to survive. What can be done?
Based on the simple observation that the dominant Euro-American industrial formations - the school, the degree, the law, the arts, the corporation, the product and so on - require all classes of people (be they direct beneficiaries of hi-society's lustrous aura, the oppressed and marginalized, or anyone in-between) to accept their Natural superiority in order to maintain the current social / environ- mental history-vector, we have devised an easy-to-remember three-part directive that anyone can use to help us steer away from EPIC PLANETARY FAIL:
1. Identify all structures and relationships that denigrate or disadvantage.
2. Figure out if you are somehow supporting or benefitting from any of the above.
3. If yes, stop.
A critical mass of people rejecting the logic and privileges of unethical and harmful regimes can only bring about their eventual collapse. And we are not positive but we think that this can be accomplished without nuclear weapons, war-jets, or machine guns.
Pinky & Bunny
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Part 1 of 5: We have problems.
Pinky: A child dies every 5 seconds from not having enough food to eat? Is that for real?
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Pinky: I don't understand how human beings can create so much suffering and hunger that they have to turn away from it in shame but then they'll still use their intelligence and creativity and billions and billions of dollars to make remote control killer jets and new cluster bombs and more nuclear weapons? Is everybody crazy?
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Pinky: I don't understand how the First World can keep turning a blind eye toward what we've created. The way we've chosen to live is the thing that binds us to all those hungry children, and drowning polar bears...
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Pinky: Hmm. Are First Worlders anti-children, or anti-polar bears? I mean, everybody likes polar bears right? Or are we just anti-brown children? Or anti-poor children? Or... did we just decide that the way we want to live is worth someone else dying or suffering for?
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Pinky: I wonder... if I could... clearly map out all the connections between, like, out of control consumption-lifestyle and a billion people going to bed hungry every night, if I could make people see the connection between those two things super SUPER clear, I wonder if people would change the way they live?
Bunny: And why would you think that?
Bunny: Those connections have already been explained a thousand different ways; the information is already out there. Yet we still got soccer moms driving around their babies in stupid SUVs, and Americans just want to cook giant slabs of cows from Brazil on their barbecues. Privileged people are parasite people, and they can't change because they don't want to think about how they're connected to anything. They have black spots on their hearts.
Pinky: I don't know if I really believe that...
Part 2 of 5: The dominant structure will not produce a cure for itself.
Pinky: So who's going to stop this downward, suicidal spiral? The oppressed? Maybe.
Bunny: Yeah, and while that's going on, the oppressors will be standing around, on top of people, trying to figure out how to continue their catastrophe-habits. They'll be like, "Whoo! I just threw a water bottle in the recycling bin! The planet is saaaved...!"
Kim: Yeah, and socially conscious yuppie mommy will fight for social justice by... shopping at Whole Foods, and maybe like doing four hours of charity work at her church every week - the other 164 hours of her week will be for sleeping and sleepwalking through life! lol!
Bunny: Yeah! "Gee, I hope my good intentions makes a big difference!"
Bunny: And what's up with the whole 'go to college thing'? You know, "Education as the answer to everything" That's so stupid - you take these tiny, little humans, so young that they don't even know what's going on, and then you funnel them into a uni-directional, highly bureaucratized system that equates the apex of learning to something as banal as a university degree? Yikes.
Bunny: That's got to be one of the most unchallenged rituals in the whole world!
Pinky: Hey! I'm trying to sleep... Is there a reason why you're using that megaphone?
Bunny: Not really.
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Pinky: She kind of has a point. Where do we put universities in terms of taking care of people, and our planet? Cuz what happens when you're in college? [ jump cut ] Maybe you take a few classes where you get to study poverty or the military industrial complex or some other important problems, and maybe you even do some social justice work or attend a few protests on the side - but, but mostly you're there to study your major. Which means you spend the lion's share of your time prepping yourself to... become employable.
Daisy: That's the program. You spend the majority of your time preparing yourself to become assimilated into the same system that produced this disaster. Success in college basically means you've been granted society's permission to chase a life-pattern of conformity and self-interest: land yourself that full-time job, get married, buy a house and maybe a car or two, make a few babies, get a dog... from somewhere, be "productive". These 'successful' people are not encouraged to critically examine who they are being productive for, or even how their own labor can be used to undermine their own interests or contribute to someone else's suffering. The absence of any rigorous training to cultivate critical consciousness during their schooling years effectively stuffs that possibility.
Pinky: Okay, maybe that's partly true... but I know there must be some people who finish college and then they try to keep up with taking care of the most vulnerable people in society, or they work to heal the planet and stuff.
