Out of Many III: Politics Is Identity and Always Was, Research Time, 09/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . The talk of the liberal internet in the shadow of Trump’s election victory is that it was all the fault of identity politics. SJW culture and its obnoxious tone of anti-racism drove all their potential allies away.

Bernie Sanders himself, the patron saint of America’s lost causes of social democracy, has said it’s time for his country’s progressive political movements to move beyond identity politics.

All through the campaign year, Bernie Sanders was continually depicted
in the media as tone-deaf on racism issues, and as constantly
downplaying its importance relative to the white working class. But
the popular misinterpretation of his identity politics remarks is just a
lazy hot take that picks up the same, boring thread of critique.
Mark Lilla wrote a now-famous op/ed piece in the times arguing that the focus on justice for discriminated minorities distracts from the economic struggles of white Americans. If we focus on the argument, so it goes, working to correct racial inequality alienates poor whites, and that economic dignity for all must be a progressive’s only priority.

It’s an incredibly poor argument, though that doesn’t prevent the chattering classes from believing it. Or at least repeating the argument so much that it becomes a horrible common sense belief.

The perfect rejoinder to this argument was Sanders himself, in the full body of his essay and speech. As well as this piece from the New York Times, that a fair economy and an end to personal, cultural, and institutional racism is the ultimate goal of justice.

A deeply fair society where everyone in the full diversity of humanity is our sibling and friend. That would be a wonderful society.

Yet we can’t get the intelligentsia of our chattering classes to admit this. Mark Lilla argues that we should leave the fight against racism and sexism behind in the name of healing our rift with reactionary whites. Jordan Peterson argues that racism and sexism are barely even real enough to bother talking about.

I even came across an argument that racial and gender justice advocacy only advances according to a kind of status hierarchy of the most radical extremism. Progressive activist Germaine Greer wasn’t vilified because a wider LBGTQ community no longer tolerates the hostility to trans people that she’s always expressed.

Essays like that one I linked on the "status hierarchy" of SJW
extremism feel like longer versions of juvenile, sarcastic memes
like this one. Their critique just as meaningful.
No, it’s much more sensible to say that you make more ridiculous and bizarre demands as a pissing contest of gender liberty extremism. “I know 72 gender pronouns and you only know 37 – you fucking fascist!”

There is a strong, powerful, and complex tradition of philosophy that can defend the call for actual justice in the world from this contempt. It’s the tradition of radical democracy – the political philosophy that conceives of human nature as the drive to grow more and more complex. And it wants social institutions to encourage that explosion of diversity.

Names to read are those I’ve been looking through lately – Antonio Negri, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière. Their work since the 1980s has built a concept of human nature that embraces our entire species’ incredible variety, and opposes the injustices of oligarchy and poverty, as well as race and gender oppression along all vectors.

Writing before the 21st century’s resurgence of nationalism, they first opposed the conservative liberal consensus on the nature of truth and reason. The Enlightenment conception of reason that’s become our mainstream is the reason of a perfectly consistent universality.

There is one and only one truth, it is coherent and real, you speak the truth when your words correspond to what is true. This concept of human nature says there is one perfect model of human existence, and conformity to this model approaches perfection.

Although their focus on philosophy of science, the arts, and humanities
traditions themselves tends to nudge them out of what's recognized as
the community of political philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari have central roles in the radical democracy tradition. They
built the ontology underlying the politics and ethics.
The first cracks in that idea was around when Frantz Fanon wrote that such a perfect model looked pretty white, male, and European. But it doesn’t end there.

Humanity is a difference engine. We’ve survived the catastrophes we have not because we form hostile tribes and conform to community moralities. That’s how writers like Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land think humanity survives crises. But that’s how humanity kills each other.

Humanity is an inherently creative species. We adapt our cultures to new circumstances and new ways of life so that we can constantly experiment and figure out new ways to live when our world changes out from under us. Our changeability is what makes us such good migrants. Why almost anywhere in the world can be a human habitat.

Our adaptiveness and creativity means that diversity – the most fundamental freedom of democracy, the freedom to be and become whatever you desire – is the core of human strength.

