Residential life, political life, and zombies: a very serious article

By Michael Freedman

Patriarchy, White Gaze, Capitalism, and Macalester Residential Life: what do these four things have in common? Up until last Friday my answer would have been “nothing” – three seem to be elements of ideology that serve to normalize domination and construct reality in such a way as to make oppression a structural necessity of a system of false consciousness, and the fourth is the wing of the Mac administration that keeps the dorms clean. However, an article in last week’s Mac weekly opened my eyes to how I was thinking in the exact way the system wanted me to think, in much the same way that Keanu Reaves had his eyes opened to how he was thinking like the system wanted him to think in the greatest sci-fi movie of our generation….the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. This article showed me that the four things listed above are actually four sides of the same poorly minted coin. I write here today to offer but a single criticism, that the conclusion of said article did not go far enough.A quick review of the author’s argument: they cite an instance in which their friend was caught smoking Salvia in the dorms, and was promptly launched into the Res Life project of reeducation (therapy) meant to turn her back into a happy brainless subject of the Brian Rosenberg panopticon, or as I like to call it the BROPTICON. They go on to explain that Res Life, rather than facilitating autonomous spaces for the realization of Salvia smoking Ubermenschs, is only interested in “enforcing the daily cooperation of students who will begin to adhere to their standards and thus self discipline”.

The link to Hegemony is then made clear. In the exact same way capitalism functions as a tool to not only oppress the masses by force, but to construct their reality in such a way as to make them complacent in the oppressive system, Res Life is not content to only oppress us by force but to construct our reality so they don’t have to. Towards the end of the piece (indeed the manifesto) the authors sight French thinker and avid wakeboarding enthusiast Michel Foucault. The quote, which in no way was taken out of context, reads “Thus discipline produces practiced bodies, docile bodies”, thus summing up the authors argument.

My criticism is then that the authors chose to end their investigation there, ultimately failing to take their realization to its logical conclusion. Italian thinker (and occasional doer) Giorgio Agamben extends Foucault’s conception of biopower and panoptic society in a fashion that I believe is applicable to the hegemonic hegemony of Res Life. Agamben explains that the purposes of sovereign truths (like salvia is bad) are to show subjects (us) the way to the “good life”. In enacting these truths and engraining them in the minds of the subjects through self-discipline, the sovereign (Res Life) creates two categories for civil (Dorm!!!) life, two relationships with the power of the state (Minnesota?). There is bios (political life) who represent those who think in the manner the society deems necessary and zeo (biological life) representing those who have not been indoctrinated, those who may be alive but do not conform to the necessary ideological structures required for political life within the community. Thus those who do not conform to the sovereign truths, those who smoke weed and drink on the weekends, exist in a relationship to the law solely by being outside of it, they exist as raw biological specimens devoid of political inclusion within the life of civil society.

Agemben analyzes these structures and concludes that those bodies that fail to fall into the terms of self-discipline expressed by the authors of the previous article are rendered fully disposable Homo Socer, life that lacks value and can be eliminated by the sovereign at any time. This has been the starting point for every government atrocity ever, like Guantanamo Bay or the FCC not letting me say piss on the radio. Indeed, as long as Res Life hegemony is allowed to continue, value to life at Macalester College can be possessed only by those who live off campus and maybe in GCA. The rest of us are rendered as nothing more than walking corpses that can be terminated at any time. After all, like the authors of the previous article stated, “that’s how hegemony works”.

Besides the genocidal implications of the Res Life political structure, I think is important to highlight the politically more pressing point. As stated above, those without value to life, aka everyone in dorms, are nothing more than walking corpses to be disposed of by the sovereign. And indeed what are walking corpses but zombies. So there you have it folks, Macalester is home to a population of at least 1200 zombies, and now that they have been exposed they will probably begin their gruesome campaign to eat everyone’s brain (not so vegan now are you). So I say this to you, the off campus living of the greater Macalester-Groveland community, run and hide and arm yourselves lest you be transformed by the far reaching (bio)power of the Mac Res life Hegemonic Hegemony. Transformed into mindless living dead. And as you spread the tale of warning of the supernatural events that happened here in the Macalester BROPTICON, where a group of global minded college students were discovered to be mindless zombie. Tell our stories, tell the world.

Michael Freedman ’11 can be reached at [email protected]