We are thrilled to present our very first Superstructure transcript, brought to you by the generous effort of friend-of-the-show, Mike Lewis.
“Superstructure Cancels the Pope” represents a pivotal episode from the Superstructure archive. Contra leftist praise for today’s seemingly anti-capitalist papacy, co-hosts Naty Smith, Maxx Seijo, & Will Beaman offer a critical close reading of “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis’ third and most recent encyclical. Unearthing the austere logics that inhere in Bergoglio’s ideas of encounter, charity, and reconciliation, Naty, Maxx, and Will take on the pope’s not-so-lefty Jesuit career and Peronist history, as well as the Franciscan ideology and history that inspired his Covid-era message to the world. Framed by readings of Scott Ferguson’s work on the symptomatic search for solidity in the modern and neoliberal moments, the gang exposes the deeply toxic nationalistic impulses behind the Pope’s metaphysical, theological, and political exhortations. Superstructure, in other words, cancels the pope.
Transcript: Mike Lewis
Link to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/MoLsuperstructure
Will Beaman 00:15
So, hey everybody. This is another episode of Superstructure. This is Will Beaman and I have my co-hosts Natalie Smith.
Naty Smith 00:24
Hello! What’s going on?
Will Beaman 00:25
That is Natalie Smith, and I also have Maxximilian Seijo.
Maxx Seijo 00:29
Ciao bello. Oh wait, wrong site.
Will Beaman 00:33
I wasn’t ready for the language bit. Okay, so this is an episode that I have really really been looking forward to for like a while. Mostly because we’ve been teasing the shit out of it forever, but ever since I started kind of going down the historical rabbit hole of Franciscanism, which is the theme that we covered between Superstructure and Money on the Left in several of our latest content over the last couple of weeks.
Naty Smith 01:05
Will Beaman 01:06
We’ve been wanting to go over review I guess this is a media review of the Papal Encyclical from last year.
Naty Smith 01:16
Zero stars. The reason we’ve been teasing it so long is that it was Natalie’s job to read the Encyclical, and it was pretty boring. So it took me some time until I just like was like alright, I got to read this motherfucker. Not literally, but yeah. I think.
Will Beaman 01:32
If you were transcribing people performing the rosary for an hour, it would have been less repetitive than the Encyclical. Yeah. Not a great writer. But um, yeah. So Naty, do you want to tell us a little bit about the Encyclical? Like, what is the Encyclical?
Naty Smith 01:52
The Encyclical is an exciting bedtime story about how we have to love our neighbors. No.
Will Beaman 02:00
I mean, yes.
Naty Smith 02:04
I think it’s interesting because a lot of people sort of have been excited about Pope Francis, sort of some of his nods to economic populism, or immigration reform, or the UN, or poor people’s movements ish. But it’s interesting that Encyclical is his third Encyclical. He released it in October 2020 at a memorial ceremony for St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy. It was the first trip outside Rome since COVID had started. The title Fratelli tutti is like “we’re all brothers” and comes from some quote of Francis. And it’s interesting, like, did you want me to get into his bio a little bit?
Will Beaman 02:51
Yeah, well, um, one thing that I want to say kind of adding on to this before you go into some biographical details. So as we’re recording this, the big COVID relief bill finally passed. So hopefully should be seeing that $1400 pretty soon, although I haven’t yet. I digress. This is a very, like future-facing document that is very much like grounded in politics. And there are a lot of I think that a lot of these ideas will end up inflecting a response to Trumpism or, you know, any of these people.
Naty Smith 03:29
Well, and Biden is interested in Catholic liberalism, I mean…
Will Beaman 03:35
Yeah, he’s very Catholic.
Naty Smith 03:35
Yeah. And also, I mean, this is drenched in the past too, and a lot of the history of Argentine complications of political economy and all different things that have kind of gone between statist and corporatist and Peronist and neoliberalism and dictatorship and then the Pink Wave and just a lot of currents go through it.
Will Beaman 03:57
Absolutely, yeah. So as we talk about this, I guess the question that I want to have in our mind, and like, you know, a criteria for like, how are we evaluating the actual content of this text is, you know, it lays out a global political vision. Is this a global political vision that we can see adequately responding to this moment? Because it’s not like the Pope is nobody, you know. This is already an extremely influential document.
Naty Smith 04:27
And I also think we want to kind of push the left in that we understand where there’s good things you can see and “oh, this is good, like, international institutions are like caring about people who are in poverty”, but like pushing to be like, okay, but like, let’s look deeper. Let’s look at the details. Let’s look at what is he really saying like at a deeper level, and what are the real implications and backwards and forwards in history of like this way of looking at it. Like instead of just seeing the “Oh, he said a few things that sound good”, you know?
Maxx Seijo 05:04
Also, I think, to an earlier point, things are shifting right now. And I think that’s also what the Biden administration represents. Even, you know, in probably the most ambivalent terms that you could imagine and in ways that we still don’t quite understand, but…
Naty Smith 05:23
I love him. He’s cute.
Maxx Seijo 05:28
But when things shift, you know, it’s important to look at what powerful thinkers and and authorities are offering as a vision to not just respond but shape the way the political ground and the way we envision a political future is changing. And so, unpacking not just the historical lineage of the Pope himself, but the way that these ideas tap into a history that we’ve tapped into various times on this podcast: the history of a Franciscan rejection of money. I think it’s important to put it in those terms.
Naty Smith 06:12
Will Beaman 06:14
Well, you know, ever since I saw Pope Francis go on the Joe Rogan Experience, I knew that he was going to become a really influential thought leader.
Naty Smith 06:24
What was your favorite joke he made?
Will Beaman 06:27
Well, I thought it was really cool when they smoked a blunt together because it was just so unique for the podcast.
Naty Smith 06:35
Then he sucked Joe Rogan’s toes…To wash them! to wash them!
Will Beaman 06:42
Anyway. So perhaps, perhaps now, we can get into some of the biographical details about Pope Francis and set up the political context that he came from. I know Naty did a lot of research on this.
Naty Smith 06:57
I did a lot of research.
Maxx Seijo 06:59
She taught herself how to read for this podcast.
Naty Smith 07:03
I read an entire article. It was pretty long. Yeah, it’s interesting, because he doesn’t come out of some leftist Catholic tradition by any means. You know, he wasn’t a liberation theologist. I mean, within the Jesuits, he was known as a conservative disciplinarian, and not just to the lefty Jesuits. And, you know, there’s a lot of crazy politics going on in Argentina in the 70s. And I mean, you have sort of after the major Peronist split in 73, you have kind of a left and right Peronism. You have lefty Jesuit terrorists, the Montoneros, but then you also have people like on the right of Peronism that are Jesuits. The Pope was associated with Bergoglio at the time. The Iron Guard, right. And he was pretty much silent during the dictatorship, you know, he was sort of just doing his Jesuit thing and being a right wing Jesuit. But there’s certainly some shady implications. I mean, one of the biggest ones involved like some more lefty Jesuit priests, who he kind of helps probably get arrested, but maybe not, you know. And then I don’t know, do you want me to go through his whole career?
Maxx Seijo 08:23
I heard he was pretty hot.
Naty Smith 08:25
No, no, he wasn’t. But in the 90s, he actually got disciplined with the Jesuits for being too difficult. In the 90s, he starts kind of becoming a rising star. He like hitches his wagon to this guy, who was at the time like the Archbishop in Buenos Aires, or something, Quarracino who was just like a raging homophobe. He said on TV that gay people should be locked in ghettos, and was living in opulent luxury. This is sort of when in the late 90s, the Pope starts to make more gestures of reconciliation, like “the Church should not have said nothing during the dictatorship”
Maxx Seijo 09:11
If I had a nickel every time I heard that.
Naty Smith 09:14
Yeah, right. No, totally. And then he was also associated with this neoliberal Peronist in the 90s, Carlos Menem. It’s interesting, though, that some of these contradictions because like, at a party with the or like an event in the late 90s, is one of the first times he spoke out against (for Menem) he spoke out against economic injustice, you know, and the oligarchs who preside over the few. This is sort of one of these fascinating Peronist contradictions where this right wing Bishop and this right wing Neolib are like “yeah, talk about some economic populism and make some apologies”. And this is when he starts washing more people’s feet and poor people and people with AIDS and you know, starts bringing photographers to the washing up the feet and so forth. All the while that this Quarracino is the one basically making his career as far as getting him to the Vatican and so forth.
Will Beaman 10:13
The washing of the feet is really interesting. On the one hand, that’s just biblical, right? Like that’s what Jesus does. But in the Franciscan tradition, there’s a preoccupation with touching and with experiencing firsthand, whether it’s experiencing poverty firsthand or experiencing, you know, nature or suffering. There’s a way in which the touching of the feet very much fits into this kind of visiting of the poor that I think we wanted to dig into.
Naty Smith 10:54
It’s worth noting, again, the two priests that there’s the most questions around—him and his associations with them getting in prison—I mean, he like withdrew their right to give mass because they were lefty Jesuits who were living in the slums with poor people in non-hierarchical living situations. You know, he’s not like some friend of the poor. I mean, the first time he speaks about the poor is the late 90s with a neoliberal guy like next to him, and he’s like, “let’s bring some photographers to wash feet. Also this guy who’s the bishop, who’s gonna make my career is living in luxury, but I take the bus.”
Maxx Seijo 11:31
But I think even if..
Naty Smith 11:33
I know, but it’s worth noting the hypocricy. I get it, but it’s worth saying that’s not actually who he is, anyway, because that’s true of the Franciscans in many ways as well. Right?
Maxx Seijo 11:45
Yeah, yeah. So that’s what I wanted to sort of break into a little bit. The contradiction is baked into the Franciscan project, right? It’s both the need to be like casting people off for being too radical, but also sort of doubling in through the mediation of like, you know, thinking of our Money on the Left episode, like, they would have helpers carry their purses filled with money, right?
Will Beaman 12:14
Because they weren’t supposed to touch money.
Maxx Seijo 12:16
Right. So the contradictions are baked in. Right? So it’s not like he’s some impure, necessarily, Franciscan. Right? And he’s just like, you know, pretending to be a Franciscan necessarily. I think that’s important to say as well.
Will Beaman 12:32
Yeah. And also it’s, it’s worth noting, Francis himself, while he certainly I don’t think can be accused of cynicism. I mean, he was kind of nuts. And he was really like, he was really serious about it when he went to visit the lepers and you know, go live in nature and he got sick and almost died from that like several times. There is something really interesting that Francis and his followers come from like a really affluent background as well.
Naty Smith 13:05
Like my hero, the Buddah.
Will Beaman 13:09
Oh my gosh, I thought that Dasha blocked all of us on Twitter, but…
Naty Smith 13:14
I don’t believe in blocking. That prevents encounter.
Will Beaman 13:19
She’s more into ghosting is what I’ve heard.
Naty Smith 13:22
Ghosts have a lot to teach us.
Maxx Seijo 13:24
So yeah, I think having like, you know, started there’s so much to talk about with this. But I think we can really focus on this point about touching, right? About this need to touch right, and this sort of sense of material and embodied relationship that is not mediated.
