Monday, September 4, 2017

The struggle is fractal

I came to think about fractal cultural forms when thinking about patron-client relations in Lebanon. Indeed I was thinking it before I came across the word fractal, while reading Marilyn Strathern, to refer to it. 
My  thinking about Lebanese patron-client relations was this. If class systems divided society between capitalist class and a working class. Clientelism did not divide Lebanese society between a class of Patrons and a class of clients. It was more that every client often was himself (mostly a he, but not exclusively) a patron to another layer of clients. As importantly, culturally, every client aspired to be a Patron of a network of. This was a crucial aspects of Lebanese Diasporic culture for me: so many migrants leave Lebanon cursing its clientelism and celebrating, if they are based in the west, the 'rights'-based access to social services etc... of their society of settlement, but no sooner do they accumulate some wealth that they begin to act, almost instinctively, at establishing a network of clients. It helps that 'right' based societies are nowhere near as right based as they appear and that there are always cracks and room for a lot of clientelism within them. Immigrants who have accumulated a certain amount of wealth often find themselves a niche in those cracks. But these immigrants also go back to Lebanon and use their wealth to establish new clientelism networks. Clientelism in this sense is a bit of generalised cultural disposition. You don't fight it by simply fighting against a delineated clientelist class. In this struggle every national space has room for clientelism. Indeed every scale and every dimension is infused with some form or another of clientelism that one needs to struggle against. Clientelism is a national and an international phenomenon, it is a social and a personal formation. It is that makes anti-clientelism a fractal struggle.

I think many of our struggles today are fractal in this sense: one has to fight them in all spaces, and at all scales including within oneself. Anti-racism, anti-colonialism even anti-patriarchy. The feminist 'the personal is political', and the 68-ish slogan 'the change begins with you', seem all to denote an awareness of this fractal nature. And that in the struggle against racism one has to fight the way one has oneself internalised racist formations and the way they exist within us is acknowledged in all the classical writing beginning with Du Bois and Fanon.