Evaluation and Recovery

“The issue is dispersion. The task is to survive in the diaspora.” -Haraway

I, like many other people, have been in some sort of self-imposed isolation and recuperation in the wake of the nonsense that unfolded in 2016. A renewed emergence of nationalism, fuller emergence of post-truth politics, of instability, aggression, migration, the failure of the media to responsibly critique all of this. David Bowie died. In many ways, much of this had been brewing for years. Much of it is a systems level failure (media, political process, diplomatic, migration issues, automation) that will need time to unfold into whatever manifestation it will take. Much of it can and should be addressed now.

I rarely return to the US although I am American. Once every 3-4 years or so. Mostly just because of the general disengagement of having lived most of my life outside its borders. I am an expat and that is my home. But there I was on election day in Washington D.C. preparing for work I had to do the next day at a local NGO. And there I was devastated like the rest of us. And here I have been over the last month and a half avoiding the news in general. If anything filters in, it is through the algorithmic machinations of social media. Feeding me the outrage it thinks I want or has suggested I feel (based on what I have been feeling). Cascading before me the minutiae of life on my peripheries: the birthdays, the pithy quotes, the births, and so forth. And so I sit and ponder the next move. Where does 2017 take us? I am not smart enough to answer that question, but I am industrious enough to get to work.

Retreat or Rigor

I have labored a bit over the structure of my next moves. Not that these are mutually exclusive mind you, but do I focus on larger systematic issues or do I double down on the granularly local? I have chosen the latter and elected to keep my eye on the former. My industry pours into one and my critical skepticism will rarely leave the other. So I turn to my projects, in no particular order:

Disunity and Industry

There are more projects and research, of course. We are always working. We are disjointed, untethered, curious people and we value activity over stasis just like we often accept the tropes of humanism or openness or technology unflinchingly. I know that answers sometimes come at the end of work rather than as a presumed objective beforehand. That light is often produced through some weird alchemy of work, rigor, and hope. I don’t know the destination before I set out.

So let go of disappointment, stop licking your wounds, and let’s get to work. Let go of unified identity for the time being, of resolving conflict in our selves and our relationship with the world. This is a fragmented age and we can learn to love it. We can make use of this disunity, an “identity when one never possessed the original language, never told the original story, never resided in the harmony” (Haraway). We were singing from someone else’s hymnal this whole time. Let’s write our own. Let’s embrace cosmopolitanism as relational.

“I will suggest that this shift of perspective starts by relinquishing the historical and conceptual attachment of cosmopolitanism to the idea of liberal individualism as a unitary vision of the subject, which entails self-correcting rationality and a propensity for moral and cognitive universalism. Cosmopolitanism needs to ‘become-world’, i.e. embrace diversity and the immanence of structural relationality so as to account also for the atrocities and structural injustices, as well as for the many benefits, of pan-human perspectives today” -Braidotti, Hanafin, Blaagaard (2012). After Cosmopolitanism (thanks Phil!). 

And let’s be human about all of this. Be kind. Answer softly. Smile. Ponder. Debate generously. Love. Be present in the passages of others. Help someone through. Empower. Enrich. Every single day. That is what 2017 is for me, if effort has anything to do with it.

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