Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Exceptionally Funny, Exceptionally Serious

flw, perhaps because he was once in a band, perhaps because he was once in a comedy troupe, or perhaps simply because he was and is paranoid, provides some of the most consistently interesting content on my "Friends" page. Sometimes, though, he makes you laugh in a way that doubles over into the face you make when you realize that you've left your wallet, keys, and cell phone in the bar where you were just drinking shot after shot of Jägermeister with a Rolling Rock chaser. Or me, at any rate, since the rhetorical second person is what reality looks like in the battered and spit-spattered stainless steel "mirror" of that sort of bar.

Take his most recent entry, in which he ponders the new regulations that will permit Mexican trucks to travel far into the United States for the first time. It's written the way a stand-up routine might be. So I laughed when I read it. But it's also deadly serious and a pithy companion to Giorgio Agamben's State of Exception:
What happens when you create an exception, is the exception becomes the rule. For instance, if you allow Mexican Heavy Trucks on the freeways, don't be surprised when EVERY truck becomes a Mexican Truck. This change comes on the heels of the WORST copout in the history of the NHTSA: They just changed the Trucking Regulations to allow trucks to drive for eleven hours a day, seven days a week. The old regs were ten hours a day, six days a week. It seems like a small change, let me assure you IT IS MONUMENTAL. And now that we have invited Mexican Trucks in, our regulations are OUT THE WINDOW. We have thrown it all away.

What I am having trouble expressing is how I SAY SLAVERY is going to make its return to the USA. I call it "mobile embassies". Now every truck on the highway is a little mobile Mexican Embassy. We are not only importing Mexican Trucks, but also Mexico's Laws. Of course, if Mexico had more stringent safety requirements than the US, I wonder if we would be importing these laws, hmm... I wonder? Of course not! The trucking companies don't want the Mexican Trucks, THEY WANT A BIG MEXICAN HAMMER TO BEAT THE TEAMSTER'S UNION WITH!

But since the trucks are Mexican, but operating within the US, under Cheney-Logic they are outside of all law. The only laws they need obey are the ones that maximize profit while minimizing all benefit to the workers.
I've read many accounts of how people living in a totalitarian regime deploy humor to convey what cannot be delivered under the sign of sincerity. I wonder, though, whether that behavior might not simply reflect a dissolution of the capacity to distinguish irony from its absence. That's the condition that many of Franz Kafka's thought experiments seek to conjure. And it's also the condition that I fear the inhabitants of these United States are in danger of contracting permanently, a temporary illness turned chronic. At any rate, I'm still shuddering at the near future conjured in flw's vision of Mexican trucks as national enclaves in motion, which both reminds me of the post-national "nations" in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and other cyberpunk narratives and points out their failure to recognize the pre-post-national nation's continuing role in the construction and perpetuation of that seeming political disorder. Here's a little Agamben, channeling the beastily brilliant Carl Schmitt, to drive home the point:
In truth, the state of exception is neither external nor internal to the juridical order, and the problem of defining it concerns precisely a threshold, or a zone of indifference, where inside and outside do not exclude each other but rather blur with each other. The suspension of the norm does not mean its abolition, and the zone of anomie that it establishes is not (or at least claims not to be) unrelated to the juridical order (Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, translated by Kevin Attell, p. 23).
In other words, the carving out of territories exempt from the law of a nation within that nation's borders, does not necessarily imply that the nation is losing its political force. Indeed, the appearance of disintegration could well represent the concentration of that force. After all, if the presence of the national government is most obvious at points of entry, whether along the border or in ports of call, the proliferation and dispersal of what we might call "border situations" might actually represent a strengthening of the regime. The question is, "For whom?"
Tags: blogging, humor, politics, theory

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