“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Politics of Mic Check

What a genius invention! Is any one person responsible for this phrase? It's used in Occupy to gather people's hearing.

It's phatic: that is it's a communication that draws attention to its physical dimension. Not to a content. Or to an addressee. Or to the addresser. Or a metalanguage. Or to itself. In other words it's part of ecological poetics (I go through that in Ecology without Nature).

It also sums up the object-oriented politics of Occupy. It's not "about" something, it directly IS that something. Here, there is, givenness, Es gibt, il y a, coexistence. Hale, holy, hello, hi.

"Hi" is a word originally used to summon hunting dogs. "Hello" was exapted from hunting to be the word we say to one another on phones. It has to do with the history of phones.

"Mic check" is playing with this technological history but in a subversive way, directly. I like that it isn't "hey" or "hi" or some other hailing of a subordinate animal in a hunt. Or for that matter a Heil to a great leader.

It's a check, a test. Without a subject addressing an object. Far more purely phatic. Without aggression. Fucking genius.


Tom Sparrow said...

Das EFX video for 'Mic Checka', from some years back, even references the Dow Jones...


Karen Eliot said...

Shame it's also emblematic of the will to capitulation, and spirit of civil obedience that runs through #Occupy and sets apart, if not in opposition to, Tahrir Square.

Bill Benzon said...

It's one thing when 'mic check' is about electronic gear needed to amplify a performance. It's another when, as you say, Tim, it's directly about assembled ears.

Timothy Morton said...

I think you're being pretty swift to judge there, Karen.