Having dinner with friends and after a second glass of wine, reflecting on the sixties and some dodgy (in current frameworks) flirtations, I was suddenly aware of stern looks. I immediately self censored and sank back into the current milieu of puritanism. Freud proposed sexual desire as the prime motivator of the human species. Adler wondered about power, but was outvoted. But that fundamental drive is always disciplined by society, and late capitalism is perhaps the most disciplining of all; in the West through commodification, in Muslim cultures through a paranoid fear of women, in China through surveillance. It is an age of puritanism.
In that reflective mood I had the urge to watch the movie, The Graduate after a lapse of fifty years. It was a film that revolutionised Hollywood in recognising the changing mood of a young audience, and was extraordinarily successful at the box office. Ignoring Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement, it focused on a desire for something different from the privileged WASP lifestyle, with the young protagonist experiencing an American version of existential despair, with the sexually deprived wife on the cusp of middle age wanting satisfaction, and with the daughter having a will ‘to live’. For all three a breaking of the web of puritanism is necessary. And revolution always leads to a freeing of sexual energy and the modes of coupling. The film, with its almost European angst, still reveals the alienation at the heart of capitalism and the sixties urge to establish different social relations – no matter how clumsily. Of course, The Graduate operated within a heterosexual and binary culture and current identity fluidity makes for lesser and at the same time greater, angst.
In a similar vein, I attended a programme of webinar workshops on the hologram model of anti-capitalist care, which I admit sounds something of a mouthful. US artist activist, Cassie Thornton, who had realised as an art student that she was not creating art but debt (via a student loan), witnessed in Greece during the austerity period (when the country was disciplined by the banking system) some progressive GPs establishing a different model of care from the norm. They weren’t being paid and the health system had collapsed so why not do what they had always wanted? Your visit to your doctor, instead of a ten minute rush to prescribe one pill or another, saw you have a conversation with three people: the GP focusing on physical health, a psychologist focusing on your mental health and a social worker focusing on your social relations. At the end of the hour of talking things through, with some questioning and feedback, you were asked to proscribe what was wrong with you. And by that time, you knew.
Cassie Thornton seeing this as establishing anti-capitalist relations at an intimate level, now promotes, with others, a similar protocol and programme of care that can take place between non professionals, with three people (each focusing on an area, as in the Greek scenario) supporting the fourth (which she called the hologram). Obviously if you have cancer or a broken leg you still need traditional medical help, but this establishing of care between people she sees as potentially revolutionary. And once one hologram is set up, those support people should set up their own hologram and the system of care can spread, like a virus spreads. While it could sound like another new ageist fad, the programme facilitators were determined that it be couched in anti-capitalist terms and that there is a radical proposal underneath the practice, which is ‘that many people simultaneously create an infinitely expanding network of people who are healthy and stable enough to survive through the end of capitalism, and to make new ways of organizing human cooperation with what is found in the rubble.’ It becomes then a sort of entry level communism and during each session, my skepticism vanished as a type of autonomous zone was set up – and they were registering the Zapatista and Rojavo movements as touchstones. It was a smart counter cultural experience, and I have to admit, since the sixties I have been looking for another sixties. The interim has been somewhat fraught in spirit.
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