The title of this blog entry is taken from the hit series Breaking Bad, which follows the life of Walter White ‘breaking bad’. Walter is struggling to support his family teaching high school chemistry, learns he is dying from cancer, leverages his chemistry knowledge, creating a meth lab, distributing the product, as he attempts to live a ‘normal’ suburban life. What is ‘bad’ here? What contributed to Walter ‘breaking bad’ and what would ‘breaking really bad’ be about?
So, how can breaking really bad add more ‘badness’ to Walter’s story? I suggest the only way to do this is to develop one’s ‘imagination’. If we are going to ‘liberate’ ourselves as Walter was trying to do, we will need to weaponize our imagination more efficiently and effectively, than Walter was able to do and not get caught. Once we have our 6-shooter loaded, with Silver Bullets, we can carefully take aim and pull the trigger. Saddle-up, “Hi-ho Silver and away!” Who are these masked men? We meet five next, then two cats, and finally a Gadfly all loaded with Silver Bullets.
I am re-watching the Netflix ‘Breaking Bad’ series and the following clips give us a view of what Walter is up against. Walter begins stating that teaching chemistry is about the study of change, then realizes that he is not making any choices for change in his life, realizing he is just surviving life, marking time to one’s death is not what Walter imagines life to be about. We all come with a death sentence and he wants to be in charge of how his life is played out. Water is scared and lives in fear, which he sees as the real enemy, which he likes, he was good at it, it made him feel alive. He did it all for his family and realizes, in the end, he deserves this! Walter, I think, chose to try and commit class treason as “Pinky’s insomnia has recently been centered around questions of class treason: What happens when we do so many things in our lives ‘automatically’? What can we really do to make this world better? And what will we have to give up or risk in order to achieve it? Pinky’s class treason video is below but first, we consider the evolution of Walter – there but for ‘grace’ go I!
Breaking Bad – The Evolution of Walter White
Zizek begins ‘What it means to be a revolutionary’ (linked below) with Adorno’s three studies on Hegel who reject the question of “what is still alive and what is dead in Hegel?” Such a question presupposes an arrogant question of a judge who can graciously concede what is ‘actual’ for us today. But Adorno points out when we are dealing with a truly great philosopher the question to be raised is not what this philosopher can tell us but the opposite one, what are we in our contemporary situation in his eyes, how would our era or time appear to his or her thought. The same should be done with communism. Instead of asking is the idea of communism still pertinent today, can it still be used as a tool for political analysis today, we should be asking “how does our predicament look from the perspective of the ‘communist idea’. This is the dialectic of the old and the new. Those using new terms to describe what is going on today, post-industrial, etc., are missing what is really new. The only way to grasp what is new-in-the-new, is to analyze what goes on today through the lens of what was eternal in the old. If communism is an eternal idea then it works as a Hegelian concrete universality. It is eternal not in the sense of a series of abstract features that can be applied to every situation but in the sense that it has the ability, the potential, to be re-invented in each new historical situation. So, my first conclusion is to be true to what is eternal in communism, that is to be true to this drive toward radical emancipation, which persists in the entire history of mankind, to keep this idea alive one had to reinvent and reinvent it again and this holds especially today. In 1989 State Communism came to an end. A new beginning is now called for and there is no other place where ‘things’ are really happening. If you are a liberal university professor, your gig is up, no longer can we claim the real action is in South America and then keep your posh job at the university driving your new Lexus to class to lecture on how others need to change.”
Slavoj Žižek – What does it mean to be a revolutionary today? Marxism 2009
Alex Callinicos – What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?