Naty Smith 13:46
He’s trying to torture me because I’m currently in isolation because my partner has COVID. But yes, touching. I hate it.
Maxx Seijo 13:56
Well, you’re not valid, then.
Will Beaman 14:00
Naty has retreated to something even more basic and unmediated than touch.
Maxx Seijo 14:07
More radical, yeah.
Will Beaman 14:09
Pure isolation. She’s visiting herself right now, which is extremely radical and Franciscan.
Naty Smith 14:16
Maxx Seijo 14:17
So I kind of wanted to get into that and touching like, problematic in the context of, you know, where historically this encyclical is situated. Right? Very interesting that it came out during COVID, which I think is not something that we necessarily have the full range to discuss. We’ll leave that for Agamben to discuss.
Naty Smith 14:44
I think you just did.
Will Beaman 14:48
He’ll knock it out of the park.
Maxx Seijo 14:49
I guess he will. But I think it’s interesting the way we can think about neoliberalism as this further accelerating a sort of ongoing liberal precarity at the political economic level, and the way we all relate to the production process, and the way that caretaking goes on and these sorts of things. Which is not to say, of course, that prior to neoliberalism, things were perfect in any way. Like, that’s not what’s being articulated here, but there’s an acceleration associated with it that also speaks to I think, a sort of broader horizon of political economic relations specifically when we’re thinking about touch and when we’re thinking about political, economic dare one say metaphysics, and how these things are all interlocking,
Naty Smith 15:49
I want to touch the soil and my neighbor, and I will hug my neighbor and wash their feet, and that will be the economic exchange, and then we kiss the ground together, and that will be a good system.
Will Beaman 16:02
The whole point of when Maxx says this problematic of touching, right, the impulse behind all of these touches, and these encounters, and, you know, hugging the poor, and all of these things, that impulse is an impulse to care, which is why these stories are so powerful, right? Because under neoliberalism, there’s this contraction in the fiscal sphere. Nothing is being organized to take care of people at any kind of big or abstract scale.
Naty Smith 16:39
You know why? Don’t put this in, but it’s because women’s pussies are too tight. So nobody’s getting laid. That’s the contraction.
Maxx Seijo 16:46
No, we’re putting that in, we’re putting that in.
Naty Smith 16:49
Will Beaman 16:49
I have to edit these fucking things Naty, so yes, anything that you say is fair game to put in.
Maxx Seijo 16:54
That’s its own Dasha file. We’re just gonna release 10 seconds of that.
Will Beaman 17:01
Just to set up, the reading that Maxx is about to do. The impulse to touch is an expression of an impulse to care, right, and to take care of people, but it’s very historically specific that aesthetic representations of care focus so much on this imagery of touching and encountering and visiting and all of these things that are you making contact with the other in a kind of a charitable way. And, of course, you know, this should also make you think about, you know, the not-so-charitable forms of, you know, the touch or the encounter, right? It’s like economics is all built on the exchange, right? The barter, or you have vulgar political theorists who will reduce everything to this immediate proximate act of violence. But in this particular case, I think that we want to talk about the touch as grasping toward possibilities for taking care, but taking care of oneself and taking care of the other who’s importantly an other.
Naty Smith 18:15
Right, and what the left sort of identifies with, I think, is that impulse, and what we want to draw out is the way in which these gestures at that care are a fundamentally impoverished vision, and not in a good way.
Will Beaman 18:31
Right. And on that note, I think, Maxx has a reading that hopefully we’ve set up like two thirds of the way.
Maxx Seijo 18:39
Yeah, so I’m going to start by framing this discussion of the encyclical through reading Mommy, and by that I mean, Scott Ferguson, who you might know as
Naty Smith 18:51
Scotia, let’s make it feminine.
Maxx Seijo 18:53
Yes. Right. Scotia. Scotia or of the famed you know, Money on the Left podcast. I think he’s been on Superstructure before.
Naty Smith 19:02
Will Beaman 19:03
Yeah, I met him once.
Maxx Seijo 19:04
Yeah. In his book Dec…
Will Beaman 19:06
He was fine.
Naty Smith 19:06
Is he a slut?
Maxx Seijo 19:08
Yes. In his book Declarations…
Will Beaman 19:11
Strong handshake, though. A lot of care.
Maxx Seijo 19:16
He does not have a strong handshake. Anyway.
Naty Smith 19:18
We love you, Mommy.
Will Beaman 19:23
Strong hugs. Strong hugs.
Maxx Seijo 19:24
Strong hugs. So in his book, Declarations of Dependence: Money, Aesthetics and the Politics of Care, he does, you know, obviously a lot of work in the MMT Humanities space, one might say founds MMT Humanities. Definitively I would say that.
Will Beaman 19:42
He’s the Steve Jobs of Left MMT. I think is how he likes to be described.
Maxx Seijo 19:48
That is right.
Naty Smith 19:49
Or even the Mother Teresa.
Will Beaman 19:55
Who are we kidding? He’s the Francis of MMT.
Maxx Seijo 20:00
So, in the book, he obviously does the work thinking about the aesthetic experience of not just neoliberalism, but modernity, sort of writ large. And I’m going to read a little bit so we can start to get into in relationship to this idea of touching the poor and touching the impoverished that Pope Francis offer. Some of the underlying assumptions that create the necessity for that aesthetic experience. So in discussing a bunch of aesthetic forms, though, he talks about this aesthetic experience as “an intimate indexicality and all encompassing gravity.”
Will Beaman 20:44
Scott Ferguson is a film and media studies professor, but for those who aren’t in the know about indexicality…Yeah, Maxx’s pantomiming two things touching. In film, in media theory, people use it to kind of describe the sort of unmediated imprint of light on to celluloid in a camera. And the idea is that an indexical, like identical one to one impression of at least a surface of the world. And, and this is not to say that people who use indexicality think that the photo is like, all of reality, but the point is that it captures something that really is part of reality, that is an imprint. Anyway, which again, ties in with touching.
Maxx Seijo 21:33
Yeah, yeah, full story. It’s touching. In talking about this sort of aesthetic experience that we’re, we’re discussing with this Franciscan of touching the poor, Scott is referring to it as a sort of intimate indexicality, which ends up becoming an “all encompassing gravity.” And this touching is meant to “transmute sensations of loss, falling and disintegration into assuring affections and rhythms.”
Will Beaman 22:09
So, you know, I’m tapping my finger on the table right now because I’m just perennially anxious. That is me finding and assuring an affectionate rhythm to the touch.
Maxx Seijo 22:23
Right? A sort of ground, dare one say a base that you can rely on because we’ve been evacuated, and we’re precarious, right? And so this, as Scott says, what it does is “miming a convulsive and dangerously misallocated fiscal apparatus. These affections and rhythms repeatedly register the feeling that there’s no there there under neoliberalism” but at the same time, “an ardent there there answers monies evacuation from neoliberal existence.” So it’s this act of trying to find ground, because you’re falling, and the registering of that ground is the act that both reinforces the fact that there is a ground but also that we were evacuated of a sort of collective existence that could ground us in safety.
Will Beaman 23:24
And we talked about this in talking about the kind of fetish of a difficult and almost unwinnable class struggle, right? That is kind of perversely comforting and self soothing because at least you know how difficult it is. So it becomes a familiar surface that you have mastery over rather than the precarity and uncertainty of just kind of falling and not even knowing where to grab.
Naty Smith 23:54
Right. It’s trying to accept precarity by making precarity like inevitable as opposed to politics is hard, and it is precarious and precisely it’s precarious emotionally to try to transform something, but that sense of there not being a there there is not a call to nihilism, it’s a call to embracing the openness of contingency.
Will Beaman 24:18
Yeah, and the last thing before Maxx continues reading this quote it’s, as Dan Berger noted on a previous episode, we have a tendency to make not finishing the readings into like a bit that we all perform. But the last comment before
Naty Smith 24:34
Mostly my fault.
Will Beaman 24:36
I mean, I’m doing it right now, but the idea but there there, this is a double entendre, right? This is also like, imagine comforting a child, right? Like “there there.” Like we’re all looking for our there there.
Naty Smith 24:53
That’s a good point. I never thought of that before with that.
Maxx Seijo 24:55
And so Scott making these arguments on the terms of like sensory experience is suggesting that this touching, this grounding, “it furnishes a nervous sensoria with disastrously insufficient forms of collective care,” right? So lacking collective care, “the contingent immediate ground and touch and rhythm and in this sort of assuring affect of the repeated touch, of the repeated knock is what one might call a symptom of carelessness, right? This need to ground and reduce. We could think about looking for the base looking for the base, where’s the real where’s the real? Where am I grounded? Right? And so, he says “in the care symptoms, sensations of loss incoherence and disintegration index environmental precarity at the threshold of worldly disclosure.” So I want to take a second to elaborate on what this means.
Naty Smith 25:57
Scott is a master of a high end language.
Maxx Seijo 26:00
He absolutely is. It’s total superstructure.
Will Beaman 26:04
These aren’t even real words.
Naty Smith 26:07
A disintegration index? Like I thought I was stuck on intimate indexicality and like the various wink wink implications, and now of my index is disintegrating.
Maxx Seijo 26:17
All indexes disintegrate. That’s the point.
Naty Smith 26:19
Oh, so frustrating.
Will Beaman 26:21
This really ruffles my index.
Maxx Seijo 26:25
I think we can think about this, and you know, the environmental precarity at the threshold of worldly disclosure. Environmental precarity is precarity amidst a neoliberal hellscape of evacuated care, right? That’s pretty clear. And so then at the threshold of worldly disclosure, can mean multiple things. And I think in one instance, it’s the touche is the threshold of your disclosure of yourself, right? And so the touch grounds the self in a world where the money cradle has been evacuated, right? It’s not present. But also we could think about thresholds here, when we’re thinking at the register of touch, we can’t have distance, right? Touch is predicated on the reduction of distance, and so we now have thresholds as as a sort of sensory matter. And so we can start to think about the borders of existence. And the way touching at the borders is implicated in the care symptom of this sense of loss. And so we’re gonna play more with that later when we think about borders and nations
Naty Smith 27:38
And immigration, and…
Maxx Seijo 27:39
And immigration. Exactly. And so what Scott says is symptoms of this sort of function as attempts at self care, and as opaque messages to the other. And so, this touching is the opaque message to the other which then grounds the self.
Naty Smith 28:02
The real encounter. The handshake. The Trump, I can smell your sweat as we shake hands, right?
Maxx Seijo 28:08
I pick up the thing. I dig the commodity out of the ground, right? There’s this encounter, there’s this touching there’s this…
Naty Smith 28:15
Then I get it from a Argentine. I’m having some Malbec right now, and living in Chile, it’s like, oh, this is from Argentina. Like,
Maxx Seijo 28:24
That’s self care, because you’re touching the other.
Naty Smith 28:26
That’s true. It’s a cute accent, the Buenos Aires accent. Not you bitch.