Daisy: Of course, but how do you think the sum-total of that work compares to the global capitalist workforce's impact on social relations or the environment? Hm? Do you really think the current situation will eventually produce for all of us a more egalitarian world?
Daisy: College people are generally obsessed with just a few things: Providing a bountiful fantasy-life for their offspring, for example. Making as much money as possible, so they can fill their lives with amusements and material objects. In other words, their minds are caged by self-interest. After 16 or more years of socialization in the school system, the rules of the game are clear: every man for himself; best man wins. Following this logic, the college degree's primary function is symbolic - it marks the bearer as fully entitled to pursue a higher-level of self-gratification.
Pinky: This sounds really negative. Do you think people really want to be like this, or is that just where the structure puts them?
Daisy: I don't spend much time thinking about how conflicted privileged people feel about their own selfishness. Maybe figuring out how to get human beings to re-examine their obligations to the world will be your contribution, Pinky, I don't know. But look - here's where we are right now: in the United States we have almost a hundred million people milling around who've done at least some college - and what exactly are they doing? Well, they're busy living their lives according to how they've been trained - they're workers, they're consumers, they are "family people". More importantly, let's look at what they're not doing. For one thing, no matter how bad things get, they're not attempting a radical restructuring of social relationships. They're not interrogating the logic of capitalism. They're certainly not interested in challenging those institutional structures that have provided them with the legitimation with which they now use to reap privileges. Is this surprising? Or have all of these possibilities just been schooled out of their minds?
Part 3 of 5: Classes, and their differential relationships to power.
Pinky: Ha ha! Yeah, I remember that. When we were small we used to go everywhere together. Hmm... I wish I knew what happened to them, like, what they're all doing now...
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Bunny: Gah. Studying human behavior provides much opportunity for hilarity. Human beings' most pointless, counter-productive attribute is how... they just looove to form endless categories of classes. Right? They simply cannot resist separating themselves apart and then re-clumping into little posses, like soap bubbles. Rich, poor, middle. Upper middle, lower-middle! Black, white, yellow, brown, red. Gay, Straight, Bi, Tri... Whatevers. College graduates, non-college graduates. Union and Non-Union. Oh, and the degrees, and the accreditations, and the... and the 'legitimate', and of course then you got the 'illegitimate'!
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Pinky: It doesn't seem like people are really thinking for themselves. They just kind of parrot whatever they heard their designated class representative say... It's kind of sad. I mean, it's mostly like different classes of people all looking out for their own interests. We just have berserk public campaigns of misinformation and misdirection. Which really hurts because, I think mostly it's just going to be the groups with the most privilege and power seizing the most goodies, regardless of right and wrong. I feel like compassion has become obsolete.
Part 4 of 5: The possibilities are possible: Class Treason.
Pinky: What's class treason?
Daisy: Class treason is what happens when someone from a privileged class recognizes that it's unfair or immoral for them to keep benefiting from the unjust system that produces that privilege. The only morally justifiable response to this realization is to work towards dismantling that system. For example...
Young SNCC workers during the American civil rights movement... Or men actively fighting against sexism and patriarchy... Or members of the ruling classes joining the peasant class in their fight against oppression... Or Americans refusing to fight Vietnamese people during the Vietnam war... Or First Worlders who fight their own governments' policies of violence and exploitation of Third Worlders... [ Pinky's thought bubble: Oh... I thought of one... settlers who work against settler society's violence against Native peoples... ] Or Israeli soldiers who refuse to participate in state violence against Palestinians... Or Families of people killed on 9/11 denouncing the U.S. government for their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq...
Pinky: I got it.
Daisy: Mm-hm. A lot of people only see class treason as a form of political suicide, or some kind of weird manifestation of self-loathing - you know, 'white guilt', et cetera. But actually, class treason has nothing to do with confusion or self-denial at all. Class treason has everything to do with realizing that fighting for fairness and justice for others, is also good for the class traitor herself. Because class treason requires critical awareness and political clarity and the strength to constantly put your analysis into lived reality. But most importantly, class treason requires compassion.
Pinky: But don't we already have lots of people who think that sexism and racism is bad? I mean, don't we already have a ton of people who think the U.S. shouldn't be engaging in colonial wars?
Pinky: If class treason is so important then how come we still have all this negative stuff going on?
