Article index
Issue #017 articles
Issue #017 Published: 22-03-2018 // Written by: Eoin O’Cunningham
Entertaining Mr Sloane, #metoo and heteronormativity
In 1967 the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Sexual Offences Act – an act that decriminalised same sex relationships in England and Wales. This was later implemented in 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland. In the Netherlands it was 1811, with protection against unfair dismissal coming here in 1994. Meet Sloane, Kath, Kemp and Ed. It’s East London. It’s 1964. Same-sex sexual relations are punishable by prison and murder by hanging. Homosexuality is considered a mental disease, curable via electric shock treatment, hallucinogenic drugs, brainwashing techniques and aversion therapy such as when victims are shown photos of same sex relations while being given vomit-inducing poison. In 1960’s Britain, sexual harassment against women is commonplace in work and domestic environments with no legal framework existing to protect against instances of unwanted sexual advances and touching of any kind. Rape was not criminalised until the 1956 Sexual Offences Act, the production and consumption of child pornography not being banned until the Protection of Children Act 1978, and it was 2003 when an explicit definition of ‘consent’ was legally operative. The question is: how do people cope when the forms of harassment and abuse that they are being exposed to do not exist in legislation or in public discourse? Or when the words to describe the forms of abuse cannot be accessed by the victim for historical or social reasons? How does this enable the behaviour of the abusers? How does it compound victims’ misery? And how do silently operating forms of sexual abuse manifest in what is understood to be ‘normal’ and ‘deviant’ behaviour? Recently, the #metoo movement has catapulted these questions into mainstream public discourse. With their production of Entertaining Mr Sloane, Mike’s Badhuistheater provide a time and a space in which questions around sexual control, intimidation and violence can be confronted and debated. After all it is the realm of acting and theatre that has provided the context for the #metoo movement. The Welsh cultural critic Raymond Williams developed a term to understand lived practical experiences of dominance and oppression. He called it a structure of feeling. It refers to the tension that victims of race/sex/gender/class/age-based violence experience socially. Williams argued that when the affected lack the vocabulary to describe and diagnose their oppression or when it is not available to them, they engage in practical and impulsive solutions to resist against it. US feminist Patricia Hill Collins suggests that the victims of racial, gendered and sexual structural-violence have a complex and nuanced understanding of their situations, the likes of which their oppressors will never be able to achieve. The perpetrators of oppression also enact a structure of feeling as they view their harmful behaviour as morally justified and normal. For example, the majority of White people in the US supported Jim Crow segregation (1). The majority of British people supported colonialism and the majority of Dutch people supported the enslavement of kidnapped Africans in the Caribbean. To contextualise this today, the #metoo movement is overwhelmingly constitutive of the disclosure of the victim’s experience of sexual violence, while the perpetrators are silent hiding behind the structures of permissible, plausible and natural “doe even normaal”-mentality. Entertaining Mr Sloane is a play that offers an insight into sexual control and the consequences of heteronormativity (2) in 1960’s Britain and how it contoured the behaviour of a working class family and their new lodger, Sloane. It reveals both the visceral and torturous mechanisms of control and discipline enforced by the State and the intricate forms of resistance and power wielded by those who seek to fulfil deviant and stigmatised pleasure seeking. Kath’s love affair with Sloane is an attempt at resisting the constraints imposed on her as a working- class woman, domesticated, maltreated and tyrannised by Ed and her father, Kemp. Ed’s sexual desire for Sloane must be concealed, his hegemonic masculinity, machoism and bravado always on show in order to conceal detection. The fate of course is incarceration, institutionalised abuse and psychological treatment, the same treatments that we assume have shaped Sloane’s madness as he navigates life parentless, pornographic, depraved and dishonest. Entertaining Mr Sloane is often read as a play about dysfunctionality, but how do the characters function inside a system that is designed to hinder their sexual fulfilment? They function on levels that are designed to avoid stigmatisation and the labelling of deviance. In this sense, it should instead be read as a critique of the functionality of heterosexuality. The impulsivity of the characters’ behaviour is done to avoid the tension, unease, stress and displacement created by heterosexual relations being favoured at every institutional juncture. The play provides an insightful example to consider how unarticulated lived tension manifested in 1960’s Britain and how it may be unfolding today differently for specific people in particular places.   1) Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. Enacted by white Democratic-dominated state legislatures in the late 19th century after the Reconstruction period, these laws continued to be enforced until 1965. They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities .... 2) Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (male and female) with natural roles in life. It assumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. A “heteronormative” view therefore involves alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity and gender roles. Heteronormativity is often linked to heterosexism and homophobia. ----------------------------- Coming soon in the spring Mike’s Badhuistheater presents The Good Soldier Švejk by Hasek. Directed by Mike Manicardi. “The Good soldier Svejk” by Jaroslav Hasek (1883 – 1923) is a theatrical Adaption by Mike Manicardi performed by the Badhuistheater International. Set in 1914 in Czechoslovakia at the end of the Austro Hungarian Empire, and the beginning of the First World War 1914-1918. Jaroslav Hasek was a satirical genius in his attempts to achieve Cz independence, and also attention for Cz language. His long and episodic novel, “the good soldier Svejk” (the most translated Cz novel into 60 languages) follows the life and fortunes of Josef Svejk, a dog thief and lover of life, who is forced to join the Austro Hungarian Army for a 2nd time in their war against Russia. The Cz battalion travels across Hungary and into now Southern Ukraine and Poland, where Svejk manages to confuse and create chaos for all his betters. He also has papers that he is an official Idiot. Manicardi played the part of Svejk himself some years ago in a very successful production. He has rewritten his play, to get it even closer to the original novel, and produces it now for his company the Badhuistheater International. His company has had recently great success and sold out audiences, with Blackadder , ‘Allo ‘Allo, and the O’ Casey Dublin Trilogy of Plays. The performance is in English, with some Czech, German, Russian and Hungarian. Hasek was a Czech writer, humorist, satirist, journalist, bohemian and anarchist. He is best known for his novel The Good Soldier Švejk, an unfinished collection of farcical incidents about a soldier in World War I and a satire on the ineptitude of authority figures. The novel has been translated into about 60 languages, making it the most translated novel in Czech literature. He is also known as the Obscure Czech Writer. Photo: Lulu Lightning
Issue #017 Published: 20-03-2018 // Written by: Geert Lovink
Let’s talk about social media
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Suess In early 2018, social media criticism has reached a new stage. In past months, voices from deep inside the IT industry have made themselves heard. The suspicion against Google and Facebook started with Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections and social media manipulations through ads and changes in algorithms. Then founding president Sean Parker admitted that Facebook purposely gave users a short trigger, outed as “addiction by design”. Parker: “It’s a social-validation feedback loop... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Next to come out was Justin Rosenstein, inventor of the Facebook ‘like’ button, who compared Snapchat with heroin. And Leah Pearlman, a member of the same team, who admitted that she too had grown disaffected with the ‘like’ button and similar addictive feedback loops. And then there was Chamath Palihapitiya, another former FB executive, who claimed that “social media is tearing society apart,” recommending people to “take a hard break.”  These developments lead to the founding of the Center for Humane Technology, a creation of early employees at Facebook and Google, “alarmed over the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, banding together to challenge the companies they helped build.” (New York Times).  