Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

So then, why is it important to think?

Notes on thinking, pausing, reflecting

By Marcelo Vieta

Ways of thinking saturate ways of acting. Conversely, ways of acting – practices – need to saturate critique. To think and to reform are entangled. To seek reforms – transformations of our social, material, and psychical realities – requires a type of work rooted in a certain type of critique. Such critique is immanent, rooted in our situation. It is of the moment. The revolution lies not in the future, but in the present. The present seems just fine for overthrowing the instrumental constraints that encase our lives. The possibilities for “the revolution of everyday life” are all around us. We can live in revolutionary ways if we can imagine these ways. Immanent critique is one way toward a new way life; immanent critique reconstitutes life.

Critical work is rooted in thinking that opens up potentialities heretofore unforeseen but already-always present. “Thought does exist, both beyond and before systems and edifices of discourse,” writes Foucault. This critical work makes congealed ways of thinking, doing, and living uncomfortable. Through the discomforting of old ways we see new possibilities, new realities, new hope. To think therefore is dangerous. It leads to the catastrophe of enclosed ways of life. We cannot afford to avoid this danger:

But where danger is, grows
The saving power, also (Holderlin)

Thinking as a critical type of work draws attention to the immiseration of cognitive life within the social, cultural, and political enclosures that surround us. But our over-commodified life of accumulation-at-all-cost denies us clearings for contemplation. The conquest of our psychical life – of our very consciousness – is the most worrisome effect of our current truth games. To begin to practice ways of thinking that reveal openings out of the enclosures of congealed truth and constituted power first requires us to, perhaps paradoxically, begin with thoughtful tasks that draw attention to the serious lack of mental and social spaces that we have for just thinking. But to think through the “why” and the “how” of our enclosed modes of thought in order to get to the “what if” of the different worlds that lie beyond our status quos requires us first to slow down, to pause, to stop. Thus, pausing and thinking are acts of resistance in themselves. They are the first revolutionary practices that we can engage with. They begin to reveal the very enclosures that corral alternatives and they open us up to the potentialities that rest just on the other side of the given.

To do this type of thinking individuals and collectives need spaces and moments for pausing. We need moments of personal and communal solitude from the tyranny of constituted power and its forms of containment ideologically rooted in the will-to-speed, the will-to-progress, and the will-to-busyness. We need breathing room to contemplate the ways to refuse the wilfulness to dominate our world. We need breathing room to pause and reflect on constituted power. We need to find spaces away from the hullabaloo to think through how to act to reform. The practices of seeking out these breathing spaces can put us well on our way towards realizing social transformation.

The cousin cults of speed and work are the enemy of contemplation. They blind us from ever discovering the spaces and moments for pausing. They muffle revolutionary thought. Without moments for contemplation we remain paralyzed; alternatives to these cults close themselves off.

The speed of capitalist life distracts us from recognizing that we are victims to its incessant seductions. The wisest among us – and sages still do exist; we encounter them every day – realize this and find moments for careful, unencumbered, unregulated thought. Recall, for example, Foucault’s practice of finding moments for “pause and reformulation” every now and then . Now more than ever we need clearings for pausing and reformulating – physical clearings, clearings of the mind, clearings for gathering together as collectives of thinkers, clearings that allow for new openings, new experiences, new joys. Clearings that reveal the new dimensions of our becomings. Clearings to express new potentialities. We need new vantage points from which to cast new visions untethered by the cult of speed, the cult of work, and the commodification of life.

Throughout the world, more and more of us are pausing, reflecting, and seeking out clearings for contemplation in order to think through how to act on the revelations for civilazational change that come from these pauses. Think of the new worlds being created daily by the newest social movements – the Zapatistas, the Italian and French movements against precarity, the landless peasant movements of South America, guerrilla gardeners, the protagonists of the recovered enterprises movement of Argentina, India’s ecological movements. Today, in Canada, neighbourhood food coops abound, cooperative housing programs are taking flight. Today, local decision making initiatives are changing peoples’ lives for the better every second somewhere around the globe. Today, more and more of us are opting out of the rat race and living more frugally, ethically, holistically. Those of us that are taking time to act in these ways are ensconced in creative thought practices. We are inventors of spaces for breathing. We think within and we create alternative spaces for community gatherings and individual contemplation outside of the enclosures of private property, the marketplace, and the profit motive. And not surprisingly we are, in the process of this thoughtful inventiveness, discovering life-affirming ways of unleashing new possibilities – more humane possibilities – for engaging with the world...for creating new worlds.

