Yes, I’m listening to Dead Prez.

A few things out of class yesterday, that I realized that I wanted to come back around on. We were trying to get at the ethical and moral framework that we’re using when we evaluate Nat Turner and other Christian leaders of black resistance against slavery. The prof was trying to get us to clarify why we seemed to be sympathetic to Turner, yet not taking up arms in the present moment.

I went to Mark Lewis Taylor’s work to make my explanation, and talked about the way that the the system projects justice and fear, the carrot and the stick than creates us as subjects, locked into social location.

His question was about if I thought that the sense of fear is more pervasive now. I almost answered yes, but on reflection, I think i need to talk about the differences, not the magnitude. As Foucault talks about in Discipline and Punish, there is a modern construction of gaze. The Panopticon becomes conceptually imagined and technologically possible in the same historical moment. I dissent from him when he states that the difference is that we moderns internalize this gaze. I tend to think that internalization is historic, even if it may be easier to enforce now. But the Panopticon, the all pervasive and inescapable examination and scrutiny of the modern nation state is a different matter than the localized gaze of white power in plantation life. Degree is the wrong term, because in that world there is only the local. The geographic and imaginative world of that era is limited, and for the African American in slavery, their entire cosmos is more or less under surveilance. The overseer and the master have a extensive, if not complete, view.

The modern system of white power offers a larger geographic and imaginative world, by media, travel, commerce, and cultural dispersion. But it wraps that now larger world in a system of near total surveilance. The panopticonic state can utilize and enforce terror at a whim, deploying militarized police forces against the “social debris” that is created by the economic workings of priviledge. With the use of terror and the prison complex, it has the capability to produce an ever tightening grip of gaze at the same time that it otherizes the subject as criminal, terrorist, enemy. Such a state has a comprehensive power structure that bounds the horizon just as well as when the horizon was much smaller.

David Walker discusses in his appeals of a radicalizing experience of watching brutality. White masters force a child to strip his mother, and then beat her to death. For the audience, this is an incredibly intimate act of violence. Today, the acts of terror are more carefully clothed, but what they may lack in intimacy, they compensate with pervasiveness. No matter what we think the relative brutality of that act is compared with the violence commited against Rodney King, but the broadcast and reach of that act of violence is most assuredly far wider.

I’ll try to swing back around and think about relative and selective invisability, the other component to our discussion. But I’ve got a full writing docket already, so I need to do some catching up.

-sly

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