“In the medium of technology, culture, politics, and the economy merge into an omnipresent system which swallows up or repulses all alternatives. The productivity and growth potential of this system stabilize the society and contain technical progress within the framework of domination. Technological rationality has become political rationality.”
-Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization
“I don’t take it seriously, but being called a ‘bad citizen’ is a compliment to a novelist, at least to my mind. That’s exactly what we ought to do. We ought to be bad citizens. We ought to, in the sense that we’re writing against what power represents, and often what government represents, and what the corporation dictates, and what consumer consciousness has come to mean. In that sense, if we’re bad citizens, we’re doing our job.”
“….the ideologically invested narrative of the present victors, who step over the bodies of the vanquished left unceremoniously unburied…”
The consumer media avoids directly referring to political and economic connection between your cozy sofa and someone else’s dead body: Rosler reveals the artificiality of this severed causality. The separation of us from them, here from there, is an illusion we want, as a war-profit society and as immediately war-free individuals, to maintain. In a culture like contemporary Amerika, misunderstanding between ourselves and the objects around us happens on two distinct but interdependent levels. As recognized by Marx and Lacan, things are substitutes for feelings; they are also mistaken for value-free objects, divorced, like a baby in the cabbage patch, from any material gestation. Rosler encourages us to remember where dead babies come from. Her war montages are not constructed from divergent sources: they derive from the same physical site, the same magazine, ironically called “Life.” The divorce between war and home imposed by publishing’s division between advertising and editorial, home features and war views, was also accepted by the viewer/reader of Life: irrational mis-reading, encouraged from without, is accepted from within. Or, as Horkheimer and Adorno, writing in Amerika, exclaimed: “ideology is split into the photograph of stubborn life and the naked lie about its meaning — which is not expressed but suggested and yet drummed in.” Could you enjoy your car, your TV, your painting in precisely the same way knowing someone died for your enjoyment? This is the central question to those who enjoy the spoils of post-colonial imperialism; it implicates all of us, as the material benefits of war are not limited to the rich, the multinationals, the government.
“On the surface, where the historical battles rage, where everything interpreted in terms of money and power, there may be crowding, but life only begins when one drops below the surface, when one gives up the struggle, sinks and disappears from sight.”