Chris Harman – The Crisis Now – Marxism 2009
Lukács on Lenin – John Rees – Marxism 2009
David Harvey’s talk, The Crisis Today: Marxism 2009, was delivered in 2009 as the 2008 World economic crisis was taking hold. Ten years on and the World is still in crisis. Harvey proposes a revolutionary movement to address this crisis and suggests what it should look like. He suggests we need a ‘theory of social change’ that would talk about the ways we can move toward something that is a radically different kind of society. This theory of social change is embedded in Marx’s Theory of Capital and has seven variables that we need to understand this evolutionary theory of change. There are seven moments:
- Nature Moment: What is our relation to nature and in what ways do we think about modifying it? How do we think dialectically about our relation to nature? There is a co-evolution of man and nature, this dialectic is crucial and Marx writes about this in a very expansive way. This is one moment in historical transformations. What kind of relation to nature are we expecting in a socialist society and how can we move toward it? Marx was one of the first environmentalists.
- Technological Moment: What kind of technological mix are we looking for? We are interested not only in ‘hardware’ but the ‘software’ needed to operate the hardware. How does capitalism identify its own unique technology, suited to its system? We can examine this moment by examining the transition from feudal technology to capital technology. So, can we imagine what are the technologies needing to evolve out of capitalism to arrive at socialism? This moment co-varies dialectically with the nature moment, for example, ‘green technology’.
- Social Relations Moment: This moment also co-varies dialectically with the others. A very complex moment with internal conflicts in regards to what we are looking for i.e. how do we deal with class, gender, race as it relates, for example, to technology.
- Organization of Production Moment: There is a labor process that is not independent of the other moments.
- Mental Conception Moment: Our mental conceptions of the world are always changing.
- Daily life Moment: How do we go about our daily life, feeding, clothing, and sheltering our family?
- Intuitional Administrative Moment: How does the State operate?
These Seven Moments are dynamically co-evolving. Capitalism is perpetually evolving within these seven moments. Think about what these Seven Moments were like in 1970 and what they are like now in 2020. How are they changing? What is the process of social change now underway? A moment of crisis is a reconfiguration of these seven moments. What are we witnessing that reveals a re-configuration away from ‘profit-making’ to a configuration that ‘meets human needs’ in a very radically different way? The important issue is where can we start a social movement to impact our system of moments. Harvey suggests we can start at any one of these moments. We can start at any moment but we have to move to each one of the moments as the change process unfolds. Capitalism does not now know what is coming! Many of these moments are imprisoned inside their institutional chains, which have to be broken free. Harvey gives a personal example of working in a University and needing to break the chains tying Universities to Corporations. In order to mobilize a chain-breaking movement one has to have a vision. This breaking movement is complex and very involved – the transition to socialism will take as much time as the transition from feudalism to capitalism. A problem on the left, Harvey suggests, is that it has not yet imagined what lies ahead. This imagination ought to now be birthing in the Democratic Party – this is what we can call ‘breading bad, really bad’.
Finally, Pinky and Bunny suggest the effort needed to tackle realigning our Structure, Power, and Agency – will require committing class treason.
“In the course of our ongoing notation and probing of The Eternal Good Machine, we have noticed that the logic and patterns embodied by its institutional components has produced disaster-level human stupidity, as well as a corresponding material crisis that all (remaining) living beings are now attempting to survive. What can be done?
Based on the simple observation that the dominant Euro-American industrial formations – the school, the degree, the law, the arts, the corporation, the product and so on – require all classes of people (be they direct beneficiaries of high society’s lustrous aura, the oppressed and marginalized, or anyone in-between) to accept their Natural superiority in order to maintain the current social/environmental history-vector, we have devised an easy-to-remember three-part directive that anyone can use to help us steer away from EPIC PLANETARY FAILURE:
1. Identify all structures and relationships that denigrate or disadvantage.
2. Figure out if you are somehow supporting or benefitting from any of the above.
3. If yes, stop.
A critical mass of people rejecting the logic and privileges of unethical and harmful regimes can only bring about their eventual collapse. And we are not positive but we think that this can be accomplished without nuclear weapons, war-jets, or machine guns.”
A Covey of Vultures by Ed Raymond HPR December 23rd, 2019, is Ed, breaking really bad. Ed, as Zizek instructs us, is doing more than dusting the ball of capitalists, he is trying to cut them off!