Maxx Seijo 28:38
And so, you know, in this sort of singular encounter relation of touching is then positive for Scott against relations of macro interdependence and the political economic process that we talked about on this show constantly, right? This relationship of structural provisioning that enables our existence as nodes that aren’t the totality of the production process.
Naty Smith 29:06
And interestingly, sorry, just to jump in, but the Pope, I think, if you don’t look deeply you would think well, yeah, he totally looks at the macro, global scale. He talks about the UN constantly, and that is one of his, like, decent things. But like, he’s very stuck in this dialectical movement of global to local, particular to universal. And he very much does kind of have the sense of the UN or even of regional blocs of oppressed countries that what you see more often coming from him is an obsession with the particular identity of the national and he makes gestures to encounter into the global and the macro, but it never escapes from this sense of that need for the touching, original, particular.
Maxx Seijo 29:54
Right. And so specifically to this point, I’m going to jump to another moment in Scott where he’s actually talking about Franciscans. But he’s talking about Franciscans on precisely these terms that we’ve just discussed with the touching. So he says “this thinning of experience”, and he means thinning, as in, contracting to the touch, not thinking with macro structure.
Naty Smith 30:14
Not about the hair.
Maxx Seijo 30:16
Right, not about the hair.
Will Beaman 30:17
This is the threshold of what the world can disclose to you is what you can touch. That’s what I know is real.
Maxx Seijo 30:23
Exactly. So this “thinning of experience promises a stronger and more abundant ground for being that lies beyond the excesses of papal mediation and the anxieties of political economy.” Right? And so this is where we’re starting…
Naty Smith 30:40
Will Beaman 30:41
Papal Mediation is like the globalist, you know…
Maxx Seijo 30:47
Transnational capital, right? I mean.
Will Beaman 30:50
Right, yeah, transnational, woke capital conspiracy cabal. You know.
Maxx Seijo 30:55
Will Beaman 30:55
It’s like, in the early modern period, there’s this sense that, you know, the pope is off over there. And he’s, you know, controlling everything, and we’ve lost our local sovereignty, because, you know, because of the Pope. And then the Reformation happens kind of as a sort of a right wing populist reaction to what is something more like, and dare I say, neoliberal, Holy Roman Empire, that is lost all credibility.
Naty Smith 31:21
And to be super clear, we’re not some sort of papal revisionists or defenders. I mean, it’s interesting you can really see in this encyclical some of the particular history that you can see through some of the book with the Crusades and with like, East-West encounters. He’s constantly like, talking about this Imam that he knows, and they’ve like worked together to like synthesize the scientific West and the spiritual east, you know? But there is like, I lost my train of thought a little bit, but my point is that it can be true that there’s a conspiracy and that also we’re not defending something.
Maxx Seijo 32:00
Yeah, we kind of hate all Popes, I would say.
Naty Smith 32:02
Will Beaman 32:02
We hate them in different ways, right? Like we can criticize Trump and Joe Biden, right?
Maxx Seijo 32:08
I don’t know about that. That’s a step too far.
Naty Smith 32:10
Joe is pretty cute. I mean, you’re pushing me.
Maxx Seijo 32:17
But, but right, so the idea of that the abundant ground like in this sense of touching and grasping and contracting to the touch, as a sort of epistemology of knowledge, right of what I can touch is meant to lie beyond the excesses of this papal mediation, ie globalism, and then the anxieties of political economy which are associated with that. So then I’m going to continue right. So Scott says, “But in truth, the incessant phenomenological diminishment not only hardens the sensorium against disintegrating effects, but also deepens the poisonous contraction of metaphysics that arises from” you know, thinking of the early modern period “from the era’s impoverishment of worldly existence.” And there, we can start to see poverty being posited here, as well as, again, this sense of disintegration. So, if the care problem, right, if the care symptom, reckons with being abandoned, through needing to touch the other, then what Scott is arguing is that the touching only reinforces the disintegrating effects of a sort of metaphysical structure that can’t allow for a sort of action that’s macro, right? A sort of political, economic, macro provisioning coordination or, you know, a cradling, a caring that is collective. And so this gets hardened. And I mean, that’s for Scott, what the sort of modern, again, not to dilute any sense of the difference that’s associated, but that this carelessness in this modern problem of touching and force and how we can reconcile the dialectics of the particular and the universal. This is what plays out, and Pope Francis, importantly, is participating in this problem. And so I think we’ve pretty much set up finally, where we can really read from Pope Francis, in a way that really takes on precisely what this problematic, lays bare, and then we’ll can get into all of our critiques of him. Pope Francis writes, “At a time when everything seems to disintegrate and lose consistency. It is good for us to appeal to the solidarity born of the consciousness that we are responsible for the fragility of others, as we strive to build a common future. Solidarity finds concrete expression in service which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service, in great part means caring for vulnerability. For the vulnerable members of our families, our society, and our people.” Note the order there. “In offering such service, individuals learn to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable.”
Naty Smith 35:27
I don’t like when the concrete…yeah.
Will Beaman 35:29
Yeah, I hate when they look at me.
Maxx Seijo 35:33
So and this is, you know, we get into some of the real juicy touching bits, right? “Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness, and even in some cases, suffers that closeness, and tries to help them. Service is never ideological.”
Naty Smith 35:53
Maxx Seijo 35:54
“For we do not serve ideas. We serve people.”
Will Beaman 35:58
Yeah, which is also a rejected McDonald’s slogan.
Maxx Seijo 36:07
So we might say that this is on the nose, and like we’ve we’ve chopped off the nose and like touched it and juggled it.
Will Beaman 36:15
We’re passing it. Yeah, I’m gonna pass the nose to Naty.
Naty Smith 36:19
Well, it’s interesting because I’ve been exploring a bit of the some of the ideas of Martha Fineman legal theory talks about vulnerability and an attempt and Martha McCluskey tries to actually frame this in an MMT light, sort of. Instead of seeing things from this sort of place of individual Lockean wills that are all equal, it’s trying to say, okay, well, how is actually vulnerability at a macro scale systematically baked in. But it’s interesting the ways in which he really sort of highlights the ways this is sometimes one critique could be sometimes still thought, especially in Francis, in a kind of individuality. I mean, Maxx pointed out how the order with which says “vulnerable members of our families, society, people”, and it’s like, there’s always the sense again, like we brought up of encounter before that you have a unified family that’s one thing. That you have a unified people, that’s one thing, and that all these one things have their essence, which is their fucking essence, and they come into cod
Maxx Seijo 37:26
You can touch it.
Naty Smith 37:26
Yeah. And they come into contact, and they touch. And that that can’t be coordinated beyond the level of encounter. It can’t be that like, there’s a, I don’t know if we like the word web, but there’s like this complicated form that entails in different ways bringing things in. No, it’s like each thing, you have to go, you have to suffer with them, you have to wash their feet on the bus, you know, and that that’s, it’s not surprising that that might have a sort of self serving element, you know, where the Pope’s having photographers come, because like, everybody knows that washing people’s feet on buses is not the global solution. And he’s like washing feet on buses, but also the UN like to cover his bases, you know, but there’s still a sense of…
Will Beaman 38:13
Micro and macro. And that it’s a sacrifice. That you’re losing something.
Naty Smith 38:14
Yeah. And it’s just, it’s like this sense of this meeting this concrete gaze in the sense that also the sense that service is apolitical. That’s like a super liberal point of view, like, “oh, charities and NGOs just arise in nature, and like, we just all try to donate our money for the common good. That’s not ideological at all or…” Yeah. Right.
Maxx Seijo 38:42
You have to tax yourself to touch. Right?
Will Beaman 38:45
Yeah. And so there’s, there’s the sense of, you know, like, it’s the unpleasant thing that, you know, sometimes you have to just deal with the concrete gaze of the poor, while you, you know, wash their feet once a week.
Maxx Seijo 38:57
And then the reason why for him it’s apolitical is because it’s literally objective. It’s an object, right? There’s nothing for him that’s political about that. Because for Pope Francis and his metaphysical tradition that he’s drawing on, touching is the only way you actually know something right? It’s the only epistemological ground you can have for existence.
Naty Smith 39:18
That must explain why he claimed that he didn’t know about all the disappearances during the dirty war until…First he said till 20 years later, and then he revised that to “No, I only found out at the 1985 trials.”
Maxx Seijo 39:35
That’s because he didn’t touch the bodies.
Naty Smith 39:39
The same way he dismissed in Chile, and this is like in the last five years where he’s dismissed victims of like, right wing, Pinochet, Pinochetista, like priests of sexual abuse, and he says, “Well, I need evidence.” Because somebody’s testimony is not evidence. He had to be there.
Will Beaman 39:56
Yeah, my fingerprints aren’t on those people. So…
Maxx Seijo 40:00
Right. And just to reiterate too, because I think it’s important as we move forward, right? For us in our vision, how we correct for this reductive base, touching and grasping in this sort of assuring rhythmatic-like grounding is, of course, through the money as a sort of what Scott calls a boundless public utility, right? Because it’s boundless, because it’s abstract, because abstraction is the locus of caretaking at a macro level of our political economic ongoing…
Will Beaman 40:32
It’s conditioning all of the touching.
Maxx Seijo 40:34
Exactly. It precedes, right? It’s an a priori in the fancy speak.
Naty Smith 40:40
That means before.
Maxx Seijo 40:45
So there’s this sense of mediation, right? The mediation of our world and of the way we are continuing to reproduce it and transform it at various nodes of political and economic agency, as well as administrative agency and legal agency and all of these, all of these points, right? We could push you back to all of our Fred Lee talk from other episodes. But the reason why we say this is because it’s the causal locus of existence is not touch, right? That’s not the causal locus. Because if it was just immediate, contracted encounters, we could not coordinate, it would not be possible.
Naty Smith 41:24
And that’s where you can reclaim. I mean, that’s where the vulnerability…that’s why it’s so crucial McCluskey’s use of Fineman, because that’s precisely the point with MMT is that you’re not falsely saying that, like some part of society has to, not that taxes are bad, but because of democracy, but that in order to provision, you can provision publicly beyond like taking from somebody else to provision for the vulnerable.
Maxx Seijo 41:50
And touching is importantly, zero sum, right? You have to go, you know, whether it’s relationally, you know, in that sense, or you have to go literally grab the money scramble across town, right, or scramble from New York down to Washington, and then deposit it at the Treasury. And then you can then send out a bunch of checks, right, and they hit people’s accounts. We can even think of the ways our metaphors are operating here, too. But importantly, right, what MMT shows and then the Left MMT, Left Humanities project shows is not just that taxes don’t fund spending, but zero-sum relations of contiguity
Will Beaman 42:30
Maxx Seijo 42:31
Of touching…aren’t the causal mechanism by which reproduction is afforded. And so now, it might be useful to get into the way he thinks about the nation-state.
Naty Smith 42:43
He loves it. Loves it.
Will Beaman 42:45
Really quickly. First, I think that there’s something really interesting here, and this will tie into the nation-state because as we see, the way that he thinks about the nation-state is sort of a rounded-up version of how the ideal human should behave. The ideal collective should behave that way too. And this sort of selfish in order to then be selfless, right? And
Maxx Seijo 43:05
Like a taxpayer!