The centre plans an “anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States.” In response Facebook itself announced a Community Leadership Programme. All this culminated in an unlikely place, not OT301 or Pakhuis de Zwijger, but the World Economic Forum in Davos, where billionaire-philanthropist George Soros attacked the “monopolistic behavior of the giant IT platform companies.” According to Soros social media companies deceive their users “by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.” Soros sees similarities between Internet platforms and gambling companies: “Casinos have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.” The most interesting prediction Soros made relates to the slow demise of the US tech giants from a global perspective: “Internet monopolies have neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions. That turns them into a menace. The owners of the platform giants consider themselves the masters of the universe, but in fact they are slaves to preserving their dominant position. It is only a matter of time before the global dominance of the US IT monopolies is broken.” None of the above directly or indirectly refers to the earlier social media critiques. Over the past years many have expressed concerns about the violations of privacy, the silly ‘friends’ category, the absence of the ‘dislike’ button and the take-over of news. The discontent varied from the Europe Against Facebook campaign, to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web who repeated warned against social media monopolies. The current uprising of former employees can also be related to the small library of critical voices, from Nicolas Carr (The Shallows), Evgeny Morozov (The Net Delusion), Andrew Keen (The Internet is not the Answer) or Shirley Turkle (Alone Together). Most academic research on social media seems to have virtually no impact on the overall sentiment. Why get upset about Silicon Valley geeks and investors displaying such arrogance, they are the cyber lords, after all? The engineering dissidents of today kept their mouth shut for years, and are still deeply involved in the business, together with new teams of investors and consultants. Why should we give precisely them credit to develop less harmful alternatives?  What should our next steps be? Are you still on Facebook? Would you consider taking part in a Facebook Farewell Party? So far, Western-European activists have shown not much interest in ‘platform capitalism’: they are tired because they are wired. Most NGOs and social movements no longer employ their own servers and infrastructure and have become completely dependent on cloud-based services and social media platforms. The independent infrastructure of bookstores, print shops, paper magazines and book publishers has all but disappeared. As a result we find dozens of Facebook-only websites of initiatives that fight racism, colonialism and gender inequality who remain silent about their own channel of distribution. It is mostly the under-20 age bracket that leave Facebook. We can analyse such inconsistencies in the autonomous worldview until we drop dead, the good news is that finally times are changing. It’s pointless to say: “We told you so.” The fear of committing ‘social suicide’ may be irrational but for some of us loneliness and social isolation are all too real. We need to take back our own responsibility to build and maintain networks, and not leave that task to centralized platforms. How can we scale up and democratize all the debates and proposals of the past 5-7 years of those that worked on alternative network architectures? Is the reasonable, noble and moral appeal, made by engineers, the only one on offer? Doing digital detox and going offline is in fact an option only elites can afford. Hipster-mindfulness and self-mastery suggested by the likes of Peter Sloterdijk is no more than a marginal reform effort from a hyper-individualistic neo-liberal perspective. If offline is the new luxury, as the VPRO Tegenlicht television documentary was called, how else can we politicize the ‘social media question’? What’s not yet explored are large-scale cool campaigns that give people an opportunity to delete Facebook accounts. This is in the end what Silicon Valley tries to prevent at all cost: mass resistance and mass exodus. The demand for working alternatives is being heard. The momentum is there. Migrate to Diaspora, create your own newsletters, let’s organize our networks and create concrete ways out—together. If you’d like to know more, please subscribe to the Unlike Us mailinglist:   
Issue #017 Published: 11-03-2018 // Written by: Fair City
“Amsterdam naar 2 miljoen inwoners?” Zef Hemel’s hipstertheorietjes leiden tot de dictatuur van het Kapitaal!