The best identity politics is the politics that embraces and protects that incredible power to become. . . . Actually, it will be continued

Out of Many II: Identity as Race and Racism, Research Time, 08/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . These are tough times for a democrat. I don’t just mean Democrats – members of the American Democratic political party, though it’s tough times for them too. I mean it’s tough times for anyone who believes in democracy.

Even as President-elect, we’re already seeing a serious, destabilizing, and dangerous behaviour.

From an ecological perspective, signs point to Trump dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. He uses flashy meetings with celebrities to distract critical media from his actual policy goals.

A new era for America.
Geopolitically, Trump’s rejection of multilateral alliances in favour of purposeful unpredictability and shifting, bilateral deal-making is a categorical departure from American foreign policy since Franklin Roosevelt’s era. His bilateralism isolates democracies and encourages military buildup through abandoning international alliances.

Not only is Trump a danger to become an illiberal Caesar in the White House, his campaign and public image has emboldened racism throughout America. White nationalism and racism is now mainstream political conversation in the West. Trump has normalized it and opened the floodgates to people like Richard Spencer who advocate ethnic cleansing.

Step back for a moment and let’s consider what Spencer has to say about what his white nationalist movement does. I don’t mean we should consider it as a plausible kind of politics – it’s nakedly an ideology of hate.

I mean, let’s take Spencer and his ideas seriously, because those ideas have become serious elements in the political discourse of our culture by now.*

* 2016, probably the most hideously transformative year in human politics since 1938 began with the destruction of Nanjing and ended with Kristallnacht. Bowie’s death was the beginning of the downfall.

A few years ago, I read in Martha Nussbaum’s The Politics of Disgust that hatred for the different was rooted in a kind of conceptual reflex of disgust. Interracial sexual partnership and especially family building evoked a similar emotional reaction as filth or vomit. Building a multicultural society required overcoming this feeling of disgust.

You could mount a pretty convincing argument that the racism that
drove social conservatives of the 1960s had devolved mostly into
disgust at racial mixing, whether sexual or social. Mildred and Richard
were fitting symbols of that fight, but I don't think that's the modern
fight against racism at all.
It seemed compelling at the time. And when I listen to the racists of the 20th century, like George Wallace or any of the popular expressions of 1960s racism, that disgust is at the forefront. But race works differently for Spencer and the 21st century white American racist.

In Spencer’s own words, race is the foundation of identity. He believes in the reality of race, that race is the ontological structure of possible communities. This is why contemporary white nationalism takes multiculturalism in a very different way than traditional American racism of disgust.

I say traditional, but this model of racism is probably more specific to the 20th century. When the deeper reasons for racial divisions in America – the conflict of the citizen and the slave – disappeared from the country’s everyday life, all that was left of that racism were feelings of disgust. Maybe disgust would have been that racism’s last gasp.

Spencer’s has a different racism – a racism of identity politics, perverted into an actual doctrine of hatred. One of the critical voices of the left in Trump’s America say that Trump’s rise was facilitated by identity politics – progressive movements that called attention to difference, the structural inequalities of race, gender, and sexuality.

The refusal to ignore those inequalities, the dedication to fighting for their slow eradication from American society, provoked such disgust that Trump’s rise was the result. That accepts one widely believed untruth – that identity politics is about hatred.

Contemporary black activism points out how state violence – whether through murder by police or imprisonment – is disproportionately levelled against blacks. Reactionary white people have interpreted this as spreading hatred of whites.

Richard Spencer mocking a protestor at an event he hosted at Texas
A&M University. Contemporary white nationalism has mastered the
art of trolling as political action.
Identity politics done right** calls attention to the differences in life obstacles and injustices that someone faces because of some aspect of who they are. Could be skin colour, sexuality, gender. Those are the major elements in our politics today.

** And it’s been done badly many times, such that listing them would lengthen my post to Proust-like sights. But I’m talking about the potential of this way of thinking, not the many ways we can mess it up in application.

If you think that the politics of identity is the politics of racism, then you’ll react to your own identity being cast as an identity politics antagonist as if the war’s been started. If you think black American identity politics is the racism of black supremacy, then you’ll react with an embrace of white supremacy.

That’s why Richard Spencer we disturbingly accurate when he calls his movement white identity politics. If you believe that identity politics is advocacy for your own identity’s dominance over others, you’ll accept that this is the new order of things.

