Friday, 10 August 2012

The London Hunger Games...I Wish!

From Mark Fisher's The London Hunger Games:

"Cynicism is just about the only rational response to the doublethink of the McDonalds and Coca Cola sponsorship (one of the most prominent things you see as you pass the Olympic site on the train line up from Liverpool Street is the McDonalds logo). As Paolo Virno argues, cynicism is now an attitude that is simply a requirement for late capitalist subjectivity, a way of navigating a world governed by rules that are groundless and arbitrary. But as Virno also argues, 'It is no accident...that the most brazen cynicism is accompanied by unrestrained sentimentalism." Once the Games started, cynicism could be replaced by a managed sentimentality. The BBC has given itself over to propagating an hysterical PR delirium..."

There is an error here that makes an important difference. Fisher presents the cynical attitude as the only rational response to late capitalism. But what Virno claims is that cynicism is one of the primary experiences that go to constitute late capitalist societies, which have done away with almost all remnants of the demand that what we say and do map onto something real or true. It is cynicism that gives rise to the total disparity between Olympic promises made about the regeneration of East London and the lack of regeneration of East London; it is cynicism that facilitates the coexistence of claims about how wonderful the sporting atmosphere at the Games is and the evident feelings of pressure experienced by athletes who have targets to meet; and it is cynicism that allows for the domination of the Games by sports played almost exclusively by elites in the context of constant assertions that the Olympics is a level playing field of harmony and of hope.

When Fisher describes pre-Olympic murmurs of cynicism as having been replaced by sentimentality, he continues his error. In late-capitalist societies, cynicism and sentimentality go hand in hand; the fact that what we say and do and feel has little or none of the old connection with truth or reality is exactly the thing to be accompanied (as Fisher quotes Virno as saying) by a punctual sentimentality that settles arbitrarily upon this or that - the Star Wars light sabre that you got for Christmas when a child (it doesn't matter if you never got one); the amazing, wonderful, fabulous, incredible moment of victory in the women's light-weight double skull - in order to throw before it a whole horizon of fabricated meaning. Such sentimentality requires cynicism rather than replaces it.

Cynicism, then, is no longer available to those who attempt to reason outside of what Fisher calls Capitalist Realism. On the contrary, it is the opposite of cynicism that Fisher's rational person feels: a sense of outrage when claims are made that are not true; a feeling of horror when things are done that are the opposite of a principle being allegedly upheld; a hunger for meaning when faced with the utter meaninglessness of everything, on which the Olympics roadshow has been running. For, late capitalism never amounts to any kind of realism. Its trademark cynicism has not only set reality at nought, but has also dispensed with the realist requirement that there be correspondence with or coalescence into anything even seemingly real. Things can be said that do not even gesture towards an actual (even a possible!) world. Things can be done that are the opposite of what was done yesterday or is planned for tomorrow. Capitalist Realism has been trumped by Capitalism Nihilism. And the only rational response is faith in something, belief in something, commitment to something, reference to something, remembrance of something, hunger for something. Olympics - London 2012: The Hunger Games only for the rational few!    

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