Afgelopen maand is er in de stad en in de media veel te doen over de explosief toegenomen drukte én over het feit dat de stad enorm moet groeien om deze problemen het hoofd te bieden. Heel groot moet het worden, om de druk beter te verdelen. Ook in de gemeenteraad horen we op verschillende momenten en bij alle partijen: Bouwen, bouwen, bouwen! Maar voor wie? Voor wie bouw je de stad? Wie komen er te wonen? En wat als je niet zo grootschalig tekeer gaat?  Adviseur van het huidige stadsbestuur en hoogleraar Zef Hemel komt afgelopen week op de gemeentewebsite met prachtige sociale verhalen om deze geprojecteerde groei te onderbouwen. Hij ziet zelfs een stad van 2 miljoen mensen ontstaan. “We moeten DROMEN en groot durven denken!”  Dit wordt vervolgens gelegitimeerd met een heel arsenaal aan modejargon: van de inclusieve stad; de open stad, een gastvrije stad voor iedereen; stad in balans; duurzame stad tot en met bestrijding van de eenzaamheid aan toe. “Hoe meer mensen, hoe minder eenzaamheid”. Ook de 17 miljoen toeristen per jaar die Amsterdam nu bezoeken zijn in deze analyse onderdeel van de oplossing: met meer inwoners komt de stad beter ‘in balans’. Hoogleraar Hemel was jarenlang als planoloog in dienst bij de gemeente. Hij zat maar liefst tien jaar in de directie van de dienst die de stad ontwikkelt. Die grote ambtelijke dienst is gaan dromen over de aantrekkelijke stad en is daarbij de realiteit helemaal uit het oog verloren. Het gaat ons niet om deze man, maar om wat hij representeert en met deze hipstertheorietjes ook legitimeert. Het uitgebrachte advies over groeien naar 2 miljoen inwoners is geen serieus alternatief voor Amsterdam maar een rookgordijn om een neoliberale stadplanning te rechtvaardigen. Planologie is blijkbaar geen wetenschap maar meer een soort verzameling van hipstertheorietjes ter ondersteuning van het heersende marktdenken.  Dat moet anders! Over welke stad hebben we het eigenlijk? Amsterdam is een metropool, wordt gesteld door dezelfde ruimtelijke planners en politici. Volgens Faircity zijn er inmiddels twee steden, een groeiende stad voor de rijken en een krimpende stad voor de lagere inkomens. Het stadscentrum heeft een grote aantrekkingskracht op internationaal kapitaal en investeerders. Dat ontstond niet vanzelf. Onder burgemeester Van der Laan is massief ingezet op het verbeteren van de positie van de stad ten opzichte van internationale competitie. Dit programma heette TOPSTAD. De stad werd een succesvol merk (I-amsterdam) met een citymarketingbudget van in totaal 100 miljoen euro. Om je vingers bij af te likken. Zo wordt de stad een consumptieartikel, lekker aangekleed met Zef Hemel’s hipstertheorietjes. Dat resulteert nu dus in een monocultuur van geld. Ook woningen zijn handelswaar geworden. De dominante functie in het straatbeeld is vertier en consumptie. “De grote vloek der saaiheid”, noemde stedenbouwkundig criticus Jane Jacobs dit. Wat voor stad willen we zijn... en groei, groei waarvan? Zuigt Amsterdam de rest van het land leeg? Deels wel; delen van Nederland krimpen terwijl een aantal steden, waaronder Amsterdam, groeien. Grotendeels ook niet, want de grote instroom van Amsterdam komt uit het (westerse) buitenland. Deze groep koopt al enkele jaren het merendeel van de woningen op, ook in de 19de eeuwse wijken. Op het grootste deel van de Amsterdamse woningmarkt heeft het grote geld nu vrij spel; zowel in de koopsector als in de particuliere huursector wint de hoogste bieder. Ondanks alle modieuze begrippen van de afgelopen jaren, zoals ‘de ongedeelde stad’, wordt de kloof tussen rijk en arm steeds groter en schrijnender. Dit is een groot gevaar voor de sociale samenhang in de wijken maar ook voor de stedelijkheid zelf. Wat kunnen we doen? Ingrijpen in de huidige woningmarkt is minstens zo belangrijk als het bouwen van meer huizen. Stop nou eindelijk (na meer dan 20 jaar!) met de verkoop van sociale huurwoningen (meer dan 32.000 zijn er inmiddels verkocht). Pas op de particuliere huursector weer de regels toe van huurhoogte en inkomen; maak er een beschermde sector voor middeninkomens van. Zonder deze ingrepen is nieuw bouwen dweilen met de kraan open: er verdwijnen meer betaalbare woningen dan je tegenop kunt bouwen. Stop met de verkoop van gemeentelijk vastgoed. Hiermee kunnen we een tegenkracht organiseren door op plekken in de stad te sturen op diversiteit en betaalbaarheid. Zo wordt de stad geen slachtoffer van haar eigen succes. Door het activeren van een tegenmacht gaan we de zelfvernietiging van diversiteit tegen. Als we dat niet doen, wat houden we over? Monocultuur!  Dat laten we niet gebeuren. Wil je in gesprek over jouw Amsterdam? Kom op 11 maart vanaf 15.00 uur naar ons lijsttrekkersdebat in de tuinzaal van de Tolhuistuin in Noord. Faircity en verenigde huurdersorganisaties organiseren op die dag een debat tussen burgers, politici en experts over hoe de stad weer van haar bewoners wordt. Waar welvaart en welzijn weer in balans komen, en we niet zelf op de vlucht hoeven voor het kapitaal. Die stad is van ons!