Will Beaman 43:06
Yeah, right. There is something like rhythmic and self assuring, like in the Franciscan tradition, I think about visiting the poor, right? Because in a certain sense, what you’re visiting, right, you’re having encounters with what it would be like, if you gave up money, right? If you gave up your entanglements with forms of abstraction, and just kind of, you know, we’re just roughing it with the indigenous and with the poor. And you can think about missionary work, right? Which ties in directly to the early modern nation-state.
Naty Smith 43:43
And what is this is maybe something we don’t always lay out, but what is the use of money? Why, outside of like, in negative relief of the Franciscans? What is it that people don’t understand that money when organized a certain way can do?
Will Beaman 43:57
Well, so what I would say is that, like, fundamentally, if you think that touch and immediacy is always prior to abstraction, then money cannot be a properly abstract potential for everybody to be cared for. Because in order for money to exist, there has to be a cabal of people controlling it, right? Like it had to have come from somewhere. It has to come from a nation state or a capitalist class or any of these things. And then also, you know, you have this ontology of everything as bounded and limited and finite, because abstraction has just been kind of banished, and it’s unthinkable. So they also can’t imagine that money could be anything other than privational. Other than something that you’re going to run out of it and then you’re going to be sorry that you were so focused on it. We can’t think about money from any perspective other than this kind of pre-abstract self fumbling for reassurance from the rest of the world and for, you know, when you’re just this kind of disembodied subject, right? Or you’re a household, right? An individual, right? Who then gets thrown into a social contract. You’re thinking from the perspective of an individual, and if you’re an individual, right, this is the MMT 101 stuff, right? A currency user, it’s finite for you. A currency issuer, it’s not finite. But I think the twist that we want to add onto that is that currency issuance is actually much more of an ongoing negotiation across many overlapping institutions that, you know, we have the unique proposal that people can look into with universities issuing their own forms of credit and forcing from the “outside” of the monetary issuing, like fiscal institutions. Forcing some recognition of monetary answerability, for all of us, and all of our different swap lines.
Maxx Seijo 46:05
“You get a swap line, you get a swap line.” But yeah, and also, I think, importantly, just as a simple like, from a simple analytical perspective, if an encounter with a thing and the touching of it precedes money, then the horizon of possible futures, if you’re trying to get rid of money, will always come back to that encounter. Because it’s the Eden that then leads to heaven. Right. And so it’s that movement. And so what we want to do is submerge in a sort of ongoing problem, as Will said. That takes the circle and doesn’t see primal unity on one side and then fallenness, and then primal unity at the end, right? But the whole premise here being that of touching as the ground of like, I can’t touch stimulus packages into being, right? It requires an infrastructure that is mediated abstractly. And so, you know, we’re living the ongoing not touching, and that’s the relation.
Naty Smith 47:19
Is that like the internet?
Maxx Seijo 47:21
Yeah, it’s like you right now in your isolation.
Naty Smith 47:26
Ugghhh because right now I feel like, I’m recording with you guys on the internet, but it feels like…
Maxx Seijo 47:32
I’m not touching the flesh of your face.
Naty Smith 47:35
No, like, what do I smell? Like? You don’t know.
Maxx Seijo 47:37
I don’t know. That’s right.
Naty Smith 47:39
So what do you know, do you know?
Maxx Seijo 47:41
Will Beaman 47:42
I know, but I’m not gonna say.
Maxx Seijo 47:46
So I think it’s now important to get into what, you know, I think I put down in my notes on Naty’s notes, because now we’re getting meta. The contradiction between the global and the national that Pope Francis articulates. And he wants to make sure that like when he’s talking about this sort of being open to the stranger or being open to the other, or like being open to a migrant coming, and like asking and you going and touching them, and seeing how you feel about it.
Will Beaman 48:18
As you do. Yeah.
Naty Smith 48:21
You can learn from their local flavor.
Will Beaman 48:24
Uh huh. What’s so funny is what he’s really describing is just like customs at the airport.
Maxx Seijo 48:29
Yep. Not really, what he’s describing is pat downs. But priests at the airport.
Will Beaman 48:35
Maxx Seijo 48:35
Which gets us into some fuzzy territory.
Naty Smith 48:40
It’s not fuzzy which side he’s on.
Maxx Seijo 48:42
Naty Smith 48:43
He’s on the side of the molesters.
Maxx Seijo 48:46
We can say it we can be that provocative.
Naty Smith 48:47
Yeah. The Pinochetista molesters? He’s like “I need some more evidence.”
Maxx Seijo 48:53
I haven’t touched those particular instances.
Naty Smith 48:57
Not sure. 12 out of 50 Chilean bishops came to this ceremony of a Pinochetista molester priest that I am promoting, but I need more evidence.
Will Beaman 49:09
Well, I’ve never touched that boy. Ergo, he has never touched that boy.
Naty Smith 49:13
Yeah, exactly. How could we know anything? I haven’t even touched him.
Will Beaman 49:19
Any way. So contradiction between the global and national, what reading do you want to kick em off with?
Maxx Seijo 49:24
Yes. So in 139, he wants to make sure that when he’s talking about like his openness to migrants that it’s not on the terms of like a utilitarian approach. Like he’s not Matt Yglesias who is like, “immigrations is great for the economy. We need a billion Americans.” So the pope wants to make sure that everyone knows he doesn’t have a substack. Though, you know, maybe one day.
Naty Smith 49:52
Well, that sounds like that’s in the pipes.
Maxx Seijo 49:56
Yeah. If he ever gets canceled…
Will Beaman 49:58
Yeah. The only options are fluffy papal mediation and grounding yourself in a substack.
Maxx Seijo 50:06
So he wants to make sure everyone knows there’s always a sense of like it’s a gift that he’s bestowing by patting down migrants. And so he writes, “there is always the factor of gratuitousness; the ability to do something simply because they are good in themselves. Without concern for personal gain, or Recompense. Gratuitousness makes it possible for us to welcome the stranger, even though this brings us no immediate tangible benefit. And so, so I can’t like…
Naty Smith 50:37
Sounds like a great guy.
Will Beaman 50:38
Yeah, you’re really making me feel welcome, Francis, thank you. Yeah.
Naty Smith 50:42
You have nothing.
Will Beaman 50:44
You don’t even mind that I’m a parasite. That’s so nice of you.
Naty Smith 50:47
You have nothing to offer, which is why I’m being so kind to let you come on in.
Maxx Seijo 50:52
And so we can continue from the next paragraph, “Life without fraternal gratuitousness becomes a form of frenetic commerce, in which we are constantly weighing up what we give and what we get back in return. God, on the other hand, gives a freely to the point of helping even those who are unfaithful. He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.”
Naty Smith 51:16
This is like when Liz Bruenig let’s Matt Bruenig have an extra hour on the computer.
Maxx Seijo 51:24
So importantly here…
Will Beaman 51:26
Even though it has never helped her to do that.
Naty Smith 51:30
Maxx Seijo 51:31
And she knows that she knows that. So the migrants are evil, they’re unfaithful. But God gives us freely. And so while we have to sacrifice here and now and touch these people who are coming over our borders, because God is giving us and so we sacrifice for God. That’s why we’re taxpayers.
Naty Smith 51:58
And he’s very into this idea of like, you know, there’s this constant dialectics within but you know, I mentioned before, but yeah, he has good policies about giving migrants full citizenship, but even says at one point, like, it is not ideal, like, the best would be for us to not have to migrate, like for you to be able to kiss the blood and soil of your lands.
Will Beaman 52:21
Naty Smith 52:22
When your original identity, that is a real thing.
Maxx Seijo 52:26
Look, I mean, but we got to blame the Medicis for that. Going back, you know, so what he writes is, “all of us are able to give without expecting anything in return. To do good to others without demanding they treat us well in return.” And so Mexican migrants might debase our blood and soil, but we can’t expect them to treat us well. But we have to treat them well in return. It reminds me exactly of the Liz Breunig reading we did in the last episode, right? Look, I forgive you Black Lives Matter. Because I forgive everyone.
Naty Smith 53:04
Yeah, well, and he does say like, you know, the indigenous people do have their own culture and different ideas of progress. But like, also, mixing has been good in many ways.
Maxx Seijo 53:14
Will Beaman 53:15
I mean, I think that, you know, to kind of put a finer point on this, I think we’re starting to tease out how built into the premises is like, it’s not in your self interest to be kind to the other, right? But you should do it anyway. And I think a really good example of where that led to in the past is with the original Francis of Assisi, right? Who certainly throughout his lifetime did nothing but you know, like, yeah, maybe was sort of fetishizing the poor a little bit in kind of a weird way, and kind of flattened them into being like, I’m going to visit the animals today, then I’m going to visit the poor on Wednesday, you know.
Maxx Seijo 53:59
To be fair, he thought he himself was a horse. He saw himself as a horse a little bit eating grain.
Will Beaman 54:04
Yeah. A horse on Wednesday, a worm on Thursday. Yeah. And that’s Francis and the first generation of his followers, right? But then Franciscan metaphysics are then the basis of what a lot of the early modern, late medieval, early modern European jurists are drawing on when they are first coming up with what will become the social contract in the nation-state. Right? And all of these things that are from a surface level reading are like, Oh, this is the exact opposite of Franciscan-ism. But that’s kind of the point, right? Is that he set it up to say, gravity will lead you towards acting in your own self interest, but you have a moral obligation to resist and be selfless. Eventually, people are going to come along and say, well, that’s stupid. We should just act in our self interest because I have family and I have a country and I have all these people who are counting on me, and I don’t even know a stranger.
Maxx Seijo 55:05
Yeah, it’s built to dialectically fail.
Will Beaman 55:08
Naty Smith 55:08
It’s like how Ian said last episode that Matt Bruenig, just like kind of like, has all these implications to eugenics, and then like one paragraph is supposed to suffice that’s basically like, “but don’t do that.”
Maxx Seijo 55:19
Will Beaman 55:19
Right. So it’s this kind of weird, historic irony where like, he’s saying, “No, I’m saying don’t be selfish. I’m saying that you should selflessly help the other.” But in doing so, right? He’s saying that you’re actually like losing something tangible, by visiting the poor, but this is why you should do it.
Naty Smith 55:35
You’re giving freely. There’s no blackmail in the Catholic Church giving freely.
Maxx Seijo 55:51
And so, if this wasn’t clear enough, I’m just going to keep reading from the next paragraph. In the encyclical where he writes, “Just as there can be no dialogue with others without a sense of our own identity, so there can be no openness between peoples except on the basis of love for one’s own land, one’s own people, one’s own cultural roots.”
Naty Smith 56:13
Bam, love that. So good.
Will Beaman 56:15
One’s own blood, one’s own soil.
Naty Smith 56:19
Some of the fascist countries work together. You know, you had Germany with Italy with Japan, you know.
Will Beaman 56:27
Yeah. Remember, when Hitler visited Mussolini?