So white supremacism returns as a twisted kind of class solidarity – the political hatred of race wars. . . . . To be continued, trust me.

Never Give Up on a Better Society, Jamming, 07/12/2016

Nothing too big today. It’s been a pretty strenuous past week, and I’m glad I kept up on the writing work for my work, my my creative projects, and the blog that I set for myself.

Last night, my local New Democratic Party district association held its annual general meeting. It was a pretty nice evening – I’m the Vice President, Dynamic is still the President and seriously kicked up his public speaking game working for Bernie Sanders.

Jagmeet Singh, the Ontario Deputy Leader, was there to give a short speech and a much longer Q&A session with members. I tweeted a photo with a compliment for a wise outreach strategy he discussed – We shouldn’t run our campaigns and outreach based on fear of right-wing leaders, but on the values and policies that we’d bring to Ontario and Canada.

My photo of our decently-attended riding association, as Jagmeet
Singh fields questions. He's a wonderful speaker and a damn good
politician, but I found his session a little too willing to coast on
softball questions that he already had prepared material for.
Policies like ending the privatization of our power resources, and investing in that electricity infrastructure that can generate a lot of revenue for the Ontarian state. Revenue that we can use to rebuild our health and education systems, invest in public transit for our cities and improved roads for our rural regions.

Values like working to build a society where people treat each other with mutual respect. Where people can build communities that are stronger for their diversity, where everyone can pursue a career and a life with dignity. Where our governments, no matter who might be in charge, are always accountable to us.

By the end of the night, I’d already been trolled – being called a party full of losers, and having some twat say we can solve Ontario’s problems by deporting all our refugees. They are what we call unreachable.

I found a way to get involved with the state and local social movement politics of my new city through working with the NDP. I certainly don’t agree with every policy and pronouncement of the party. We live in a democracy – you aren’t supposed to.

But it’s offered me an opportunity to contribute directly to improving my society, and access to networks that can build a more free, more dignified society. So that’s what I’m proud of, and what I want to keep working on.

One of our district’s regular supporters gave a short speech at the meeting about the dark places our society has gone in the last year. He put a lot of the blame on progressive politics and politicians – we’ve dropped the ball and given up on a lot of our core policies and values at the highest levels of our political parties.

He called on us to fight harder than ever for a dignified society. Now we can’t do anything but, if we want to live with ourselves at the end of the long night.

“If I Could Create a Virus . . .” Class: The Lost, Reviews, 06/12/2016

My full series of Class reviews is at these links.
1. For Tonight We Might Die
2. The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo
3. Nightvisiting
4. Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart
5. Brave-ish Heart
6. Detained
7. The Metaphysical Engine
• • •
Well, in terms of episode quality, Sandifer’s review was on the money. A big ridiculous mess – some characters are gone prematurely, some storylines are thankfully ended, and the season-ending cliffhanger was completely ridiculous.

I’d actually rather like it if this was the only season of Class, even though I rather like the show. I simply think it would be hilarious for the show to end on such a batshit cliffhanger, though I can't discuss it without an inevitable warning about

If there is a second season of Class that has to deal with the frankly
insane situation of April's mind being trapped in Corakinus' body,
its nature will have radically changed. From a sci-fi story rooted in
the lives of realistic young people with human domestic melodrama,
it would become a sci-fi cartoon. Nothing wrong with that, but it's
quite a different program and appeal than the original pitch.
SPOILERS

because the spectacle of April transported into the body of Corakinus the Shadowkin is the kind of cliffhanger that completely changes what the show is supposed to be.

The Nature of Class

When Class was first announced, its governing concept was to be a youth-oriented sci-fi adventure show rooted in realism. The characters all had remarkably dramatic storylines, but their concerns were rooted through inevitably human situations and perspectives.

Sci-fi premises and storylines – and co-stars – would intrude into their lives. But ultimately, the human cast of Class were ordinary people thrust into extraordinary problems. And their ordinary backgrounds and histories actually supplied them with the emotional and ethical resources to handle their sci-fi stories.

