I’ll tell you what it’s like to be me these days: weird but cold and good.
Teaching a class about political economy while being who I am and working on the campaign is an interesting thing. I keep it light with irony and non-sequiturs – you know, like when teaching about commodities I bring up ice sculptures and mechanical bulls, and everybody giggles, everybody’s down. I work hard with eye contact and earnestness and turns of phrase and I think they are with me most of the time, even when I make exemplars out of the sub prime crisis and the difference between the economy and “The Economy” as spoken about by neoliberals. They grasp the fundamentals of political economy, I think, and I think they are already better-armed for understanding certain social relations in which they’re embedded.
But inside for me the lecturing is different. It’s kind of emotional like playing music rarely is anymore. I went to my boss last night with an odd plaint, that I’d mushed together all the theory and practice and love and war in my life-world, and spurted that splatter into the part of the heart where most people keep their religion. At this rate, I griped to the boss, all of this politics and transgression’ll get too political and too performative, and I’ll drift into academic apathy. Boss told me that I should remember never to join any leftist factions; that she’d made it on the Left by touting an inclusive let’s all love each other, little bit of communal living, pro-worker, maybe a little drugs, maybe a little counterculture modality. Myself, I think there’s weird patriarchal tones to what I’d call an economistic, overly-workerist, class-war-apolocalyptical-ness and theatricality that Trots and their ilk rock. So I mostly agree with the boss, and more importantly I was reminded that you don’t need to be a Trot to think that it’s workers and not pundits or politicos who are the only ones that can do anything really cool on the capitalist front. Boss reminded me that Obama and Clinton are both fucking liberals, and the same fucking thing, which is important for me to recall lest I think for a second that their getting elected comprises any sort of reprieve against organizing.
Next month I’m giving a presentation to a bunch of RNs about the political economy of mental health, which I look forward to more than any academic panel discussion I have ever been invited to. In this context I will get to make explicit a message that is practically neither here nor there to what we teach in the university, which is this, that (health) workers need to take power away from their bosses, for their sake and for society’s sake. It’s just one of the many ways in which workers need to take power over the distribution of the social wealth, but a particularly important example.