Maxx Seijo 56:30
Like a multi headed snake? “I cannot truly encounter another unless I stand on firm foundations. For it is on the basis of these that I can accept the gift the other brings and in turn offer an authentic gift of my own. I can welcome others who are different and value the unique contribution they have to make.” Just a quick note for the Deleuze fans, notice the univocal difference right there in that sentence. “I can welcome others who are different and value that a unique contribution they have to make.”
Naty Smith 57:04
That’s like Regina George, just a line. I didn’t just feel her in Mean Girls being like, “that’s a really unique contribution you have to make.”
Will Beaman 57:14
Yeah, there’s a sense, right? Like they can visit, but they shouldn’t really stay. Or maybe they should stay right now. But we should be aiming towards the system where we’re all with our own kind visiting each other.
Maxx Seijo 57:27
Also with univocal difference, they are univocally different than I.
Will Beaman 57:30
Maxx Seijo 57:30
Right, we have no commonalities. There’s no analogies between us. Right?
Naty Smith 57:35
That’s how you make really nicely seasoned food.
Maxx Seijo 57:37
Yeah, that’s right. And so “only if I am firmly rooted in my own people and culture can that welcoming occur” And so I’m just going to keep going. “Everyone loves and cares for his or her native land and village just as they love and care for their home and are personally responsible for its upkeep.” Heimat. You know, famous.
Will Beaman 57:59
Yeah, I’m personally responsible.
Maxx Seijo 58:01
Will Beaman 58:01
No one’s gonna help you.
Maxx Seijo 58:03
Naty Smith 58:03
Paging Jordan Peterson.
Will Beaman 58:06
Yeah, I mean, you know, maybe if you help with the Pope’s book sales, then someone will visit you and help you a few years from now but uh, you know, don’t count on it.
Maxx Seijo 58:15
And, you know, what this reminds me of is I’m gonna keep right reading, and it’s reminds me, weirdly, of Judith Butler’s work on Hegel and ethics, but we’ll get there more, but…
Naty Smith 58:24
So many things are constantly reminding me of that.
Maxx Seijo 58:30
Pope Francis writes, “the common good likewise requires that we protect and love our native land. Otherwise, the consequences of a disaster in one country will end up affecting the entire planet. All this brings out the positive meaning of the right to property. I care for and cultivate something that I possess in such a way that I can contribute to the good of all.” So, here we have, you know, the Franciscan invention of private property, right? The sense of possession of a thing as the ground of private property which sits before relations of legal endowment, and legal naming of that which you have property over. And this is again, this is antithetical to a sort of legal history that thinks about the way property becomes and is relational rather than proximate about touching a thing.
Naty Smith 59:25
Interdependence comes first.
Maxx Seijo 59:27
Right and so, but what we have here is like quite clearly an articulation of: unless I know who I am absolutely different from you. Know my roots, know my land, have my home that I am personally self-subsistent for as a Lockean homo economicus.
Naty Smith 59:46
Who cleans my room.
Maxx Seijo 59:48
I cannot be open to someone that is absolutely other to me. But what he’s saying is as Will suggested, it’s like, “okay, yes. The world is kind of fascist. But what you should do is just say no to fascism.”
Will Beaman 1:00:05
Yeah, just resist it for as long as you can.
Maxx Seijo 1:00:07
Just say no to fascism, just like saying no to sucking those dicks. Men, you know, women too. And just say no to drugs as well, because, you know, we all heard that as a kid. But the idea is like, you set up the world in which fascism makes sense to then just say, “not for me.” And then you’re surprised when, on the other hand, it’s like as we just said, with the early Franciscans, it’s dialectically meant to fail, right? Its contradiction is then: I have my native land, but I don’t want to accept the other. But the built in premise that there’s an other and then there’s me.
Naty Smith 1:00:15
And the Pope is pretty Argentine nationalist.
Maxx Seijo 1:00:35
Well, of course. Exactly.
Naty Smith 1:00:44
I mean, he likes to kiss the fatherland and, you know, I know that we’re anti-Thatcher, but the Malvinas or Falklands War was like the last gasp of the dictatorship. I mean, and he’s all about that shit.
Maxx Seijo 1:01:17
Yeah, I mean, well, right. That’s the point.
Naty Smith 1:01:18
Maxx Seijo 1:01:19
He’s both calling for openness to the other while participating in the ongoing historical, you know, pseudo-fascism, post-fascisms that were around in his oeuvre, during his career.
Naty Smith 1:01:35
Will Beaman 1:01:36
Yeah. And the point also is, like, where, because that’s not possible, right? Because we’re ontologically entangled with each other, it will always be possible to say, “Well, I haven’t yet secured myself, so I’m not ready to accept the other.” Right? And we’re not even talking about somebody actively choosing to do the wrong thing. The point is that the proof of when it’s okay to accept the other is impossible to reach because it is this complete nation that is absolutely, like sure of its own identity and sure of its own self, but really that’s just gonna keep contracting. Right? Like that’s a death drive.
Naty Smith 1:02:21
Will Beaman 1:02:21
That’s what fascism is.
Naty Smith 1:02:22
You’ve set the search for the there, there as prior.
Maxx Seijo 1:02:25
Naty Smith 1:02:26
So that’s going to repeat itself.
Maxx Seijo 1:02:28
Exactly. I mean, what did Scott call it, right? It’s compulsive. It has this compulsive element to it. And so once you’ve designated the other, then you have to first achieve self subsistence. Which means now we first have to kill all of the others who are here and send them out.
Naty Smith 1:02:35
So you can charitably give gifts.
Maxx Seijo 1:02:48
Naty Smith 1:02:49
Once you’re self-subsistent, you can gift the other.
Maxx Seijo 1:02:50
Exactly. So first, we kick out all the Jews, and then we can have relations with Israel, right? That’s the the logic.
Will Beaman 1:03:02
Yeah. And while he does say he does say elsewhere, “oh, we should accept migrants with open arms until we can get to a point where unnecessary migration doesn’t happen.” Right? And he actually uses the phrase “unnecessary migration”, which, you know, I’m not really sure who decides that. Except Pope Francis.
Maxx Seijo 1:03:22
Socially unnecessary migration time. And so he keep goes on. And as Naty said at the beginning, it’s so repetitive. And, “the experience of being raised in a particular place and sharing in a particular culture gives us insight into aspects of reality that others cannot so easily perceive.” And he, you know, critiques a sort of sense of the universal that is uniform, standardized, bland.
Naty Smith 1:03:51
Right. This is like when he makes like a precept before he goes into encounter talking about the indigenous versus the colonial, you know, the East versus the West. He’s like, I don’t want to say that I’m, like, gonna use a universal that’s like some dominations. Like, sure. Whatever.
Will Beaman 1:04:09
I remember what he was going to say also, it was basically like, “in the meantime, until we can get to that point where unnecessary migration is limited. We should accept them and allow them to assimilate.” Right? So there’s this sense that, well, you know, the compromises…they’re going to be subsumed by our national identity, and their kids are going to be Argentinian.
Naty Smith 1:04:33
But not too much. Because you need a rich palate. You need some seasoning on that food. You need a little flavor.
Maxx Seijo 1:04:38
I was just about to read that phrase, right? And so what he’s saying is, you know, a universal that’s bland and standardized, right, we could think about a perhaps borderlessness in his sense, right, will ultimately lead to a loss of a rich palette of shades and colors and result in utter monotony.
Naty Smith 1:04:53
Borders maintain flavor.
Maxx Seijo 1:05:06
Literally, right? So there’s this sense of color, too. I mean, the reification of race and all of these social constructions is at play here. And it’s because we have this material touch, and touch, and touch and this emphasis on the material otherness by which one’s identity comes into being, which, you know, I’m just going to say is, is Hegel’s phenomenology. That’s just, that’s the whole thing, right?
Naty Smith 1:05:37
Little bitch Hegel.
Maxx Seijo 1:05:40
So he’s saying, “there can be no false openness, born of the shallowness of those lacking insight into the genius of their native land, or harboring unresolved resentment towards their own people.” This is just kind of disgusting and blatant on its face, right?
Will Beaman 1:06:00
Don’t be a self-hating blank.
Maxx Seijo 1:06:02
Naty Smith 1:06:04
Maxx Seijo 1:06:05
Yeah, right. Yeah. And so this sort of openness has to be quoting here, “done without evasion or uprooting, we need to sink, root our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can only work on a small scale in our own neighborhood, but with a large perspective.” And there you have precisely the political economic problematic at stake in cultivating the sense of a localized encounter with material that you touch, right?
Will Beaman 1:06:38
Maxx Seijo 1:06:38
A kinetic world of causality.
Will Beaman 1:06:41
And we importantly, right, like, just to say this: we don’t believe that we can only work at a small scale.
Maxx Seijo 1:06:48
Will Beaman 1:06:48
Right? Like the point of money and abstraction being prior is, one, everything is already interdependent, right? And what we’re doing right now is related to other things. And like far off distances and like this kind of transcendent way.
Naty Smith 1:07:08
I hate the internet. Ugh.
Will Beaman 1:07:10
The answerability of monetary coordination, it’s at an infinitely large scale, potentially.
Naty Smith 1:07:17
What, just like infinite spending?
Maxx Seijo 1:07:20
Well, I mean, we could think about COVID, right? And this leads right back to the whole second episode of this podcast, and Agamben being like “COVID is not real, because that means that we need social relations.” Right?
Naty Smith 1:07:34
Maxx Seijo 1:07:36
The virus is a classic example where touch is not the locus of causality that can actually deal with this problem. We can’t just work at the level of our neighborhood or our native land, right?
Naty Smith 1:07:50
Although I wish my mother-in-law had touched less of everything.
Maxx Seijo 1:07:55
Well, exactly. Right? We need to coordinate non-touched provisioning. I mean, that’s the whole thing, right? That’s the whole COVID process.
Will Beaman 1:08:04
A kind of a small analog of this from today, right? Is this fetishization of—I hope that we do have a lot of listeners who are members of DSA—there’s a certain kind of Twitter DSA person who says that the answer to every single complaint or issue or anything, is to simply keep your head down and go to your local DSA chapter and be a rank and file person. We can affirm that, but to contract politics around this sort of fetishized local organization without acknowledging also, DSA dues paid with dollars, right? It’s nested within public infrastructures. It’s not truly local, because being truly local is not possible.
Maxx Seijo 1:08:53
And knocking on doors, right? We could think of the rhythmic assurance of knocking on a door.
Will Beaman 1:08:59
I was wondering why you’re pantomiming knocking while I was talking.
Maxx Seijo 1:09:02
Yeah, it’s a classic example of like, you know, there are people who say, “go knock on doors, go canvass, go do these things,” right?
Will Beaman 1:09:09
Go visit the voter.
Maxx Seijo 1:09:11
Right! Well, let’s go encounter voters, go encounter people, go encounter workers where it’s like, we need to talk to people. Of course, right? We’re not negating that. But to contract causality only down to doing the activism work on the ground, right?