Daisy: Class treason is when people actually do something to change social reality. It's never about just about sympathizing with so-and-so, thinking or saying the right things. Most well-intentioned people do nearly nothing to live their so-called convictions so I'm not even talking about those people. Let's make it simple: if you are First Worlder, if you are male, if you are heterosexual, if you are a "professional", whatever that means, even if you just live in America and you have a roof over your head - you are a beneficiary in a system that's been organized and maintained according to the logic of class and class-affiliated privilege. So we're not talking about anecdotal good luck stories or success narratives about hard-working individuals; we're talking about structure. And in this structure, if you're not actively working to dismantle these systems, at the very least you're helping to maintain the status quo. There's no neutral territory here.
Pinky: Do you think we can... create a more egalitarian world... without lots of people committing class treason?
Pinky: What about capitalism?
Daisy: Capitalism is incompatible with justice and compassion.
Pinky: How about progressive teachers? You like them, right? What if we just stock our schools and universities with more progressive teachers?
Daisy: Sanctioning institutions don't work like that. Schools allow a certain amount of critique of hegemony, especially if they think it won't lead to threatening, destabilizing action by the masses.
Pinky: Hm ...Are you saying we should get rid of schools?
Daisy: I'm saying we need alternatives to schools.
Pinky: But a lot of our friends work in schools. Aren't they doing important work?
Daisy: Yeah. Obviously there's always going to be a certain amount of socially progressive work produced even in elite, ruling class institutions. I'm not contesting that. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement - on one hand, the system benefits from the symbolic presence of work that positions itself as critical of The Establishment, the main reason for this is so it can present itself as politically neutral and ideologically balanced. Meanwhile the so-called progressive and radical academics that produce this work get to enjoy a range of benefits that typically comes with affiliation with elite institutions. And all they have to do to keep enjoying these privileges is to limit their political maneuvering to anything that doesn't directly threaten to destabilize the fundamental organizational logic of the university, or society itself. So okay, that's the choice they've made.
But let's ask a different question. Is there a reason why counter-hegemonic intellectual work can't be done outside the university? Is there some kind of law of physics or mysterious, hidden power that makes serious intellectual activity only possible on a university campus? No, of course not, the constraints are primarily economic. Cultural. I would even say, emotional.
So why do you think progressive educators have been so reluctant to create alternative institutional structures to support their supposedly 'transformative' work? Hm? Is it simply a lack of imagination? Or is it just a matter of them wanting to eat the cake they've been served? These people don't want revolution - they're as afraid of change as anybody from the right wing. And they'll be satisfied with small, incremental reform, as long as they're able to keep their status as the intellectual vanguard of social justice.
Part 5 of 5: Monster Institutions support continuous treason as a way of being.
Pinky: Thank you, candy. *sigh* What time is it?
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Pinky: What would happen if a whole bunch of people suddenly decided to commit class treason? Like, all the conscious people at a university or something. What would that look like?
Man-puppet: Honey, I'm home - I just decided to commit class treason today!
Woman-puppet: That's great honey! I don't know what you're talking about!
Man-puppet: Okay, I'm going to tell you now! You know how I've been wanting my students and department to do a radical critique of capitalism but they're always like, hey shut up commie, freedom isn't free?
Man-puppet: Well today I realized, does it really make sense for me to keep working in an environment where I get almost no support and I'll always be outnumbered by my ideological enemies? Wouldn't it make more sense for me to stop wasting so much of my energy arguing with those other faculty douche bags who are always looking to undermine my work, or wasting precious energy trying to excite bored students who couldn't care less and just want to get out and get a job with Lockheed or Monsanto or Citibank?
Woman-puppet: Oh, that's great honey! I'll start packing our stuff in boxes now since we won't be able to pay the mortgage... and little Timmy & Penny can start eating cat food.
Man-puppet: No... don't worry, wife, we're not going to starve. All the other progressive faculty that nobody really wanted at the university, and even some of the ideological reject-students, we all dropped out at the same time! So we're not alone!
Woman-puppet: Yay, we can all starve together!
Man-puppet: No - we're not going to starve... we are all going to... get together and form a new... upside-down university! And, uh, instead of being elitist, self-serving functionaries of the state, we're actually going to support each other's work... and we're going to create a totally new kind of learning culture. It'll all be about the work - work that alleviates suffering and restores the environment! And... and we won't have to work with students that don't really want to be there any more! Instead we'll have all these wonderful reject-students from all around the world that never fitted in at their boring name-brand universities! Even though probably studying at our upside-down school won't really help them get jobs... well maybe that's not true... because... we'll... make different kinds of jobs? Or... no, um, maybe since instead of money we're all going to grow our own organic food?
Pinky: *sigh* I... think this needs a lot more work.
writing: Pinky & Bunny
narration: Pinky, Bunny, Daisy, Kim
audio editing: Bunny
generic wind sounds: Apple Loops
other sound effects: Pinky
titles & graphics: Pinky