Ram could summon the intense emotions and deep dedication to the things and people he loved to overcome the trauma of seeing his old girlfriend’s death and his injury. April’s personal strength came from her confrontation with her father’s crime. Tanya grows through the losses she experiences in her family, which we see best in “Nightvisiting.”

If we get a second season of Class, I hope we see more of the strange
relationship of Charlie and Quill. "The Loss" implied that they'd stay
associated, and possibly even become friends. They're now the last
survivors of their people – the culture and history that made them
enemies no longer exists, and they're bonding through their common
nature as stranded aliens on Earth.
Of course, Tanya also loses her mother in “The Lost,” just as Ram loses his father. The problem with this episode, aesthetically speaking, is that it’s just too much of an over-the-top spectacle for any of this tragedy to sink in.

“Nightvisiting” makes for a great contrast that can show us what this episode misses. The entire storyline of “Nightvisiting” was centred around Tanya’s confrontation with the emotional legacy of her father’s premature death. It wedded her progress in coming to terms with that event to the resolution of the sci-fi plot.

In “The Lost,” the murders of Varun and Vivian are treated as plot points. The characters don’t do much other than rage. They don’t really have time to do much more. Tanya gets some chance to complexify her performance through her relationship with Quill – she teaches the young girl the power of righteous spite.

But there’s just too much going on here. “The Lost” is Patrick Ness pulling a full Russell T Davies model Everything-Including-Six-Kitchen-Sinks season finale. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have nearly the skills that Davies did at assembling these sci-fi adventure carnivals.

If you read Davies’ book The Writer’s Tale, you see that creating these massively complicated kitchen-sink adventure stories had to send him almost literally into a kind of trance state.

We should and must ask just what these creatures are. Part of that isn't
just their physical nature, but what it is they do.
And even in such intense circumstances, Davies often had trouble sticking the landings. I’d say he really only did it flawlessly with “Doomsday.” Ness just kind of flails around.

Returning to the Genocide Question

If there’s one genuinely interesting element of “The Lost,” it’s the show’s return to the fundamental philosophical question of Charlie’s entire character arc this year. It’s that thorny question of what constitutes genocide.

Remember the question that I set up in my review of “For Tonight We May Die.” It’s whether it’s ultimately right to wipe out the Shadowkin. I worked through the argument implied by the episode, and it amounted to a conclusion that the act would be genocide.

It’s because the Shadowkin have individual personalities, self-consciousness, social relations and moralities. They’re self-conscious subjects, and to kill a self-conscious subject is a moral wrong. To wipe out an entire species or culture of self-conscious subjects is genocide.

But “The Lost” introduces a different twist on this argument. To state it sounds very disturbing – it introduces a situation where genocide is not only the right thing to do in a practical sense, but it’s also a virtuous act.

Total mass murder of the Shadowkin is a good act because of what the Shadowkin do. Remember how they invade a world and kill its inhabitants. They invade a world as a mass and simultaneously kill. They’re an indiscriminate force of death, and are unstoppable once they appear.

When I watched what the Shadowkin do, it reminded me of the
Doctor's dialogue in his legendary first long conversation with Davros
in "Genesis of the Daleks."
When they’re generally living in their mundane existence on their volcano world, Shadowkin are ordinary deranged people. When they’re attacking a world, they’re literally an infestation, a plague, a virus.

The Horrifying Power of Being Boring

For all the ways the Shadowkin are ridiculous, in one way, they’ve one-upped the Daleks. When the Doctor travelled to the origin of the Daleks, he confronted Davros with a thought experiment.

Imagine if you could make a virus. A virus that would be lethal to every other form of life. It would travel the entire universe destroying every form of life it touched, until the only thing left was itself. Would you release that virus into the world?

Davros would do it. Gladly. It would make him a god. Yet the Daleks never really become that vision. They’re too invested in actually being Doctor Who villains – taking part in stories, always being able to generate more adventures.

Daleks are evil forces of destruction, but they can’t literally have the power to destroy the world. They need the world so there are always stories about the Daleks.

Yet however bloodthirsty the Daleks might be, they were never the
nakedly efficient killers that the Shadowkin clearly are. They much
seem to prefer being at the centre of amazing stories.
It’s the very emptiness of the Shadowkin that make them able to fulfill Davros’ dream. They aren’t really interesting enough as creatures to have any more motivation than killing everything they see.

