Posted by: rogermitchell | October 24, 2010

more on what’s behind things

I can still remember my worst ever nightmare. It was back in the sixties when I was still in my early teens. In the dream I was standing outside Woolworths in my then home town of Hemel Hempstead and I was eating myself. My right arm to be exact. For years I tried to work out why it was such a nightmare. It was extremely vivid and obviously a bit disgusting, but it shook me to the core and for months I kept going over it in my mind like one would a terrible event in the real world. But then this week I have been continuing my work on the place of law in the contemporary world and looking again at Giorgio Agamben’s development of the state of the exception [see my blog for October 1st]. This suggests that contemporary western constitutions, whether written [the US] or unwritten [the UK], and the laws developed from them, now only serve as superficial veneers covering the real motivation or driver of the contemporary world which, simply put, is essentially power and money. There is a lot of discussion about what this driver looks like! Carl Schmitt, who originally came up with the idea of the exception thought it must be God. Walter Benjamin, who rejected the idea of transcendence presumably because he concluded from history that a God who was all about power and money didn’t deserve to exist, reckoned that behind the western world of power and money is “a creature consigned to a world of creatures” and as a result consigned the state of exception to catastrophe, which may explain his suicide not long after he wrote these words. If you are still trying to follow my point here, it may help to refer to the events of the past week or two for an example. The UK Coalition Government announced the abolition of child benefit for those earning more than £40,000 per annum. Whatever you think about that, it substantially changed a sixty years old law establishing the universality of the welfare state. The huge cuts in government expenditure last Wednesday also broke several clear promises of the manifestos of both parties. The party leaders justify this with the ‘obvious’ point that the economic situation demands it. In other words they assume that we will all understand and, they hope, support the submission of welfare and truth to money and power. This is the exception at work, and Walter Benjamin is right. It’s a catastrophe in the making. Which brings me back to my dream and why it was such a nightmare. What lies behind our contemporary western system is really only a human creature motivated by power and money. Power is what strength we can muster. Money is what we mix with our human strength to get food. Behind our world is a human being devouring itself. This is why we have to change things.



  1. Another example is certainly what is occuring in the USA at the moment. I note that the far right has now developed a meme that the founders/writers of the constitution really did not mean that church and state should be separated (first amendment of the constitution) and instead have been misunderstood. This to justify their intent of establishing a theocratic empire based on ‘small government'(get rid of social security, medicare for seniors, the department of education etc) and individualism except when it comes to certain lifestyles and life choices which they intend to manage closely.

    One would assume that such candidates, who often appear terribly out of touch with reality let alone compassion or kindness, would be quickly dismissed. Not. Yesterday I watched a video of a rally in Texas with a pastor who is running for congress there. The pastor asserted and re-asserted when challenged that the possibility of armed revolution and violence was always an option in relation to the government (that I note he wants to be a part of). Another candidate, a woman in Nevada (close race) has repeatedly stated that because of her Christianity she also believes that ‘second amendment remedies’ (the right to bear arms) are possible if the government (which she also wants to be part of) doesn’t come around to her and others’ way of thinking.

    Behind all of these verbal and physical thugs is the backing of a small cabel of very rich men who want to remove all government regulation from their chemical and fossil fuel industries the better to make money while destroying the environment and killing people. They have poured millions and millions of dollars into the elections. They have been able to do that because the Supreme Court ruled last year that corporate donations can be unlimited and undisclosed – essentially purchasing the government for the rich. And it has now been revealed that several Supreme Court judges are connected to these very wealthy men. In other words, the highest court of appeal in the US is corrupt.

    Add to that the situation that for years evangelicals have been infiltrating the military to convert military personnel to their version of an eschatalogical religious cult. Much have this has been illegal but it was clear from Iraq that many military personnel understand themselves to be on a personal crusade in relation to Islam.

    Add to that the fact that the US maintains over 700 military bases all around the world. It spends more on its military than all other nations on earth combined. It has more nuclear weapons and more weapons-grade uranium than any other nation.

    Yes, this is all about money for a few, power for a few and the rest to serve their needs. It is also quite disturbing. Time to whip out Naomi Klein’s the Shock Doctrine for a read.

    I do think that’s the next book for your reading list Roger if you haven’t already read it.

  2. Coo that was quick, I hadn’t even finished editing the final version! And thanks for the book recommendation. I haven’t read it and will get hold of it ASAP

  3. […] heard it like when you listen to THIS by Ken Robinson for example. Well this morning I read a new blog entry by Rog Haydon Mitchell.  This is really worth a read.  I think this concept of the […]

  4. Hi ya… A very helpful post. I have blogged a response and posted a 6 minute video on the subject which is worth watching or watching again if its been a while. Post and video at –

    too long to leave as a comment.

    Thanks for this


  5. Nice one Chris. Click on the link above, everybody, the post is highly illuminating and the Tony Benn video you catch there is as riveting as ever.

  6. nice video. I like his ending, that people need encouragement. I find I end up giving a lot of encouragement – to my students, to fellow scholars, to people I meet at academic conferences. Why? Because as he mentioned they are demoralized and believe they are helpless. Just last week I attended a conference in Florence with academics who study land and landscape. Over and over again they lamented their frustration and powerlessness. I finally stood up and reminded them that as highly educated, fairly well paid people they had a responsibility of leadership to the rest of society – so get out there and do. I found myself in one conversation after another encouraging people in their work and in their attempts to reach out into the community with their knowledge of the land.

    By the way, in The Shock Doctrine, Klein exhaustively documents how capitalism operates by creating (or enhancing) a catastrophe and then setting up the conditions for a few to benefit from that. And of course, that confuses and demoralizes and frightens the rest of us.

  7. Everytime I come here you force me think beyond myself and confront my part in this system.
    understanding the system is one thing knowing it must change another,but trying to change it something completely different.
    At times I feel like my fate is tied to this system and it leaves you feeling there being no hope no way out.Yet I know christ gave us this hope.His hope has sadly been reduced to some sort of heaven after but not much for the here and now.His hope is not only for me and my soul but it is a hope that everything can and must change.
    So we must reach out to him and somehow be empowered to be the people of dreams that become a living reality for our family and community.He has answers but I sometimes fear I dont have the courage to speak them never mind live them.God help us.

  8. Roger,

    Brilliant post, if a little disturbing..! The shock doctrine is also disturbing didn’t get past the second chapter.

    So do you think capitalism is on its way out?…(hopefully) What do you think will happen next?… it is going to be painful, you’re right.

    Thanks for your writing your thoughts – I really enjoyed reading the October 14th one as well.. I sometimes think about things like that.


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