I’ve been meaning to follow up on Keir’s post about the “explosion of sincerity” for weeks now, so here are some threads I’m trying to pull together…

In Déjà Vu and the End of History Virno talks about how we appear to be living through an era of hyper-historicity, trapped in a pattern of permanently recycling and reworking everything. On a superficial level we can point to the ceaseless cultural regurgitation that’s symptomatic of postmodernism: from Mad Max to TFI Friday to this bollocks, there’s no end to retromania (and if I tried harder, I could probably think of something that’s actually a re-make of a re-make). But Virno also makes reference to the Society of the Spectacle, the idea that we collect our own lives while they are passing: the present is duplicated as the spectacle of the present and we end up watching ourselves live. This has real consequences. As Virno puts it:

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While not all the Free Association are currently members of Plan C it’s fair to say that involvement in that organisation has re-directed at least some of the energies that would otherwise have gone here. To illustrate that I thought I’d share a ‘position paper’ I wrote for Plan C which has just been published on their website: On Social Strikes and Directional Demands.

I was planning to post this along with the notes from our recent talk on comedy, but Keir beat me to it. Timing is everything, apparently…

It’s the third section of that talk – the one on the hyper-ironisation of contemporary culture – that’s been nagging away at me. In one sense it feels self-evidently true: the hollow laughter of the cynic has largely taken the place of meaningful political action. Bantz, trolling, 4chan, doing it for the lulz… And it’s not hard to understand why when the times we live in are beyond satire.

So last Saturday three communists walked into Duffy’s bar in Leicester and started talking about economic crisis, pop music and comedy. Let me give you a summary.

The talk was in three sections. The first set the scene of pervasive crisis. Arguing that in this context we should expect the rise of characters who seem to signify the spirit of the times and that people identify with politically. In the crisis of the 1930s these figures tended to be political leaders but in the 1960s and 70s, after the birth of pop culture, such figures were equally likely to be pop stars. In the current crisis this seems to have changed. By raising the examples of Russell Brand, Beppe Grillo and Dieudonné we suggest that figures of political identification (on both the Left and the Right) are now more likely to be comedians than pop stars.

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I’m at a bike shop in central London. I’m being fitted for a new frame. I’ve had some serious problems with my back and my best bike, its pro geometry never really suitable for me even when I did race, is now definitely inappropriate. Julian, who’s sorting me out, asks me about racing and I mention my club Ferryhill Wheelers. Ah, he’s seen that name when he’s looked at results for over-50s races. I do a double-take and look at Julian more closely. This guy’s in his fifties? I would’ve put him at around my age. Turns out he’s 56. Must be something keeping him looking young. Perhaps it’s cycling. Or maybe love of life. He’s just returned from a holiday celebrating his first wedding anniversary. Congratulations. He tells me that he and his partner, now wife, have been together for decades, they’ve got a couple of teenage kids, but last year decideded to get married. That’s interesting, I think, getting married only once your kids have almost left home isn’t normal. I’m drawn to him.

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There’s a great interview here with Mark Stewart of early post-punks the Pop Group — by Diane Kamikaze on wfmu.

Can’t capture it all here, but the conversation ranges seamlessly across music, politics, culture, innovation, DIY, group dynamics, magic, ethics and the repetition of history. He even mentions zombies. As punk as fuck.

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Why aren’t the British middle classes staging a revolution?”, asks Telegraph columnist Alex Pound.

Why aren’t the middle classes revolting? Words you probably never thought you’d read in the Telegraph. Words which, as a Gladstonian Liberal, I never thought I’d write. But seriously, why aren’t we seeing scenes reminiscent of Paris in 1968? Moscow in 1917? Boston in 1773?

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For me, one of the best things about last weekend’s FAST FORWARD festival was seeing two comrades I organised with in the early- to mid-1990s. We’ve been involved in different political projects over the intervening two decades, we live in different cities, different countries even. But every year or so I encounter one or the other of them. At some demonstration or protest. At a conference. Maybe a social event where there’s a bunch of politicos. I like the fact that we share political histories stretching back a quarter-century. I like it that I know these people who keep turning up, on the streets (or in the fields — I’m thinking of the summit protests of the counter-globalisation movement and climate camps), in our political meeting spaces, like bad pennies. Enoch Root types. The radical. Enoch the Red. It’s definitely to the credit of Plan C, FAST FORWARD and its organisers, that these bad pennies were attracted to the festival.