community versus conformity

the toronto star newspaper recently launched a blog campaign called “your city my city.” what could be the point of such an activity? this project is supposed to get people involved in the community, to encourage participation in local politics, and spur on dialogue between people from different walks of life. however, the very injunction “to participate” is, in a sense, its own negation; this is similar to the propaganda about voting (the injunction “to vote” is merely a desperate last-ditch attempt to resurrect the dead body of the political), and illiteracy propaganda.

the so-called “your city my city” blog project is not an exercise in community – it is one of conformity. the toronto star has recruited “bloggers” who represent a mainstream, and therefore conformist, viewpoint of toronto’s cultural, economic, political, and social eco-sphere. for those of you who do not live in toronto, the main reason for starting this project (as far as i can see) is because we are having a mayoral election come october. the new mayor of toronto, whoever he or she will be, is in for a rough term: the city’s roads are terrible (we cannot afford to fix them), the toronto transit commission is on the verge of a collapse (due to incompetent, narcissistic leadership), the city’s daycare programs and public schools are facing disaster level funding deficits (by funding programs they really cannot afford), etc. etc. etc.

so, what is community then, if the your city my city blog project isn’t? i would say a real community is something that is achieved through a voluntary process of subtraction. when people can come together, despite differences of opinion, of colour, of economic / social circumstance, then this is a true community achieved through the subtraction of difference and the retention of a mutual interest. conformity is the exact opposite of this: criticizing the state by trying to add terms to the functions it presently lacks. of course, no state has achieved “universal human rights.” this is because human rights are, by definition, unattainable (see gödel’s incompleteness theorem). the supposed “radicality” of critiquing the state by pointing out what it lacks, by demanding things that it should add is, rather, conformity par excellence; a little like the hysterical subject whom no object can satisfy, the object, of course, never coming close enough to, never attaining identity with what this subject desires: “this is not that!”

the closest thing to community, in recent toronto history, were the tamil demonstrations, except the spirit of their rebellion was to serve not the city of toronto, but particular (i.e. nationalistic) ends. the problem with their demonstration was that it was not radical enough to achieve the results they wanted. even though it is the particular that gives rise to the universal, it is the particular which must be subtracted from the situation if the universal is to become the ground for a community or movement; when we have cleared the ground of excess, when we reach the minimal state of the situation, then we will be ready to create a community that can include the elements that have been hitherto excluded from the state in the name of universality.

what kind of city do i want? it would be hard to articulate exactly … perhaps a city-state where we punish the bodies of criminals instead of giving them a free ride in our cushy prison system; a city-state in which politicians could, should, and would be held accountable as in the time of robespierre (forget the ballot box, we need a guillotine); a city-state in which cyclists and pedestrians do not have to put their lives at stake when going for a stroll or leisurely bike ride.

but the lame conformists of this shitty town do not want change. i feel like “rintrah roaring & shaking his fires in the burden’d air” (blake).


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