So they can actually lay claim to the power that prevents there from being any interesting stories about them at all. They don’t have the potential to exist at the centre of actually interesting narratives. They appear, they kill everything within minutes, they disappear again. That’s every Shadowkin story.

Could you imagine a “Power of the Shadowkin?” Or “Remembrance of the Shadowkin?” Hell, even a ridiculous carnival shit show of a story like “Shadowkin in Manhattan?” Of course not. They show up, kill everything in minutes, and disappear.

Without the Shadowkin, maybe Class will be able to tell more interesting stories. Like all the stories and moments within stories that didn’t feature Shadowkin.

Punishment and Crime

Yet the show maintains that Charlie has committed a heinous act in destroying the Shadowkin. He feels immense guilt that he wasn’t killed himself in the act of mass murder, and it’s clear that the Cabinet of Light itself keeps its user alive so that he can live with the act of genocide.

In all these ways, Class just couldn't get out fully from under the
shadow of Doctor Who. The heart of Charlie's pathos in any possible
second season of the show would be an inadequate repetition of the
Doctor's own character arc over eight years of the show.
It sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Because it’s exactly the conclusion of “Day of the Doctor.” Rhodia’s morality is pure Kantianism – the intention alone of genocide is the same as its commission. And unlike what turned out to have happened to the Doctor, Charlie actually did kill all the Shadowkin.

The reason the Doctor, when he regenerated into Christopher Eccleston, believed that he had committed genocide to punish him for the intention. Charlie is now receiving a deeper, more authentic form of the same punishment. The Cabinet of Light made him live with the terror of his act for the rest of his life.

Yet there really was no other way to stop the impassive, immovable enormity of the Shadowkin. They’re narrative and mortal nothingness – death in the story and death to the story. They’re giant talking smallpox viruses.

The show itself demonstrated that there was nothing wrong in destroying them. Yet the words of the story demanded that an evil was committed. As if Class is afraid to stare its most intriguing, highest-potential concepts, and truly explore them.
• • •
Because ranking is a thing, here is a rank, from best to worst in my view.

With regard to episode quality, I think direction helps or hurts as much as script. Ed Bazalgette made decent episodes ("Nightvisiting," "For Tonight We Might Die") good and already good episodes fantastic. Wayne Che Yip did a great job on the bottle episode, and made the shit-show "Metaphysical Engine" marvellously fun. But I hope "The Lost" director Julian Holmes doesn't come back to the world of Doctor Who.

1. Detained
2. The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo
3. Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart
4. Nightvisiting
5. For Tonight We Might Die
6. Brave-ish Heart
7. The Metaphysical Engine
8. The Lost

Love of the Plural I: A Legacy of Mistakes, Research Time, 05/12/2016

A few years ago, I gave my friend B-Rad some editorial advice on the first chapter of his Master’s thesis. One of the questions that he had trouble grappling with was the nature of the political.

I can totally understand why he was banging his head against the wall about it. What is political? The political is one of those ideas and words that are used so frequently and in such generally-applicable contexts that its meaning is amorphous, weird, shifting, inherently uncertain.

When I worked at McMaster, I met people from all places on the spectrum of that answer. One professor I had didn’t even consider social movements – today, think of #NoDAPL, Black Lives Matter, the Alt-Right, trans rights – political because they weren’t political parties fighting elections.

The Standing Rock protests is a wonderful example of the human
desire for justice. And it's also an excellent example of humanity's
creativity – simultaneously a movement for cultural freedom, an end
to systematized oppression, and ecological protection.
I also knew plenty of folks who considered pretty much every aspect of social life political. Or at least potentially so. That’s me, really.

It was a slow process of coming to that conclusion. It wasn’t a matter so much of changing my mind from what had been a strong opinion. I hadn’t really thought about it before I started researching a bunch of philosophical traditions rooted to social movements.

Understanding the political nature of social activism movements – of both liberatory persuasions like gay rights and oppressive ones like white nationalism – makes that state & election centric conception of politics laughable.

Social movements are about transforming an entire society’s values and morality, and building new kinds of subjects that compose society. That transformation process is really what any understanding of “the political” has to include.

