It is widely repeated that change emanates from the margins. I agree with this and see this as the basis for social change. There are instances where the hypocrisy of capital can force change on itself not from the margins, but from what is effectively it’s centre – its bread and (earth balance) margarine… One such instance is making the conservative government in Australia squirm, and the PM can (seemingly) no longer just rely on his (until recently) stupendous spin machine to get him by.
The (hopefully) nail in the coffin is the death in Iraq of the first Australian soldier – Jacob Kovco. War is perhaps to most effective tool for political spin/quelling dissent/consolidating patrioticism to build party support when deemed necessary. Whilst there are multitude controversies surrounding his death – including the repeated bungled and constantly changing stories about how he died (i.e. his pistol went without anyone touching it and it shot him in the head…) from the defense minister – the issue of the repatriation of his body is the big one.
I have not seen such a concerted attack on this government in the mainstream press, nor the public disgust at its handling of the situation. Context is crucial of course, including the oil for food scandal with the Australian Wheat Board in Iraq, and that most Australian’s think the government lied – perhaps the tip in the iceberg of increasing discontent with regressive policies….
To outline what happened, the repatriation was contracted out to a private US firm (of course one linked to GWBush AND the lawyer D.Rusmfeld shot – see SMH piece). The ‘terrible, unspeakable mistake’ that was made involved the wrong body being shipped to Australia!
A friend emailed yesterday: “We talk about a values debate in Australia? F— me dead! A billionaire media mogul like Kerry Packer, who celebrated his tax minimisation, gets a publicly funded state memorial service, and a Private Kovco, who offered his life for his country and paid the ultimate price, gets treated like a piece of meat.” His bitterness only reflects national outrage. How can this be? [source]
The focus of criticism lays in the basis for contracting out this ‘service’: efficiency. I won’t go into any more detail about the specifics – the linked article (an opinion piece) provides noteworthy critical detail. I want to comment on the impacts it is having publicly.
With war being considered an affective tool of government as outlined above, the efficiency-based approach to repatriation – itself at the core of capitalist ways of operating – is causing outright disgust in Australia. This is widespread. Is it possible that people are seeing the true face of capital? What is the potential for such subjectivities (to draw on Antonio Negri) to foster change amongst the socialised worker. Is the margins the only place for such change?
To me it seems that the hypocrisy of capital often shines so bright that not only those at the margins can see it. It is the non-critical, non-marginalised, blue ribbon, choice loving citizen that is plainly aware and disgusted by this specific issue. It seem the multitude subjectivities of Antonio Negri’s socialised worker have immense potential for social change – I guess the question is, when will the multitude be both large and diverse enough to facilitate the spontaneous rejection of capital and the bourgeoning of a fundamental shift towards an egalitarian ecological community based on mutual respect and cooperation.
That the masses are oft looked down upon by those working at the margins may need some rethinking. Perhaps there is hope, a hope that could be realised sooner rather than later. At the lease it appears that people are seeing ‘John Howard’s Australia’ for what it is and rejecting it outright…