Emails, politics, and participation… confessions of a sentimentalist
There have been some riots in Copenhagen recently, over the forceful eviction of counter-cultural squatters by the police from a house they had used for about 25 years. I was quite concerned by what to me looked like excessive use of force, documented examples of semi-random imprisonments, also of under-age kids, and several searches conducted without warrants. Being roughly 4000 miles away and by now largely devoid of any meaningful contacts in movements or parties there, I have to admit I resorted to a rather sentimental and therapeutic mean of ‘participation’. I emailed the 15 members of parliament who are on the juridical committee…
So there I was, arguing that they ought to consider an independent investigation into police conduct during that weekend, pursuing a politics of expression, something I have always been incredibly skeptical towards. Two (or their aides, I doesn’t matter much to me) already wrote back (I have to say that I was surprised that I actually got answers from anyone). One from the left, and one from the right, the former to agree with me, the latter actually bothered to express his disagreement with me, and his trust in the police. I am glad he took the time.
Now the left are increasingly pushing for a closer scrutiny of what exactly happened… Obviously, I am not arguing that I, or any other individual email-writer, made that happen. It is impossible to track the traces of any individual communication under circumstances like this. It makes me wonder whether the definition of meaningful participation as something like ‘making a difference’ that I tend to fall back on makes much sense at all – it smacks too much of billiard balls setting each other in motion, or of chains of actions mediated as by a letter-carrying pigeon, ‘A used X to say to B who did Y to C… – but maybe the latter can be used to trace out how I became a part in a network that has one of its more visible tips in those parts of parliament that are now pursuing the possibility of an investigation. Did I take an action that was mainly therapeutical and merely happened to coincide with a wider trust that became the political action of pushing for in investigation? Yes, in a way, and then I and the politics are separated. But the narrative could also be re-construed as: ‘I took action and through that became part of a network that acted to push for an investigation’. Then I am part of the political action. The former is the road to cynicism, the latter to action – but I do not know that I am intellectually convinced by either, or even of their usefulness. The former makes it almost impossible to identify anyone but a few individuals as participants (and that is patently absurd, a form of reactionary romanticism of ‘strong men making history’), the latter makes it impossible to distinguish between action and lack thereof (equally absurd, then everything would not only be potentially political but actually so, and the word political, as well as the word participation, would cease to mean anything in particular). Not exactly thrilling outlooks for someone who makes his living writing, talking, and speculating about politics and participation… Anyway, it made me think. More.