Reading Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau over the last little while has been really intriguing for this line of thinking in my ongoing work. Because they’re very much heading in similar directions. Now, reading Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, not much of that is explicit.

The first chapters are pretty explicitly critical histories of Marxist economic and political theory. It’s the Marxists who come off most laughably there. Georges Sorel, Edouard Bernstein, and Karl Kautsky all appear hilariously out of touch with the realities of life in 19th century Europe.

There seem to be two fundamental mistakes about the nature of reality in traditional marxist thinking. I’ve discussed this in some of my posts from a couple of years ago when I was reading Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks.

The social movement of the Paris Commune could be said to have
unified the working classes of 1870s Paris, when the founders of the
Second International developed their ideas of political revolution.
They thought their insights were necessary universals, eternal and
unchanging features of humanity. Bit off the mark, this. 
And I’m serious about this being about the nature of reality. The ontologically smaller mistake is about how political movements are built. They presume that political, social, and moral transformation flows from society becoming simpler.

Classes unify in response to economic pressures, until there are only two classes and the frustrated class of workers who don’t have any control over property or their lives overthrow the rich. This never happened, of course, because human society always becomes more complicated.

We differentiate – diverging, splitting into new ways of life and adapting to changing circumstances. There’s an inherent creativity to humanity that drives us to variety. So those Second International marxists were totally off the mark.

The more profound mistake of this clique of theorist/activists came in how they understood the flow of time. In short, they considered the movement of history to be necessary. The superstructures of society itself – the structure and relations of social classes – would change according to their own large-scale natures.

Quietism was often the result, a notion that all the organization a workers’ movement needed was making people familiar with what would be necessary when capitalism collapsed. They didn’t have to work for it because it would happen on its own. Activism collapses when you don’t believe that individual human agency has the power, when working with others, to change society.

But the world is contingent – no body’s agency is ever completely subsumed in any large structure – conditioned, constrained, but never exhaustively determined.

Facing these facts, Laclau and Mouffe embrace humanity’s contingency and plurality. We always have the potential to take control of our lives, no matter how much the world’s wider pressures might constrain us. Human freedom – the core value of radical democracy* – establishes itself in the flowering variety of human life.

* The only democracy worth going for.

Conformity to a Community of Diversity, Research Time, 01/12/2016

I’m going to run through an argument that I’ve gone through quite a few times before, and that I will even more in the future. It’s about the nature of community, particularly the concept of community in radical democracy. So it’ll be pretty important to the ideas of Utopias, and it’s very important to our own political moment.

Here’s an anecdote to start. Right now, my friends Hipster Gogol and Dons the Miner are having a wonderful argument in the comments to my link promoting Hipster Gogol’s classes in activism.

Liberal individualism and communitarianism are viciously co-
dependent in many ways. Consider that the fantasy narrative of
individualism is the rebel from conformity – the hero's triumph requires
that he be the only individual, even though liberal philosophy and
culture aims for everyone to live as self-reliant individuals striking
out on their own paths.
Hipster Gogol works for a southern Ontario water protection group, and Dons the Miner works in the mining industry. It’s the usual kind of head-banging conversation between a conservative who doesn’t want to pay taxes for programs that help poor people, and a left-wing activist.

The Miner’s arguments are purely individualistic. Because he himself isn’t poor or marginalized, he sees no reason why he should pay taxes that fund programs for the benefit of others to whom he has no connection. There’s no fellow-feeling for the members of his community in his arguments.

But there’s also a problem with the opposite, more communitarian way of thinking. It stresses that community can only arise from a common morality, or a common culture.

You’re left with a choice: the radical alienation and mutual hostility of individualism, or cultural uniformity enforced by morality of mutual policing and hostility to difference from inside or outside the group.

If you go to the radical democratic tradition,* you can see a way out of this double bind. One route Chantal Mouffe takes is through a concept of common sense.

Here's another vicious paradox. The right-wing take on progressive
language and communication – which is denounced as political
correctness – is that it's a thought police promoting conformity. Yet
it's a form of language that encourages people to understand and
express real differences.
* Thinkers like Spinoza, Machiavelli, Giambattista Vico, and more lately Nietzsche, Hannah Arendt, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Chantal Mouffe, and Ernesto Laclau.

