Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thanksgiving on the move

“The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship.” Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri

I just want to go home and see my family; not have my body subjected to the gaze — and the grasp — of the TSA and its bogus war on terror.

Some travelers this weekend prefer to go through the body-scan x-ray. ‘I don’t care,’ as in, I’m proud of what I’ve got.

George Oberle, 50, a Lutheran minister who flew to New York for Thanksgiving from his home in Detroit said he gladly submitted to a scan, not worried in the least that his modesty was compromised.

“If it’s going to keep me and others safe, I’m all for it,” he said. “Besides, I’m 50, I’m proud of what I’ve got.”

But hoh! This is the state, George, or the global security apparatus; not your cousin at the YMCA locker room. This is biopolitics, which means that every inch of your biological life, even the power to artificially extend your life, or what apparatuses or foods or phalluses go in or out of your body, are all subject to decision by some schmuck in a courtroom or the Department of Justice. This is a little taste of biopolitics at Guantanamo.

We get confused easily.

Some prefer the pat-down, as if a good, gruff, latex-to-skin touch is more palatable because its more natural. This seems to me like preferring quartering to lethal injection: but you can’t go back from biopolitics. Sovereignty is grabbing you by the balls, whether you choose the living-breathing version or the machine.

In any case, these two choices, body scan or pat-down (feel-up), appear as so much democracy, just about as democratic as your choice between corporate-monied war party A (the GOP) and corporate-monied war party B (the Democrats).

What’s important to recognize is that this choice, like so many others in our consumer-citizen existence, is not a choice. That this is what Palestinians in the West Bank go through every day, without even the meager recourse that we in the West appear to have in cases of abuse.

On thanksgiving, we are all Palestinians, then, and we’re filling the airline seats they can’t have.

The long lines at the airport and other security checkpoints only point to the larger problem: the War on Terror. This phrase should be used sparingly and only facetiously, given that it is utterly nonsensical and implicates its user in the spectacular new string of outrages committed by the U.S. government and its proxies–with alarming continuity from Bush to Obama, who signed an executive order this fall to extend the state of emergency from September 2001 for the 9th year. Civil liberties are suspended in states of emergency; when states of emergency start to become permanent, you might want to start asking questions.

The right to control its own movement is the right of a human collectivity that Hardt and Negri call the multitude – not your right individually or mine individually but a jointly, if multiply, held right. In international human rights law, the right to self-determination is similarly a group right, but this is at least even more common than that.

For Hardt & Negri, this concept of global citizenship for the multitude has to do not only with the movement we get a glimpse of today, but with the real dislocations of the migrants and laborers in our time, those the politicians refuse to call “working families”:

“Residency papers for everyone means in the first place that all should have the full rights of citizenship in the country where they live and work. This is not a utopian or unrealistic demand. The demand is simply that the juridical status of the population be reformed in step with the real economic transformations of recent years. Capital itself has demanded the increased mobility of labor power and continuous migrations across national boundaries… Hence the political demand is that the existent fact of capitalist production be recognized juridically and that all workers be given the full rights of citizenship.”

Today the masses of travelers — perhaps more diverse on this day than any other — are on the move. We are walking hand in hand, or not, rolling our things alongside, the electronic doors are revolving, the flight attendants are smiling, we are moving en masse. We are going to see the ones who are important to us. The TSA employees are working hard; they might miss thanksgiving dinner to make sure you get there.

Give thanks not for columbus or for the great genocide, but for all that persists in spite of it; for the right to control our own movement to go see those we need to see, a right we are already fighting for; for the right of indigenous peoples to control their communal lives; for pumpkins and stuffing; for the joy and power we have in coming together.