Naty Smith 1:09:28
Love the ground. The ground is so good.
Maxx Seijo 1:09:28
On the ground. That’s the same metaphysical contraction, right? We need all of it, right? We can’t be reductionist, and that’s a part of this podcast: superstructure, base. We want to obliterate that entire reductionism like an eliminationist method that seeks to bracket things and say “that’s not real. That’s not the real causal locus,” right? “We need to look on the factory floor where the worker hits this commodity over and over and over again. And he hits it, and it’s rhythmic, and we watch it. And then it’s all of a sudden it’s an Eisenstein film, and we’re watching the rhythm in the circle and Oh, sorry. Anyway.
Naty Smith 1:10:04
All right, you just made an Eisenstein reference. Officially jumped the shark. I’m just kidding.
Maxx Seijo 1:10:16
That’s a metaphor. It’s disgusting. And so we can only produce on the ground in our local neighborhood. We can only knock on the doors of our self-subsisting Heimat. So what does that mean? What is his political economic program? Well, everyone, if you had any doubt, he writes later on in paragraph 172, “The 21st century is witnessing a weakening of the power of nation-states.” Is that Thomas Fazi? Oh, sorry.
Naty Smith 1:10:47
We have a problem. Houston, we have a problem.
Maxx Seijo 1:10:49
Sorry. I didn’t know I was reading from another Italian, Thomas Fazi, but we can keep going. “Chiefly because the economic and financial sectors being transnational capital,” right, “tend to prevail over the political” meaning the legal, right? So Matt Karp just wrote an awful take about this in Jacobin, but there’s this sense that capital can’t be beholden by the nation state. It exists out there in the global world of circulation, and of transnational circulation. It’s an other, right, but it’s not a good other. It’s a bad other.
Will Beaman 1:11:28
No, we don’t want it to visit us.
Maxx Seijo 1:11:30
We don’t want it to visit. Stay away!
Naty Smith 1:11:32
To be clear, the idea is not that we have tax breaks to have foreign capital visit our developing country. The point is that it’s a wrong framing.
Maxx Seijo 1:11:45
Capital is not a thing.
Will Beaman 1:11:47
Yeah, that’s not what’s happening.
Naty Smith 1:11:49
Will Beaman 1:11:50
What’s happening is that public functions are being carried out through public institutions that…
Maxx Seijo 1:11:59
Through the political.
Will Beaman 1:12:00
Right. Through the political which are designed with the aesthetics of private capital.
Maxx Seijo 1:12:05
Will Beaman 1:12:05
Right. But you know, there’s no institution that’s not publicly chartered somewhere. And, not even just to reify, you know, like, the nation-state charters its own institutions or something, because politics transcends that as well. What were you going to say Maxx?
Maxx Seijo 1:12:20
So I was just gonna say, absolutely. And so where he goes with this is we have all of these atomized nation-states, which are sovereign, essentially, he hopes. We probably have to deport a bunch of people to make them other first before then we can open up our borders to them…
Naty Smith 1:12:21
Just like not write off our sovereign debt, but pay it more slowly.
Maxx Seijo 1:12:43
Pay it more slowly. Exactly. He’s Argentinian after all.
Naty Smith 1:12:47
Maxx Seijo 1:12:49
As a joke, I think we should have asked Felix Salmon to record something for this podcast about the Argentinian debt crisis.
Naty Smith 1:12:56
I don’t know who that is.
Maxx Seijo 1:12:57
That’s like a early Obama-era Bloomberg joke that no one’s gonna get, but…
Will Beaman 1:13:03
Leaving it in. Continue.
Maxx Seijo 1:13:04
Yeah. So “given this situation,” he says, “is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions.” Seems good, right?
Naty Smith 1:13:13
Right. This is supposed macro, right?
Maxx Seijo 1:13:15
Right. “With functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments and empowered to impose sanctions.”
Will Beaman 1:13:22
If you clean your room, then after school, you can do Model UN.
Maxx Seijo 1:13:26
Naty Smith 1:13:27
And it’s interesting, because there are like historians, or scholars who’ve kind of looked at more lefty inflections of the history of the UN, like Adom Getachew and her book about African post-colonial movements. But I mean, it’s very clear in his writing some of the limits.
Maxx Seijo 1:13:47
Yes, and it’s importantly phrased too that this is a sacrifice. We have to sacrifice to enter into this global relation of the sovereign head that then get to argue it out in the marketplace of national ideas.
Will Beaman 1:14:00
It’s a social contract for nation-states.
Maxx Seijo 1:14:03
Yes, exactly. Right.
Will Beaman 1:14:04
Like nation states are giving up their sovereignty in order to become part of an even bigger sovereign.
Maxx Seijo 1:14:09
And it’s almost like this touching, as Scott would say, is this mimetic compulsion to reground. And we keep re-grounding. And we have to build a sort of pyramid, because gravity has to hold it up of an international institution.
Naty Smith 1:14:25
A pyramid scheme.
Maxx Seijo 1:14:26
That represents the collective will of each national, hardened, solid snake.
Will Beaman 1:14:34
Maxx Seijo 1:14:34
People. Yeah, ground, right? And all of these things. And so this leads to, I think the sort of culmination of his political economic vision, which is moving to paragraph 190: “Political charity is also expressed in a spirit of openness to everyone. Government leaders should be the first to make the sacrifices that foster encounter and see converge on at least some issues. They should be ready to listen to other points of view and make room for everyone. Through sacrifice and patience, they can help to create a beautiful polyhedral reality in which everyone has a place. Here economic negotiations do not work, something else is required. An exchange of gifts for the common good. It may seem naive and utopian, yet we cannot renounce this lofty aim.”
Naty Smith 1:15:24
I want to jump in quickly, which is like as the reader of Encyclical. This is embedded in the context of him going into forgiveness, and this is very clearly about, in many ways, his own silence, and the churches own silence, and his continued silence during the dirty war and his continuing silence regarding Catholic abuse, the massive feminist movement for abortion in Argentina, which was successful. I think that’s interesting to think in terms of political metaphors, because he’s like, “Well all the leaders…it’s a gift of all the leaders if they can sort of swallow their pride and come together and see all sides and everybody has their place.” And you know, he says, “I can’t oblige you to forgive but it would be good” you know. I don’t know if it’s like this context of convergence and sort of “if I can be sacrificial and patient. I can see that the right wing Pinochetista molester priests also have a point of view, and I don’t have to forgive them. But I could” and I think you guys can kind of articulate how that connects to political economy.
Will Beaman 1:16:38
Yeah. And connects to Liz Bruenig’s thing that we read in a previous episode.
Naty Smith 1:16:43
Yeah, but the sense of the gift and the sense of economic negot- It’s fascinating because he says economic negotiations don’t work. But it’s fascinating because he’s precisely talking about, “Well, we need to have like regional blocs. We need to have the UN.” And you know, he precisely opposed these kind of left wing Peronists during the aughts, the Kirchner’s in Argentina who were engaging in this Pink Wave project for regional associations like this left wing trade bloc, the Mercosur. And he was the head of the opposition to the Kirchner’s because he was a supporter of right wing Peronists, not left wing Peronists. But this and this is also tied up in the sense of Franciscanism, right? The sense of charity, the sense of the gift, the sense that I want to reject the economic in order to find the true economic, which is like the self-sacrificing love of a handshake.
Will Beaman 1:17:37
Foreign aid instead of loans.
Maxx Seijo 1:17:39
And I want to be a little cheeky here and do a nice analog. And because I think what this reminded me of, believe it or not, was Marx. And so I wanted to read from this because this idea of a polyhedral reality in which we don’t do economics across borders anymore. We exchange gifts. We barter, right? Is precisely how Marx describes world money in Capital Volume One. Because the the reconciliation people try and make with Marx and MMT is like: Marx describes credit money in the domestic sphere. And so that’s true. Marx does do that. Right? And that’s perfectly true. But once we leave the domestic…right? Now, we’re reifying this. What does that mean, right? Once we leave that home soil, that proximate ground that we can touch, then we go back into the world of commodity money, right? And so here we have the very beginning of Marx’s section on world money. And this is on page 240 of my Penguin version of Capital.
Naty Smith 1:17:40
Yeah. Let me open up my version.
Maxx Seijo 1:18:38
Yeah. “When money leaves the domestic sphere of circulation, it loses the local functions it has acquired there as a standard of prices, coin and small change and as a symbol of value, and falls back into its original form as precious metal in the shape of Boolean. In world trade, commodities develop their value universally. Their independent value form, thus confronts them hereto as world money.” And so there’s this sense here that barter holds, because the moment we leave the domestic sphere, which, you know, we have all this trust. We can do all sorts of credit because we’re the same. You and I, we’re the same, we look the same, we have the same, we’re already on
Will Beaman 1:19:43
Yeah, we’re already commensurable as opposed to being forced to be commensurable by global capital.
Maxx Seijo 1:19:48
Right. We’re already a people. Right.
Naty Smith 1:19:50
Alright, Angela, is that you Angela Nagle. Global capital made me believe in gay rights.
Maxx Seijo 1:19:58
And so the thickness of this people this ethnoi, as I’ve heard some call it, but on an international scale it falls apart because I am univocally different from you, right? You migrant. You trader. And so what do we have to rely on? Right? Okay, because we need a material ground. What is that ground for Marx? It’s the commodity again. We go back to the commodity theory of money. The melted silver, right? The value form as evoked in the universally commensurable commodity that is money, gold, silver, right? And so this is why we argue that MMT and Marx, perhaps on one side, could be imagined if you believe ardently in monetary sovereignty as a sort of commensurable, to be funny…
Naty Smith 1:20:28
The melted silver. Because also most people when…In my opinion, is that when most people like say Marxist and get defensive Marxists they just mean like economic justice.
Maxx Seijo 1:21:04
Well, right. And we affirm, and there are components of the Marxist tradition that we affirm. Absolutely.
Naty Smith 1:21:09
But I’m just saying that’s why I think people get so defensive.
Maxx Seijo 1:21:12
Yes, I agree.
Naty Smith 1:21:12
They don’t necessarily mean all these details.
Maxx Seijo 1:21:16
Marx is their thing.
Naty Smith 1:21:17
Oh, yeah. It’s like their way of saying economic justice against economic injustice. You know?
Maxx Seijo 1:21:23
Yeah, it’s a reassuring mechanism that we have on the left.
Will Beaman 1:21:28
There’s a there, there. Right?
Maxx Seijo 1:21:29
There’s a there, there.
Naty Smith 1:21:29
Yeah, and so if you go against it, you’re going against justice.
Maxx Seijo 1:21:35
Right. But here we see the analog by which Marx and Pope Francis have a similar view of the domestic as it’s coming into the relationship with the global world, right? Of transnational capital. And this is a huge problem, because it reifies what the domestic is: a sense of trust in relation as a people as proximate. Right? And this is why we say Marx relies on a barter, because he does at the global scale, right? It’s not just his phenomenology.
Naty Smith 1:22:09
He’s an Hegalian theorist of encounter.
