Politics & Media
Mar 18, 2020, 06:28AM

Solidarity, Just for Me

In this country of rugged individualists, calls for voluntary unity either fall on deaf ears or become part of elaborate marketing campaigns.

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Pictured: The author in a past life

Do you know what will save us, fellow kids? Solidarity! Or so Duke law professor Jedidiah Purdy, who burst onto the scene at 24 with the remarkably moderate (and dull) book For Common Things, tells us in a recent hot take for Jacobin. Purdy, who shifted leftward over the past two decades, is probably kicking himself that he didn’t produce some kind of Hillbilly Elegy-esque tale of his West Virginia boyhood, and is now just another tenured, scabbing academic working the DSA grift.

I don’t really care about Purdy, who now hyphenates his surname to signal virtue to other elite mandarin members of the cathedral, but I do care about how “solidarity” rhetoric is utilized in a society like this one. For Common Things was a book I read in law school, a sophomoric and now risible attack on “irony,” a pseudo-problem posited for laughs in the pages of magazines like Spy. Even then, Purdy could tell which way the take winds were shifting: David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers and their logorrheic epigones were pushing the “new sincerity,” so why not pile on? The 1990s were a simpler time, certainly. But now Purdy’s going after real big fish: kids, we must come together and do what has to be done.

Enough about that guy. The “solidarity” one finds amid the virtual pages of a low-paying take site like Jacobin—essentially an aesthetically repackaged Huffington Post for those “kids” who believe that liking and sharing tweets is doing the work—is worthless. Those moments in American history when “solidarity” was exhibited, like when my Grandfather Bateman was given the choice of prison or the Navy during the Second World War, came at the barrel of a gun. And that’s how solidarity happened in China, too, with a COVID-19-afflicted population locked down and an infection curve flattened into nonexistence lest those disobeying the state be rendered nonexistent, too. That’s how solidarity happens, the only way it happens. An entity or individual not in the habit of obeying other people threatens said people in order to make them do something, and if they fail to comply, that entity or individual exacts punishment. Purdy has surely read the minimalist but precise explanation of sovereign power in John Austin’s The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, or at least would claim familiarity with it, were I to reference it.

But all these individual calls to solidarity, like his, are mostly calls for “solo-darity.” “I’m telling you, kids, that I’ve got the best solidarity in town,” says the podcast pitchman, angling to pick up some fresh Patreon subscriptions. “This is artisanal solidarity, with hints of young trans and POC, and a mouth feel that practically drips with upper-class condescension for them and for you. This is the good stuff, and you can only get it from me. I’ve got the answers, and the answer is that you need to pay me for the answers, or at least retweet my answers, or otherwise build my clout, my brand, and my special online presentation of self.”

Because this is America, kids. The only “common thing” we share in this country is an obsession with the personal: a personal relationship with Jesus for right wingnuts, “the personal is political” for folks who believe canceling mom for watching a Louis CK comedy special is the ticket to social justice, and a hunger for personal power among those ghoulish wonks and cadaverous career politicians whose canny machinations determine whether our grandmas and grandpas will go to the death camps or merely end up “disappeared” from the general population. Why should our activist and slacktivist calls for solidarity, powered at base by a spirit of voluntarism that has been absent from this country at least since the Lost Colony settlers ate each other and likely far before, amount to anything more than hot air? Not that I don’t love to see it, because, believe you me, if anyone enjoys seeing you kids do the work of blowing hot air, it’s “ya boi” here.

So, listen up. Let me slide into your DMs and lay a take on you here. I’ve got some real sweet solidarity tucked away in my bunker. Some of the best solidarity you’ve ever seen. This solidarity is so rare, so fresh and so clean, that I can maybe share it with five other kids, tops. This is platinum-tier solidarity. This is the solidarity Elon Musk has with the five other people he is taking to Mars with him. This is the solidarity of the suicide pact all the big bankers made when they decided they needed to kick the economy’s tires and prime the consumption fires, one last time before reality went the way of a J.G. Ballard story. I mean, this is primo shit. There’s a reason they call it “the best.”

Interested? Well, let me tell you something first. I really like the work you do. You’re out there fighting the good fight, and I’m here for it. I know a lot of people just say that, but I mean it. A lot of people, these scam leftists like “Dr.” Purdy (see, he doesn’t have a Ph.D., but “ya boi” does!), are trying to get you to boost their brands. Well, screw them. They don’t have your best interests at heart, those grifters. Now, look me right in the eye. My thousand-yard stare is completely devoid of all tension. I’m not thinking at all, but what work I’m doing! What fantastic work! Such eyes wouldn’t sell you up the creek. They couldn't sell anything or buy anything. Heck, you could spit your COVID-19 in my eyes, and I’d call it God's divine dew.

So how about it? A little solidarity, shared between you and me, and let the devil take the hindmost? Gamble a stamp, and I’ll give you enough solidarity to make you a real man.


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