Monthly Archives: May 2009

the politics of time


Garbage Warrior has a cover that stands out in the ‘New Releases’ section of my local Blockbuster (Video Dogs was missing Dylan Moran standup) because it is a simple green backdrop with a white graphic.  The rest of the clutter that tends to grace the covers of anything mindless enough to make that shelf causes my synapses to misfire and I leave the shop emptyhanded.

It is a good film and I would recommend it, but I’m certainly not going into film reviews here so I will cut to one of the more existential questions the film seems to ask, which is about time.  The protagonist’s attempts to pass laws in the New Mexico senate which would enable citizens to experiment with sustainable housing designs are held back by the consumption of time by the processes of bureaucracy, begging some questions about the nature of bureaucracy and its effects on and explotations of time.  ‘Law is slow’ is one of the underlying challenges for a man who finds urgency in solutions for the present, and that asks us to consider why that might be and what political purposes it serves.  And what the consequences are for those living in the system it governs.

As someone who has applied for things like college and permanent migration, I have unquestioningly spent so many hours on the participation in bureaucratic systems of communication and recognition.  These are life projects, all-consuming for their duration and never without hoop-jumping, last-minute innovative solutions on the part of the applicant, and time spent attempting to control the outcome of a situation in which someone else is making decisions about your life.  I am not suggesting that these processes should not or must not exist in any form – I am simply not that sort of hippie – but I stand back from my willingness to offer so much of my life’s time, these hours I’m told are ‘precious’, and find it peculiar enough to warrant consideration of its implications on a larger scale of human power and control.  There are, of course, lots of them, and I won’t inimidate myself with the task of listing them all.  What I noticed in Garbage Warrior was that time was being used as a weapon against something that was too fast for bureaucracy (filibustering caused the rejection of his first attempt at the bill).  What Reyonlds is doing can be read as a form of resistance.  And so one might consider the politics of time for those in resistance, those who desire change, or those who simply do not fall neatly and readily into the status quo.

There is an interesting question as to whether the solution to the current human state is to speed up or slow down.  Law (legislature) is slow but the solutions to things urgent enough to be affected by it need to be fast.   If the speed of things like law (bureaucracy, the state…) is too slow to save that state, then we need to be faster than law, and doing much of that work ourselves, which generally requires that we take some steps outside law (bureaucracy, the state…) at some point.  This is a way of addressing the speed of the system.  If the speed of things like culture and humanity and development is too fast, then resistance might well take the form of slowing down.  This is what Slowmance (process-based living) is based on, though it’s more of a sentient concept than a political one.  Many ‘slow’ movements hold at least some concept of themselves as ‘alternative’ or even ‘resistant’.  Perhaps the major contradiction is that things like bureaucracy, with its painstaking picking-apart of an entity, its consumption of time and energy, its micro-managing and its destruction of spirit (as in ‘the spirit of the…’) is not a system equipped to deal with the fastness we as a culture have so readily accepted as the status quo.

So on a basic human level, what is the speed of resistance?  Should I try to be faster or slower than what’s around me?  Or should I alter my conceptions of time altogether to account for the different levels of resistance and what they are addressing?  Does resistance lie in alternative consciousnesses of time?  What time is it?


This has been the anarchogirlie psychonaut review.  Tune in next time for more questions with no answers and other incomplete thoughts.