Maxx Seijo 1:22:11
Will Beaman 1:22:12
I think that there’s something really interesting here in the way that going back to our “the virus is the virus” episode where we kind of dug into the “nature is healing” meme. This idea of nature, healing, right? That happens through people on the outskirt of society. Instead of bartering with the other, selflessly giving gifts to the other. Right? But it’s still this figure of an encounter, right? And of standing in what is this kind of void, where you can either establish economic relations, or you can give to charity.
Naty Smith 1:22:56
Charity is just the ethical version of establishing economic relations.
Will Beaman 1:23:02
Right! If you’re a good person, instead of exchanging where you get something in return, you just give. But the exchange where you get something in return, for Marx, ends up on the outskirts of civilization and on the outskirts of your immediate homogenous unit where you all trust each other. On the outskirts of that, you barter, and then that ends up…
Maxx Seijo 1:23:30
That starts capitalism.
Will Beaman 1:23:31
Yep, fast forward, the dialectic.
Maxx Seijo 1:23:33
It’s an encounter.
Will Beaman 1:23:34
Right? And capitalism. It spreads, right? Geographically, through touching, right.
Maxx Seijo 1:23:39
Will Beaman 1:23:40
Through exchanges, in the same way that this healing is supposed to spread.
Maxx Seijo 1:23:45
And I want to also, because I think it’s so honestly kind of haunting the way that this Encyclical comes out during COVID. Right? And famously like, some of the important and crucial historical periods that just precede the early modern one, which we can then locate as the sort of rise of this. This Franciscan tradition is preceded by the Black Death. And so there’s this violent sense of…
Naty Smith 1:24:14
But Maxx, Maxx, the Black Death was good for labor unions.
Maxx Seijo 1:24:19
It raised a raise the cost of labor, actually.
Will Beaman 1:24:22
A huge opportunity for ending capitalism.
Maxx Seijo 1:24:25
They squandered. Yeah, but there’s this sense of this violent…
Naty Smith 1:24:28
But we can learn from…
Maxx Seijo 1:24:30
Right. There’s this shock of interdependence, right? That confronts us. And, we have to say, it’s not necessarily something we love. Like we all feel the stress and anxiety associated when we all have our mechanism.
Naty Smith 1:24:44
You’ve heard me with Dasha…Like, I don’t love my neighbor, except one of them.
Maxx Seijo 1:24:50
But it’s hard. Dependence is hard. Solving the problem of COVID at macro scale is hard and complicated. It is really hard. But you can’t avoid the macro provisioning pressure.
Naty Smith 1:25:04
It’s not as hard as Agamben made it, though.
Maxx Seijo 1:25:07
Well, no, of course not. It’s not hard in the sense of…
Will Beaman 1:25:12
In the sense of a sacrifice, right?
Maxx Seijo 1:25:14
Exactly. It’s not a sacrifice.
Naty Smith 1:25:16
Yeah. As if those deaths were a gift.
Maxx Seijo 1:25:20
Naty Smith 1:25:20
A charity gift? Because you can’t macro provision.
Maxx Seijo 1:25:24
It’s hard because existence is hard. Right? There’s pain and suffering and joy and beauty. And we all share in these different problems. And we don’t have to have suffering, right? And we don’t have to have all these things like there are problems we can solve in certain ways. Right? There are ways to deal with things like COVID.
Naty Smith 1:25:45
As you can see in the countries that like actually dealt with it.
Maxx Seijo 1:25:48
Right, and that have done a better job than the United States and Chile and others.
Naty Smith 1:25:53
Probably because of their sort of natural identity with the soil.
Maxx Seijo 1:25:58
Yeah, certainly with New Zealand.
Naty Smith 1:26:00
It’s typical of the Chinese you know, because that’s very typical of them to sort of make a virus that they handle because they planned ahead for their own…
Maxx Seijo 1:26:10
Are you Matt Bruenig? You’re Matt Bruenig.
Naty Smith 1:26:12
Or Matt Stoller.
Maxx Seijo 1:26:13
Matt Stoller, too. You’re both of them, okay.
Naty Smith 1:26:15
Yeah, but they sent it on everyone else, because they had already planned ahead. Little communist bitches. Yeah, well, they are actually pretty right wing communists.
Will Beaman 1:26:25
Unified Matt theory.
Maxx Seijo 1:26:29
So we can think about these moments… I don’t necessarily want to take on the sort of quest for historical meaning necessarily, but there is something, I listened to a Bloomberg podcast about the Black Death. Like, there’s something hovering here in the way we have interdependence crises in a way that are ongoing, and they’re always ongoing. It’s unemployment, it’s suffering in countries in the global south. It’s suffering all over. I mean, we can look to all sorts of different types of suffering. And the response that we get by Pope Francis is we need polyhedral nationalism. But the reason why we come so hard at people like Marx is because built in to his schema of capitalism, and…
Naty Smith 1:27:20
Because he’s too daddy for us.
Maxx Seijo 1:27:22
That’s right, we just can’t handle how much of a daddy he is. Is this domestic fetish, right? This domestic reification, this reification of the thickness of the proximate. And that’s his reassuring sort of rhythmic care symptom.
Naty Smith 1:27:40
Oh, and, and it’s interesting because Marx, I’m, like, honestly, not a Marx expert, but I’m sure that like, at some point, in his writing, he said shit against the national and whatever, whatever. But, like, it’s not nothing that Lenin is, like, his most famous sort of progenitor, but also like, change some things. But I mean, Lenin is like the ultimate nationalist in many ways. I mean, the sense of like,
Will Beaman 1:28:04
Naty Smith 1:28:05
Imperialism and anti imperialism and his sense of the nation. You know, there is like a convergence between these rivals of Woodrow Wilson and Lenin, right?
Will Beaman 1:28:17
Yeah, you start with taking over the univocal will of the nation-state.
Naty Smith 1:28:22
Will Beaman 1:28:23
And univocal meaning, right, when we talk about my will…My will, my name is Will. When we talk about my will as a person and we talk about a country’s will, the word will means the same thing, right? And that’s univocal is being speaking through one voice. So words mean the same exact thing regardless of how they’re being used, and in this case, right? Everything comes down to univocal will, and univocal difference, right? Everything is different in the same…there are two sides of the same coin. Yeah.
Naty Smith 1:29:04
Maxx Seijo 1:29:05
That produces the encounter.
Naty Smith 1:29:07
And the ability to create the UN! Sorry.
Will Beaman 1:29:10
It’s an encounter between two wills, and the two wills can encounter because their wills in the same way.
Naty Smith 1:29:17
Maxx Seijo 1:29:18
I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing most of the meat, you know, the fleshy, touchy meat of this Encyclical.
Naty Smith 1:29:27
The bony part of the episode.
Maxx Seijo 1:29:29
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about his cancel culture critiques, because this just feels
Naty Smith 1:29:34
Maxx Seijo 1:29:35
This feels so connected to our podcast in a way that I think it just makes me laugh.
Will Beaman 1:29:40
Maxx Seijo 1:29:40
Pope Francis hates cancel culture.
Naty Smith 1:29:44
He’s like, you gotta listen like you got some, you know, like, there’s different sides. The internet is like chaos, you know? You can’t smell people’s sweat.
Maxx Seijo 1:29:54
He signed the Harper’s letter with Samuel Moyn, I think.
Naty Smith 1:29:58
Oh my god. 100%. Like if he knew enough about the internet to know that existed, he would have 100% like scientists, he would have like, written his name over everybody else’s name and meant like not in a dominant way!
Maxx Seijo 1:30:10
No, no, just an enthusiastic way. Barry Weiss would’ve even got to sign her name. But it’s important, I think, actually, we could like think about media theory for a second.
Naty Smith 1:30:23
I think it’s interesting to think through. Yeah. Like how this does connect to his theories.
Maxx Seijo 1:30:28
It totally does. And it connects to like our conversation with Matt Chrisman about media and spectacle and all of these things. So we take then the globalized world of capitalism, of spectacle of all of these exchanges that ping pong touching each other until they created
Naty Smith 1:30:43
A global Jewish internet.
Maxx Seijo 1:30:46
I mean, you’re not that wrong, basically, with what he’s saying. But he says…
Will Beaman 1:30:50
You heard it here first, folks.
Maxx Seijo 1:30:53
I can’t wait for someone to quote that only and then put it on Twitter.
Naty Smith 1:30:58
Yeah, that’s like, as I said the words. Exactly the thought process I had.
Maxx Seijo 1:31:01
Yeah, exactly. So right, he talks about “in today’s globalized world…”
Naty Smith 1:31:08
Maxx Seijo 1:31:09
Right. So we start from that premise. “The media can help us feel closer to one another, creating a sense of unity of the human family, which in turn can inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.”
Naty Smith 1:31:22
This is what we call the opening caveat before saying the radical opposite.
Will Beaman 1:31:29
We can touch people who are far away now.
Maxx Seijo 1:31:32
Right. “We need constantly to ensure that present day forms of communication are in fact guiding us to generous encounter with others, to honest pursuit of the whole truth, to service, to closeness, to the underprivileged, and to the promotion of the common good.” Right?
Naty Smith 1:31:47
So like, the internet introduced me to Liz Bruenig.
Maxx Seijo 1:31:52
Right. “So we cannot accept the digital world designed to exploit our weaknesses and bring out the worst in people.” Right. So it’s like love thy neighbor on the internet. This is the whole introduction to that, right? But then elsewhere… Elsewhere, he critiques “digital campaigns of hatred and destruction,” and says that they are not as some would us believe, “a positive form of mutual support. But simply…”
Naty Smith 1:32:18
Sorry, I want to go back to the the digital world designed for our weakness, because this is an interesting thing, because I think some people see us as just these sort of like, “we love the internet, we’re not aware of algorithms.” And there’s a very strong strain of left critique, whether it’s with Richard Seymour, or Jody Dean or all different. I mean, honestly, like throughout left internet, there’s a very strong sense of self. And there’s truth to that, right? Like the way profit is designed, the way algorithms are designed, the way it’s designed to be addictive that it does try to like capitalize on certain things. But people’s critique of this very much gets into this sort of Franciscan rejection of money, like touching the internet itself, is like kind of debasing myself, devaluing currency of true encounter and affection of knocking on doors, right. And I think it’s hurtful to most people, even though it’s like, very common, like, self exculpating thing, I think, especially during COVID. I think it hurts most people’s feelings a little bit, and that’s why they participate in it when you talk about being “too online,” and yada, yada. Because most of us are in this modern time, like, obviously, extremely online, because that type of abstraction is how you care for each other. Like, everyone I know does not live in my apartment.
Maxx Seijo 1:33:45
Right. Which is not to negate the work of people like Cathy O’Neil. And you know, there are others too, who talk about algorithmic bias.
Naty Smith 1:33:56
Like Frank Pasquale.
Maxx Seijo 1:33:57
Yes. Exactly, exactly. Frank Pasquale. I just finished TA’ing for a digital theory course, where we basically talked about this for 10 weeks in a row, right. And so it’s important to differentiate critiques of form as relates to the form of abstraction, and how that is being constructed and designed from critiques from, of abstraction as such, right? It’s critiquing the internet as such, versus the way it’s designed.
