Monday, 4 November 2013

Toxic Affinities

One of the most fascinating recurring themes in our texts and discussions is the notion that the technologies we're marshaling for the cause of Feminism may be mobilized just as readily by those we generally see as our opposition. Sometimes those affinities and opponents might even be invisible to us.

I get the impression that some feminists see the debate on positivism and a sort of evangelical mode of science as largely in the past, for example--that no one seriously posits Western science as the sole origin of truth anymore. This is probably true in Theory circles, but I'm not sure it holds true outside of the academy. Look at someone like Christopher Hitchens, who is as much an evangel for atheistic, scientific rationality as a person could be. What an odd guy is Hitchens--supporter of the Iraq war, enemy of Zionism... it's kind of fascinating to me actually to see how a radically antitheist position led him to this strangely contested relationship with American Neoconservatives, loudly triumphing an imperialist war on the one hand while condemning the support of Israel and the return to an extremist Christian position on issues such as evolution!

I'm not sure how we interact with someone like Hitchens. Do we mark him as an opponent on postcolonialist grounds, or on the grounds of the toxic affinities he has with the racist, homophobic, chauvinist policies of the American radical right? Or is he, like everyone else, caught in a postmodern condition of sullied (or simply always absent) innocence?

The weird thing about Hitchens, too, is that he, like Dawkins, like AI advocates such as Eliezer Yudkowski, doesn't seem to see himself as not-innocent, as subject to the same errors of thought that have plagued humans for centuries and have often manifested themselves not just in religious systems of power but in scientific and medical ones as well. By ousting the Abrahamaic myth structure I think they've concluded that they're beyond Original Sin, to really run with this metaphor further than it should probably be run with...

Not that we're necessarily doing a lot better when it comes to putting our money where our mouths are. The rise of climate change deniers or anti-vaccination agitators is a hell of an unintended consequence of postmodern criticism. And I suspect there's nothing more uncomfortable than having, as a Tumblr friend of mine just did, your post about the classist implications of anti-GMO legislation favorited and retweeted by the PR division of a major chemical company. Yikes.

The fact that so many of the critiques of postmodernism from engineers and scientists are whiny, lazy, and made in transparently bad faith ends up, I think, distracting us from these problems within our own camp--the uncomfortable and toxic affinities we may have made.

It's kind of a distressing state of affairs, I guess that's the confusing state we're in--a world without innocent positions.

This is Cyborg Maria and I have no idea what to think of any of this.

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