Common sense has a popular meaning that has nothing to do with this argument at all, sort of. The popular meaning of ‘common sense’ is to tag some ideas as obviously true. To introduce an idea with the phrase, “Of course we all know that . . . . . It’s just common sense!” The everyday intuition.

The most infamous use of this phrase today is the Newspeak of President Trump. For him, common sense is the obviously, intuitively true knowledge of those who are certain of their beliefs – that stop-and-frisk is a useful and important policing technique, that Muslims are inherently violent and anti-American.

I’m talking about the Spinoizist concept of common sense – literally the common knowledge that arises from honest conversations between different people. People of different genders, gender identifications, classes, sexualities, racial groups, religions, ethnicities, nationalities. Conversations that open your mind to other possible histories and experiences – different ways to be a person.

Radical democracy is an approach to building your community that flows from earnestly understanding and embracing human differences. So radical democracy preserves the individuality and room for difference that’s so important for liberal individualism.

Radical democrat (who spoke as an ontologist
and philosopher of science) Gilles Deleuze.
And because you’re literally reaching out to your neighbours and compatriots to understand their personal journeys, perspectives, and values, you achieve what communitarians want as well. A strong, deeply bonded community.

But it isn’t a community that comes from strictly enforcing moral and cultural conformity. Conservatives, particularly Trump and Trumpists, often accuse progressives of being morality police, enforcing their view of the truth to the exclusion of others.

The community is synthesized into a unity. But it’s a unity from differences. If I can get technical,** Deleuze called it a disjunctive synthesis.***

** And not just pretentious, like usual.

*** He originally developed the concept in the context of philosophy of mathematics, but he was able to work out an abstract structure for it that let it apply to particular acts of thinking in many different domains. The unity that arises from communication among differences.

Radical democracy constructs a community from disjunctive syntheses – the unity from differences in communication with each other.

The Real Enemy, Class: The Metaphysical Engine, Reviews, 30/11/2016

Well, having gotten the opportunity to watch “The Metaphysical Engine, Or: What Quill Did,” I think I can agree with Phil Sandifer’s review of the episode. It’s quite the hot mess. A really cool hot mess with loads of crazy and fascinating sci-fi ideas.

The story is balls out, whack-daddy, batshit crazy. But kind of ridiculous. Just the kind of crazy that Doctor Who has been good at since the early days.

Charlie's prohibition of Quill to use weapons carries a remarkable
double edge, given Rhodian pretensions. Rhodian morality is
insufferably Kantian: to think an evil carries the same burden of
guilt as actually carrying it out, and even their weapons are
condescending exercises in moral ego. You can only kill by taking a
blast backward and killing yourself: the ultimate embrace of the
permanence of sin.
With a storyline utterly all over the place, “The Metaphysical Engine” can only find an anchor in Katherine Kelly’s performance as Quill. And she’s thankfully pouring on the charisma, bringing Quill’s intensity to a fever pitch of anger.

To the audience, Quill has a very deceptive demeanour. Kelly’s physicality appears very cold and distant in the initial promotional material. They shoot her like an ice queen, and her behaviour in the early episodes displays a cold, manipulative aggressiveness.

Rage peeks out from Quill’s stony physiognomy occasionally. As do all her passions. Her genocidal anger at the Shadowkin. The desperate eros of her kiss with the android in “The Coach With the Dragon Tattoo.” The giddy glee of driving a bus into a grotesque alien tentacle.

Patrick Ness cheekily subtitled this episode “What Quill Did.” It’s a joke, a counterpoint to the bottle episode of the under-25s cast* stuck in their classroom in a nameless void.

* Class is positively 90210 in casting adults as teenagers. Charlie’s Greg Austin is 24. Fady Elsayad is 23. Vivian Oparah is 19, but she plays a 14 year old. April’s Sophie Hopkins is 26 years old and plays someone who just turned 18.

Quill's role in the early episodes of the show was to be held at a distance
from the main cast. She was the adult, but also a bodyguard, a slave, and
a sardonic commenter on the teen angst that often consumed the rest of
the characters. That aloofness held her distant from the audience too.
Katherine Kelly’s passion is completely unrestrained in “The Metaphysical Engine.” Not only are her emotions beaming from her, but she can turn her charisma up to the highest possible intensity as well.