Naty Smith 1:34:24
And that collapsibility happens really fast. Just as you guys point out, like in “the virus is the virus”. Like “capitalism is the virus” collapses really quickly into “people are the virus.”
Maxx Seijo 1:34:36
Naty Smith 1:34:39
Not to say we’re not anti-capitalist again, you know what I mean?
Maxx Seijo 1:34:41
Right. Well, exactly. And we’re not anti-exploitation, like we obviously are, right?
Naty Smith 1:34:45
Maxx Seijo 1:34:45
It’s the entire framing of the structure.
Naty Smith 1:34:49
Maxx Seijo 1:34:49
And so we set up this sort of thing where it’s like, “we live in a globalized world we can reach out and touch someone,” right? This is like actually quite neoliberal when it comes to media theory.
Naty Smith 1:34:58
“Reach out and touch…” This is like part of the slippage of Peronism right? Like the slippage Peronism from this sort of like workers Red-Brown movement into like, inevitably, neoliberalism…
Maxx Seijo 1:35:16
It’s like this is a 1980s AT&T ad that’s like, “Reach out and touch someone.”
Naty Smith 1:35:20
Maxx Seijo 1:35:22
By the way, I stole that from Scott Ferguson’s class. So, anyway, but…
Naty Smith 1:35:27
This is typical of the problematic of having to have a mommy.
Maxx Seijo 1:35:30
Right I know, interdependent.
Naty Smith 1:35:33
I, though, am totally different from my mother.
Will Beaman 1:35:37
I always check the breast for new jokes.
Naty Smith 1:35:43
I wish I could express to the listeners like the facial expressions I made with some of Will’s jokes. Just this face of like dread and joy, just like, ooo, that was a brutal one. Love it. Ooo.
Will Beaman 1:36:00
Yeah. Well, it’s the same face Francis makes when he’s visiting the poor.
Naty Smith 1:36:06
Oooo, I love you.
Maxx Seijo 1:36:08
So, at the same time, when Pope Francis says we need to reject transnational capital and blah, blah, blah. He also says that “these digital campaigns of hatred and destruction,” i.e. cancel culture, “are not a positive form of mutual support, but simply an association of individuals united against a perceived common enemy.”
Naty Smith 1:36:31
It’s hard to know was that me was that Will? Was that you? Like, who were the Marxists mad at? Who were the Marx- Right, exactly. I think it was all of the above.
Will Beaman 1:36:42
And the way that I find that a lot of Marx-inflected, or Marxist critiques of nationalism, sort of fall apart is they’re like, “Well, they’re just looking for a common enemy, when they should be looking…” And then they describe looking for a common enemy, but it’s global capital.
Naty Smith 1:37:01
Will Beaman 1:37:02
And they exculpate with, “well, this is just an objective materialist analysis.”
Naty Smith 1:37:06
Which is isn’t. Like the…
Will Beaman 1:37:09
Naty Smith 1:37:10
The how do we name him Alex Williams Substack, who was talking about post-Keynesianism recently and discussed how, you know, like, economically speaking, if you look at post-Keynesian theory, like there is not a unified logic to capitalism, like profit seeking does not end up reducing to one single logic. That’s just like, not empirically the case.
Maxx Seijo 1:37:32
What? It’s not determinist? No.
Naty Smith 1:37:34
He was like, shocked. He was like, nobody, like got mad at my post with a line that there’s no unified logic under capital…
Will Beaman 1:37:41
Well, it was because he sounded really depressed, so the Marxists were like, Oh, okay he’s one of us.
Naty Smith 1:37:47
Or they just didn’t read that far.
Maxx Seijo 1:37:49
Okay, so I’m gonna continue now.
Naty Smith 1:37:51
Maxx Seijo 1:37:52
So the Pope writes, you know, so basically, what we’ve just articulated, too, is this Schmittian, and like reading Schmitt from the left, right? Common enemy, right? It’s…
Naty Smith 1:38:02
Maxx Seijo 1:38:03
Pope is like, “Wait, no, no common enemy.” But then he has his own Schmittian enemy. And we could think about our interview with Daniel Bessner and his insistence on being Schmittian. And…
Naty Smith 1:38:15
While also at the same time accusing us of being Schmittian.
Maxx Seijo 1:38:18
Well, this is the exact cancel culture, right?
Naty Smith 1:38:21
Maxx Seijo 1:38:21
They just want to cancel capital? And that’s the whole thing.
Naty Smith 1:38:23
Maxx Seijo 1:38:24
So we want to cancel fascists, they want to cancel capital. So I think this gets into the connection between that sort of double movement of this bad faith critique of cancel culture, because the Pope writes…
Naty Smith 1:38:38
Pretty personal. Yeah.
Maxx Seijo 1:38:40
“Digital media can also expose people to the risk of addiction, isolation, and a gradual loss of contact with concrete reality.” And there we have the touching and alienation.
Naty Smith 1:38:50
Concrete. That was the only thing I liked about Trump was his story of association with the concrete mafia.
Maxx Seijo 1:38:57
And this one’s really gonna hurt you, Naty. So this gradual loss of contact with concrete reality ends up “blocking the development of authentic interpersonal relationships.” So these so called non-authentic interpersonal relationships, which is hilarious, because now I’m thinking of like Heideggerian inauthenticity, and like how he brackets media theory.
Naty Smith 1:39:23
Oh, so I know, Marxists who are sleeping around on apps, but also like, my friend will be making a new app…My friend who grew up lower middle class, and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to add another new app to my phone.”
Maxx Seijo 1:39:40
Naty Smith 1:39:42
“Isn’t the real life always…isn’t meatspace always better than real encounters?” Like, Oh, is that how you meet girls in meatspace? Like really? Nobody? Not nobody. Like I’m not typically a huge online dater, but the idea that like there’s some space of meatspace in real encounters is just like fucking queer-phobic horseshit.
Maxx Seijo 1:40:04
Naty, I’ve never touched you, though.
Naty Smith 1:40:07
But like, honestly, I want to underline that
Maxx Seijo 1:40:09
Yeah, it’s so fucked up.
Naty Smith 1:40:10
Like queer-phobic horseshit.
Maxx Seijo 1:40:12
Naty Smith 1:40:13
Like oh, you’re not like in an alleyway in the Castro in 1978, so go fuck yourself. Are you serious? Like oh, and literally that in the 90s Quarracino said, the bishop who made the Pope’s career, that gays should be locked in ghettos, and that’s what some of this materialism is saying is like, don’t we miss when there was like a gayborhood that was like where you had to go to have like a physical encounter before the internet?
Maxx Seijo 1:40:39
And even further to the point, he goes on to list the things that these physical encounters lack, right? These these online encounters, sorry.
Naty Smith 1:40:47
This is my favorite part. I’m not gonna lie. This is pretty funny.
Maxx Seijo 1:40:49
“They lack the physical gestures, facial expressions, moments of silence, body language, and even the smells, the trembling of hands, the blushes and perspiration that speak to us and are part of human connection.”
Will Beaman 1:41:03
And that kind of make him cringe when it’s a poor person.
Naty Smith 1:41:06
This is just so fucking rude during COVID. So many people can’t like, apart from dating, like so many people can’t see their family for like, several years.
Maxx Seijo 1:41:14
They can’t hug their family.
Naty Smith 1:41:16
Yeah, and I live abroad and it’s like what, my family just like means nothing to me now because I can’t smell their fucking sweat?
Maxx Seijo 1:41:23
And that’s exactly what Agamben was saying when he said that Pope Francis should be out there hugging and touching the the poor, because that is what St. Francis of Assisi did. And that COVID wasn’t real, because the existence of COVID denies the validity of this metaphysical tradition. Because it foregrounds interdependence as a problem that is ongoing that we must wrestle with. It’s not a problem of one that’s created by money, right? It’s not money creates interdependence what then money has to solve. This is an ongoing problem of existence. And we don’t even have to look to political economy…
Naty Smith 1:42:01
The riddle of care.
Maxx Seijo 1:42:02
The riddle of care, it’s also biological.
Will Beaman 1:42:04
What’s really funny about this, too, is like, of all the people to be complaining about “fake relationships” because they’re not like in person. For it to be the Pope, who like people have pictures of him in their house and like, I want to see like, a bitchy Red Scare style Pope podcast where he’s like really shitty to all of his fans, because like their relationship with him is parasocial.
Maxx Seijo 1:42:34
r/Catholic That’s the subreddit for the Pope.
Naty Smith 1:42:38
That’s the next Dasha.
Maxx Seijo 1:42:40
Yeah, and right. But that’s built into the contradiction of the metaphysics because you can’t premise it on this sort of touching relation of reassurance and proximity, while also having a social order, and that’s what happened to the Franciscans.
Naty Smith 1:42:55
I did post on Twitter and someone commented something like that, like Will once said that he was like, everything’s become a kind of spectacle. And I posted, “is this the Pope or every hack, Marxist theorist?” My friends like, yeah, the Pope is a really good person to be like, criticizing spectacle, wearing a giant hat and like walking around with the staff as he broadcasts himself to a worldwide Catholic Church, Catholic, meaning universal.
Maxx Seijo 1:43:19
If I can’t smell the Pope, this shit is invalid.
Naty Smith 1:43:24
Smelling shit. One of my oldest couple evidence gathering techniques.
Maxx Seijo 1:43:29
And like what this leads is the reason why we’re so harsh on Hegel on the show is because…
Naty Smith 1:43:34
By we, we mean Maxx
Maxx Seijo 1:43:36
The Hegelian sense of contradiction is premised on a metaphysics that can’t be explained by that proximate relation, right.? That’s why you need world spirit.
Naty Smith 1:43:46
The Holy Spirit.
Maxx Seijo 1:43:47
Right. To account for all of this order, all of this existence, all of this interdependence and build this phenomenological Rube Goldberg machine that gets you to the state, which then gets you to the UN as world spirit. I mean, we we’re all there in this, and the problem is the premise. Right? The problem is the premise.
Naty Smith 1:44:06
And this premise of encounter, as this quote continues here in 43…his media theory really reveals the liberal nationalism baked into his idea of encounter because he kind of encapsulates this idea of illusion and fake news and that you’re in this like self-selected echo chamber. Which is like totally, all the shit all these supposed leftists were like dissing about centrist liberals whose entire reading of the media sphere was like, “there’s two sides. There’s the side that knows the truth. There’s the side that believes what Trump says. And like if you’re just in an echo chamber only listening to your own people, coastal liberals, and not with like the real workers in the real workers who are racist cunts in Montana, then you can’t…”
Will Beaman 1:44:54
In your local, grounded echo chamber.
Naty Smith 1:44:58
Will Beaman 1:44:59
The problem is that we’ve all lost our based echo chamber, and now we’re in virtual echo chambers.
Maxx Seijo 1:45:08
As Richard Wolff said, “I think the assault on the Capitol really reflected the alienation of the working class.”