Introduction: Taking It Politically
Issue #3, November 1992
Both of us nearly wept when we saw Bill Clinton give his acceptance speech. Others, we found the next day, were equally moved. For a while, all of us shared an unexpected sense of renewed hope and optimism about the future of America. Suddenly we could feel the connection between the personal and the political; emotions we usually experience in our most intimate or private relationships were being evoked by the sort of public "political" ritual that most of us have come regard with cynicism and alienation. There are many components to this experience that we could talk about, but right now we would like to comment on how, for many of us, the election of Bill Clinton served as an example of "totality". By "totality" we mean the entire constellation of cultural, political and economic institutions and social relations that combine to construct our everyday lives. Clinton's election was an experience of totality because, however briefly, our private and our public lives came together in a palpable way. Connections we don't usually notice were heightened and made more visible. While in fact the totality is not something any individual can imagine on his or her own, on election night we had a glimpse of what it would be like if we could imagine it. In other words, it was as though each of us had a stake again in everything. The most intense feeling of all was actually daring to hope that progressive and substantive change might be possible and indeed might already be underway.
Although more sober emotions have prevailed since then, there is still a lesson to be learned here. The election showed us how it was possible to take politics personally. Here at Bad Subjects, we also believe that it is important to take the personal politically. Understanding our personal or daily lives in political terms is also a totalizing move. It is about recognizing that the division between our private and public lives is really an ideological effect, a kind of illusion, and that therefore we should apply the same ethical standards and moral criteria in all our social relations. While all aspects of our lives are interconnected, any and every action that we take has consequences that we cannot necessarily anticipate since we lack a true understanding of the totality. This uncertainty is our burden; we must take responsibility for the consequences of our every action in the present if we are ever going to have any effective control over our individual and collective destinies. One of the advantages to a totalizing perspective is that it joins together our moral and practical responsibilities in every area of our lives.
And speaking of responsibilities...WE NEED YOUR HELP. We have received very few submissions and we are very worried about the future of Bad Subjects. We never intended to fill the pages of this newsletter month after month with submissions from the same people (mainly — us). We really need you to contribute. Winter vacation is right around the corner, and it's an excellent opportunity for those of you who have been thinking about it to write articles for Bad Subjects' February issue and beyond. If we continue having to write this newsletter without you, we will regretfully be forced to cease publication. But for now, enjoy Bad Subjects.