In Your Hands!

A large group of people waits to enter an immigrant processing centre or employment insurance office. After up to 18 months of waiting, simply for the right to work and send money home to their families, the people en masse charge the desk, smashing the glass that divide them and break into dance together. This post is meant to elaborate on the processes illustrated in the video and appreciate the revolutionary message associated with destroying socially constructed barriers that divide, rather than unite.

In the beginning, the people in the video dutifully go through the bureaucratic processes that lend legal legitimacy to their existence as human beings, yet are obviously not optimistic that whatever ruling they receive will be to their benefit. “…And everytime you promise me: not much longer now. I’ve had to put my whole, world, in your hands.” The silent bureaucrats on the other side of the transparent/invisible/imaginary barrier (read: border) go about their work, safe in the belief that if they dutifully perform their tasks, the well oiled bureaucratic machinery will fulfill the liberal-democratic promise, that is, achieve the “greatest good for the greatest number.” They avoid conversation with the Other on the other side of the barrier, for fear of contaminating their judgement with human emotion. Sometimes, their superiors instruct, this means that people “fall through the cracks” but ultimately you have to “break a few eggs to make an omelette.”

There is no shortage of clichés in the bureaucracy to create and enforce the barrier that separates the government pawns (bureaucrats) from the impoverished global majority that elite interests within states must control to maintain their positions of privilege. By implicating the pawns in the process of state control, government employees can ignore the curious similarities between a necktie and a noose.

It is worth noting that the common cliché, to “let loose,” is often demonstrated by the loosening of one’s necktie. Conversely, this expression suggests that the opposite, to perhaps “tighten up” is to bottle up one’s untamed self and conform to social expectations in order to excel and be a good member of society. The fear of the internal self and what “it” might be capable of thinking or doing is the a foundation of why the State (especially the United States) employed Freudian psychoanalysts in the aftermath of Second World War to create a conformist society. After seeing what they believed to be “letting loose” in World War II, the government believed that the deliberate construction of a conformist society with the help of psychoanalysts could suppress the inner “communist” or “nazi” deep within the human subconscious and protect freedom, democracy, and capitalism. (See: The Century of the Self)

I appreciate this video because it could easily have told a down-trodden story, or a story of class struggle where one dominates the other. It did neither. The human emotion and common human experience of care for one’s family caused a revolt against the revolting and dehumanizing process of applying for the right to work. “Mister Mister, you say you’re trying! But don’t you know, my brother’s dying?! You say it won’t be long, but why am I so cursed for where I am born?” At this point, the others hear this all-to-familiar story and have had enough. They charge the imaginary barrier and “reorganize its molecules” in a way that hurts no humans directly. They grab the paperwork, the physical record of their humiliating experiences, and tear it to confetti as they dance joyously. Joy in “letting loose,” Joy in the recognition of the human condition in one another, Joy in the dismantling of the bureaucratic process that says you are an Other and have to prove yourself as being worthy of the right to work to ensure that your family survives.

Finally, the joyous transformation within this video is where the bureaucrats themselves throw away their paperwork, make confetti of it, and join the party. They all dance together, as the barrier that divided them has been reduced to rubble and they can all be human beings again. Utopian perhaps, but no more so than the utopian assumptions underlying a global system of distribution that ensures 3/4 of humanity live on virtually nothing while less than a 1/4 live in luxury.

I’m not opposed to some degree of infringement on people’s liberty. The example commonly used by Professor Chomsky is that of a grandfather restraining a child such that she is not hit by oncoming traffic. This is a justifiable imposition of authority. It is, however, unjustifiable, to violently prevent the global Other from seeking the means to feed their families, especially since it is the neoliberal policies of the so-called “Have” states that accelerate the immiserising of the so-called “Have-not” states amidst the echoing reverberations of colonialism. There is room here for much deeper analysis of the illogical proposition of “illegal migrants” but that is an entire post by itself…


~ by bahtman on June 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “In Your Hands!”

  1. fantastic analysis on a great video…thanks for introducing this to me!

  2. post it on the media coop please!


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