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Deregulate life

June 9, 2020

After being under lockdown for over two months (depending on labor conditions and state jurisdiction), the country filled the streets en masse. The protests, triggered by the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, brought the sheltered-in-place out to the public space. The contrast between isolation and demonstration is striking as it completely transformed the concept of solidarity from that of distance (self-isolation as the protection of the other) to togetherness. If living together was contingent of a momentary lapse of togetherness, suddenly it was defined by collective body’s occupation of the urban space. This form of adaptability and capacity for contradiction, defines the politics of care for those whose lives are entangled through an intersection of unheard, and constantly reiterated indignations. While the current covid plague disproportionately killed black and brown communities, police have been historically and systematically targeting black lives. The lockdown prevented the rituals of grieving the dead and consigned them to bureaucracies of the necropolitical administration. The public slaughter of George Floyd by the police and its digital dispersion reached the screens of the non-essential sequestered and the essential workers who kept them alive, enraging both groups alike. The demonstrations staged a collective mourning of a “significant loss of human life” – biological and social.

In a tweet trump called the protesters “lowlife and losers.” In another tweet, all those exercising their First Amendment rights, he called out as “thugs, Radical Left, and all others [sic] forms of Lowlife & Scum.” While the protesters gather under the umbrella of Black Lives Matter, it is revealing how the president labeled their lives low, that is of lesser importance (as opposed to “high”?)— which of course is consistent with the bigoted racial ideology of this country. This clarifies why the very crux of the movement emphasizes the biopolitical warfare that distributes life disproportionally among the populace (considering some lives lower than others). The tweet shows that for the ruling establishment certain lives don’t matter, as they are worthy only of abasement, a lowering that includes impoverishment and death. Racism as Foucault shows is a biopolitical practice that links the death of the other to the better, “healthier and purer” life of some. Racism wants to eradicate what it designates as “low” life, to nurture “high” life. It creates and maintains hierarchies of life and perpetuates the notion of race by the daily rituals and the practice of racism as Barbara and Karen Fields show. Further, those who are designated essential workers are primarily from communities of color whose lives do not matter under the current biopolitical maldistribution of life. Although one would hope it could go without saying, it now cannot: Those whose labor is essential must have their lives recognized as essential, too. That is, they are the essence of our collective existence. Black Lives Matter insists that there is not and should not be a hierarchy of lives.

The pandemic that necessitated the living wear masks so that they could live (when supplies of those masks could be found), simultaneously dressed the protesters with anti-surveillance cover that disrupted the facial recognition algorithms of the biopolitical establishment. It protects against the virus and adversarial identification. The mask defaced, disidentified and deindividualized the multitude that rose up for black lives and disinfected the streets from racial capitalist necropolitics. New York and many other cities’ centers of retail and luxury are now occupied, not by consumers and tourists, but by the lives that are barred from the high streets. The lockdown that cleared the streets from commerce was greeted with demonstrations that flooded it with life, in its most fundamental, lowest – ground level, basic form. Not life as its regulated by commodity and administered by consumption. The protesters showed who the streets belong to.

In one of the recurring slogans the police are asked to give the protesters head, instead of killing and brutalizing people. The present circumstances encourage us to consider what kind of a world we would build if the police gave the residents [solicited] pleasure, instead of unsolicited pain? In this world, protecting and serving people would be measured by the amount of pleasure that the government and, by extension, the law enforcement provide to their constituents. We should therefore regulate industry and deregulate life – in its multitude, divergent, uncontainable manifestations.

Black Lives Matter. “I yield my time.”

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