Friday, December 19, 2014

necropolitics: subjectivity and the material destruction of human bodies and populations as the sovereign political project


theatlantic |  On December 5, 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed Stephen Hess to the position of National Chairman of the White House Conference for Children and Youth. Hess's task was to "listen well to the voices of young Americans -- in the universities, on the farms, the assembly lines, the street corners," in the hopes of uncovering their opinions on America's domestic and international affairs. After two years of intensive planning, Hess and 1,486 delegates from across the country met in Estes Park, Colorado, and, from April 18 to 22, 1971, discussed ten areas that most concerned the youth of America. These issues included, not surprisingly, the draft and the war in Vietnam, the economy and employment, education, the environment, poverty, and, most notably for Points readers, drugs.

The task force on drugs, composed of eight youths and four adults, forcefully argued for addressing the root causes of drug abuse, advocating therapy for addicts rather than incarceration or punishment. "We acknowledge that drug abuse is largely a symptom of the individual's inability to cope with his immediate personal environment," they conceded. "However, it must be understood that deep societal ills increase the individual's sense of personal alienation. Specifically, our society has permitted the perpetuation of the Indochina War, of institutional and personal racism, of the pollution of our environment, and of the urban crises.... If the administration is sincere in its concern with drug abuse, it must deal aggressively with the root causes as well as implement the recommendations contained herein."

At this point, it might have been easier if Nixon had just told his Conference delegates that they couldn't have their "root causes" cake (even with its concessionary 'individual inability to cope' icing) and eat it too: There was only so much federal funding to go around. Just three months after the Youth Conference met, Nixon launched a drug war that framed drug users not as alienated youths whose addiction was caused by inhabiting a fundamentally inequitable society, but as criminals attacking the moral fiber of the nation, people who deserved only incarceration and punishment.

1 comments:

BigDonOne said...

Nice headline..."Material destruction of...human populations as the sovereign political project..." Fuzzlimz invading Australia as far as the eye can see (followed closely by America...??)

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