These are some of the reasons why it is so important for us to think.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Remembering the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the last "dictadura" in Argentina

My family arrived in Canada from Argentina on Mar. 22, 1975. My family had been out of Argentina for exactly a year before the beginning of "El proceso" and "la dictadura" of 1976-1983. By early 1975, things were already looking grim in Argentina: Isabela Peron's government was crumbling, the economy was sputtering out of control, the unions were restless, and terroristic acts by both the government backed triple "A" and urban and rural guerillas were a regular occurance. With this instability as the backgrop, the military took over the reigns of government on Mar 24, 1976 with the pretense of re-establishing order in Argentina. They called their coup d'etat simply "El Proceso de Reorganización Nacional". The ensuing 7 years of "el proceso" would be amongst the bloodiest in Argentine history.

My mom and I returned to Argentina for a 6 month visit after having been in Canada for a year. When did we arrive? Mar. 26, 1976, two days after the coup. I was a day shy of my 6th birthday and the images of soldiers and tanks greeting us at the airport and their presence throughout the city was both frightening and fascinating to me. Little did we know that the ensuing 7 years would be amongst the bloodiest in Argentine history, with over 30,000 people perishing as a result of the military government's CIA-backed national "cleansing" of "subversives", activists, leftist intellectuals, union organizers, and workers. Like AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, most Argentine's who lived during that time know someone who was affected by the genocide. For eg., my aunt's cousin was a liberation theology priest and activist with the poor who was tortured for 3 days by the dictatorship's thugs but was miraculously spared. And the son of a neighbour of ours in Quilmes who ran a laundromat/dry cleaning store disappeared in the night in the early years of the dictatorship and has never been heard from again. The 7 years of terror that also marks the beginning of the doomed contemporary neoliberal experiment in Argentina has left a lasting scar on the country that is still very present in its national psyche. I'll definitely be attending this memorial event on March 24, 2006 in Toronto:


1. Invitation: 30th anniversary of Argentine military coup

[español abajo]


March 24, 2006 is the 30th anniversary of the bloody coup d'etat in Argentina carried out by the military junta led by General J.R. Videla.

This event allowed the armed forces to launch a strategy of repression of social activists without precedent in the modern history of the country. The persecution and extermination of those opposed to the regime was complemented with the implementation of neoliberal social and economic policies that dismantled the productive, cultural and educational system of the country, changing it forever. Without a doubt, the Argentinian crisis of 2001 has its roots in this military coup.

A group of people interested in recovering the historical memory of what occurred during the dictatorship of 1976-1983 has decided to organize a series of events in Toronto to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the coup. Activities will include a film series, round-table discussions, artistic exhibits and a music concert.

We would like to invite all those who are interested in contributing ideas or resources for these events to contact the organizing committee at

The 30th Anniversary Commission's next general meeting will be on Friday, January 13, 2006 at 7:00-8:30pm in room 7-162, OISE (252 Bloor St. W.)


The 30th Anniversary Commission:
Florencia Esteverena, Jorge Garcia-Orgales, Jorge Ginieniewicz, Susana Lancelle, Paulina Maciulis, Marta Marin, Juan Miranda, Susana Munarriz, Jose M. Novielo, Ana Laura Pauchulo, Fernando Rouaux, Daniel Schugurensky, Maria del Carmen Sillato, Shana Yael Shubs, Adriana Spahr, Enrique Tabak and Griselda Veiga.


Amigos y Amigas,

El 24 de marzo de 2006 se cumplirán 30 años del sangriento golpe de estado ejecutado por la junta militar que encabezara el general J. R.Videla en Argentina.

Tal evento permitió a las fuerzas armadas lanzar una estrategia de represión a militantes populares sin parangón en la historia moderna del país. La persecución y exterminio de opositores al régimen se complementó con la implementación de políticas económicas y sociales neoliberales que desmantelaron el aparato productivo, cultural y educativo del país, alterándolo para siempre. La crisis sufrida por Argentina en el año 2001 tiene sin duda raíces en ese golpe militar.

Un grupo de personas interesadas en recuperar la memoria histórica de lo acontecido durante la dictadura de 1976 - 1983 hemos decidido organizar una serie de eventos en Toronto coincidiendo con el 30 aniversario de aquel golpe. Las actividades a desarrollar incluyen un ciclo de cine, mesas redondas, exhibiciones artísticas y un concierto de música.

Queremos invitar hoy a todos los que tengan interés en contribuir ideas o recursos para dichos eventos a que contacten al grupo organizador a través de

Asimismo, les informamos que la próxima reunión general de la Comisión 30 Aniversario ha sido fijada para el Viernes 13-enero/06 a las 7:00-8:30PM en la sala 7-162 del OISE (252 Bloor St. West).


Por la Comisión 30 Aniversario
Florencia Esteverena, Jorge Garcia-Orgales, Jorge Ginieniewicz, Susana Lancelle, Paulina Maciulis, Marta Marin, Juan Miranda, Susana Munarriz, Jose M. Novielo, Ana Laura Pauchulo, Fernando Rouaux, Daniel Schugurensky, Maria del Carmen Sillato, Shana Yael Shubs, Adriana Spahr, Enrique Tabak y Griselda Veiga.