She has to, because the episode is a ridiculous Maguffin chase. It succeeds only because its actors are totally dedicated to its madness.

More than just saving the episode from collapsing into a pile of disjunctive nonsense flying away in all directions, Kelly’s charisma as Quill effects a very important transformation in how the audience sees the show.

Heroes and Villains

I’ve come back several times to the moment in the first episode of Class, “For Tonight We Might Die,” where the Doctor admonishes Quill for a crime. She defends herself as a freedom fighter, because she’s long become accustomed to people calling her a criminal because of her guerrilla campaign against Rhodia’s monarchy.

But the Doctor’s upset with her because of how she tricked a Coal Hill student into killing himself firing Quill’s self-sacrificing Rhodian gun at a Shadowkin. The point of the moment is that Quill is not the self-evidently obvious villain that Charlie’s described her as.

The Doctor is the ethical compass of Doctor Who’s universe, and if he sympathizes with you, it’s a sign that you’re in the right. At least in part.

Quill's narrative is fundamentally about overcoming domination,
whether it's from the monarchist government of her homeworld, the
condescending slavery of Prince Charlie, or the pretentious
directions of the mysterious Governors who offer her a chance at
freedom. She's been a democrat the entire time.
Quill is a freedom fighter, but the show has been largely focussed on Charlie, his personal self-discovery, and the ensemble of his new friends. Throughout this episode, Quill is a charismatic adventurer fighting desperately for her freedom. There’s no more sympathetic story in our culture.

Because the under-25s are absent from this episode, we can let ourselves sit with Quill without interruption. She’s in every scene of “The Metaphysical Engine,” carrying the story almost entirely on her own.

This has never happened during the entire run of Class so far. She’s essentially locked the under-25s away where their ensemble can self-destruct and she’s taken over the show.

More than that, she deserves to take over the show by the time “The Metaphysical Engine” finishes. Though it constitutes

SPOILERS

to say so, this episode is her emancipation story. We’ve been shown how much Quill is willing to risk for her freedom from the biological weapon in her brain, enslaving her to Charlie.

The show has challenged Charlie on his treatment of Quill before, most obviously in “Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart.” So we’ve been primed to a more sympathetic view of Quill than the show first gave us when she was Charlie’s ice queen bodyguard and the most psychotic physics teacher you’ve ever had.

The episode includes several confrontations with apparent divinities,
which in a more conventional philosophical review series of Class,
would be the primary focus of this post. But what's more important in
the story itself is Quill's words for her god when they meet. The
encounter with God is an element in her own story of liberation: the
moment when she asks where God was when her people were
humiliated and then destroyed. She speaks the fundamental
existential rage in the human relationship with the divine.
But here, we have Quill’s own journey to free herself – travelling literally to realms that only exist as pure thought. The imagined afterlife of the Arn, the hell of Ballon’s people, the birthplace of the Quill god, the Cabinet of Light itself. All this to free herself. It’s a story of liberation that bestows heroism.

So if Quill has become a hero, Charlie would become even more villainous in contrast. It completes the journey from his squeaky clean appearance at the start of the series, through his critiques from Tanya and Matteusz, through his immense guilt and rage in “Detained.”

More than that narrative role, it shows more profoundly than Class has ever done yet what the nature of heroism is.

Right and Wrong

Because when you think about it, Quill has always been in a subject position. Consider the fact that Charlie – her literal master – always calls her by her surname. A surname that’s also the name for her people. It would be like calling someone “Black” or “China” as their name.

Considering that Andr’ath’s rebellion was the uprising of an oppressed class on Rhodia, there’s probably plenty of racism in Charlie’s condescension toward her. So while Charlie’s been positioned as the hero from the early press materials through the show’s first episodes, Quill is the most sympathetic figure according to all our political moralities.

She is a freedom fighter, and “The Metaphysical Engine” was her most intense fight for freedom yet. As an agent of liberation from racism, monarchy, and slavery, there’s no more pure representative of the good and of freedom than her.

Charlie has entered the role of oppressor, and Quill depicted completely as a freedom fighter.