On the uses and disadvantages of irony for politics

Today was the last day of AYCC’s Powershift. Now. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not simply antagonistic towards AYCC – that’s irresponsible. Happy to work with them, and have my perspective heard, if they’ll let it. But I have an innate aversion for those places where irony has vacated. Or no, that’s not entirely true. It’s more the inversion of irony that takes place in certain spaces, particularly amongst the youth today, such as evangelical churches, etc. It’s when we put a generation of people who have been drowning in irony, individuality and powerlessness into a place where they are allowed (no, encouraged, in the strongest sense of the term) to be sincere, collective, and empowered, they go ballistic. Overcompensation mixed with ineptitude… A powerful sight. So much wooping and cheering after every scripted rhetorical flourish, so much use of the word ‘inspirational’, so many standing ovations. It is as though this generation has been stranded on a desert island of ironic individuality for so long that they have almost entirely lost the faculty of (collective) speech and, when they find themselves back on the shores of politics, they jump at the first opportunity to stutter out the desperate, inarticulate affirmation: “We will make the difference!” (Incidentally the cry at the end of one of the rehearsals for the Powershift flashmob that I witnessed).

The return of the repressed qua collective affirmation. That’s what I’m talking about, I suppose.

But there is also a much healthier return of this repressed going on. It is stammering, but it is much less repetitious. Even in Brisbane the Occupy Together movement is showing quite impressive collective thinking, starting from such humble beginnings.

But what should the role of irony be in all of this? Despite my Badiousian emphasis on affirmation and construction in egalitarian politics, I can’t help but feel that irony is a necessary precondition for liberty.


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