Love Power I: Sunnyvale Spoilers, Research Time, 19/05/2016

Today's post is about some more ideas I’ve been developing in dialogue with Antonio Negri’s books. It’s also a bit of a spoiler for the Sunnyvale project. Let me explain how that works. 

The posts of Sunnyvale Psychochronography are walks through the stories of individual episodes. They focus on different characters or narrative turns that I think turn an eye on whatever aspect of Trailer Park Boys’ underlying philosophical ideas I want to focus on that week. Each post discusses these ideas in terms of the characters and their actions. Not the ideas themselves in an abstract sense.

If everybody in the world had a
flower instead of a gun, there would
be no war. There would be no hate.
There would only be love.
Negri advocates a central idea at the end of his major trilogy – that love can be the founding principle and engine of politics. Love is the fuel and motor of justice in human society. Love has the power to produce a thriving economy through the social solidarity that grows among people in a community working together. Their interpersonal relationships and organizations produce the wealth of the community.

Reading Negri, he discusses how contemporary communications technology – the globalization of personal relationships and person to person communication – lets the productive networks of love spread all over the world. Today, it’s actually possible to build a world order based on common communication, cooperation, and love.

Looking at the community of Sunnyvale and the Trailer Park Boys, the show itself is a demonstration that such a productive order is possible at all. 

You see, it’s very easy to write off poor, ignorant people whose business activity lives on the margin of legality. This is true enough for poor people in countries like Canada where we have a lot of government services and proper infrastructure to keep people living dignified lives. But it’s doubly true for the residents of shantytowns and favela sprawls. You live in a corrugated tin shack, people barely think of you as human.

Write those people off, sure. But if you do, you dismiss the value of literally billions of lives. Notice the scale and you see what you’ve done. That’s the magnitude of your mistake. 

Sunnyvale is a community that we’ve all come to know where everyone lives on the margins of mainstream society and legality. But it’s a community – in all its conflicts and farcical craziness – that’s still held together by love, and the solidarity that flows from love for each other and your community. All Julian’s actions in this latest season come ultimately from his love for his community.

Sunnyvale is a demonstration that love is the primary motivator of human relationships and community. And when you shift the discussion to Negri’s context – writing as a critical contributor to Western political philosophy – Sunnyvale itself makes a demonstration against the long-standing presumption of humanity’s violent nature.

Negri is writing as a philosopher who’s had a base in a university throughout his life. Throughout Commonwealth, he’s in a dialogue with many legendary writers in the Western philosophical tradition, Thomas Hobbes especially.

Yeah, the lesser evil right here, Thomas. Right here.
You can think of Commonwealth as an argument against Leviathan. That earlier book was an argument that humans were inescapably weak, paranoid, and prone to violence against each other. Peace and productivity needed us to cede our freedom to a central authority, who could inspire in us enough fear not to kill and steal from each other.

The repression and terror that a state government can inflict on people is, if you follow the ideas of Hobbes, which are entirely mainstream in Western philosophy, actually a lesser evil. The greater evil that government repression blocks is the anarchic, chaotic “war of all against all” that comes from people being totally free.

Even the modern libertarian idea – which is now mainstream in North American political thinking – is no real solution. It still presumes humanity to be essentially egoistic, cruel, and violent. It just says that permitting that violence is the lesser evil compared to state repression. That’s no solution, though. 

The solution is – brick by brick, person by person – to build a society from our own networked organizing that is actually based on love. Companionship and friendship spreading all over the world through our communication networks. 

This is the heart of the Sunnyvale project. How can people – with all their conflicting desires and personalities – succeed in building a society based on love? Because so much mistrust and traditions of suspicion stand in the way. . . . To be continued

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