Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.
Recently, I came across a brief discussion of a subject in a short piece which immediately brought to mind a line from George Orwell’s dystopian science fiction classic, Nineteen Eighty Four.
The piece was entitled “The Enlightenment”, written by Couze Venn, Professor of Cultural Theory at Nottingham Trent University, UK, and appeared in the journal Theory Culture Society 23 (2006), pp.477-486.
The subject was derivatives, “financial products” (sic) that have “quickly become by far the most important element of finance capitalism.” In fact, this ‘trade’ (sic) “in its various forms has expanded to become the biggest business in the world.” (p.483)
The line from Orwell was “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
According to Venn,
The derivatives market concerns trading on the stock exchange centred on the predicted future values of assets; it is thus a trade in virtual assets, ultimately based on nothing but financial and information technologies that combine probabilistic knowledge and calculations with computer simulations of the future. The derivatives market generates value out of the future as resource. (p.483)
Venn further states that derivatives involve betting on uncertainty and that trading (sic) on the futures market involves a “complex practice of gambling” (p.483). It might be argued that the derivatives markets constitutes the most direct manifestation of what theorist of international political economy (IPE), Susan Strange, referred to as “Casino Capitalism.”
However, it was the following observations of Venn that I found to be particularly disturbing and which prompted the recall of the line from Orwell:
My point is not about this virtual world of finance that informational technology has produced. It is about the fact that it is time itself which is being traded, and the extent to which the drive to minimise the risks involved means the abolition of the future as emergence and as indeterminate becoming [i.e. as something that is genuinely open to creative endeavour]. Basically, with the derivatives market, capital is obliged to organise the present in such a way as to ensure the future conforms to what has already been predicted by the probabilistic calculations. In order to ensure the future happens more or less as anticipated, capital must abolish contingency even as it plays with it, and it must bring everything within the order of the orderable and the calculable [i.e. what German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger referred to in The Question Concerning technology (1977) as Das Ge-stell (“The Enframing”)]…
The future thus becomes an extension of the present, and the present an intensification of the future. Capital controls the present by controlling the future.
[I]t is time itself which is being colonised. (p.483)
These remarks made me think about the line from Orwell which could be rearranged as follows: “Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future.”
I find Orwell’s observation to be invaluable as an insight into the way that historiography – that is, historical narrative constructed from a particular vantage point, or his-story – can be, and has been, used to maintain and expand control by a dominant or hegemonic power, most recently (and currently) by the global system of power relations that is Racism (White Supremacy).
More generally, whoever controls a discourse (narrative) in the present simultaneously controls its genealogy (past) and its teleology (future). This certainly applies to the discourse on “trade”, “finance” and “the economy”. However, it is important to appreciate that while such control may be – is – totalising, it is never total; domination or hegemony can always be – always is – contested. As Venn states,
Risk continues to haunt capital in the form of the indeterminate and the event – not only natural disasters, climate change, corporate crashes, but also the fact that the ‘natives’ get restless and think of resistance…
Capital deals with the uncanny spectrality of the event by killing: the future-as-difference, and anything and anyone who introduces and resists calculation and informationalisation. (p.483)
The economic sub-system of the global system of White Supremacy (Racism) known as finance capitalism [=RIBA-nomics] has evolved / adapted / mutated / refined itself into the global derivatives market. Thus, the practice of interest/usury (a manifestation of RIBA), which The Qur’an [=The Proclamation of God/Allah to human beings] has described as entailing war (harb) with God/Allah and His Messenger, has been compounded with the practice of gambling (maysir), both of which have been identified and condemned in The Qur’an as associated with the shay’th’aanic [=aggressively alienating and alienated] personality type.
RIBA-nomics/finance capitalism is a war with God/Allah. However, the emergence of the financial derivatives market signals an escalation in this war and that the stakes are higher than ever before. As Venn states, “abolition of the future as difference eliminates the possibility of alternatives [i.e. alternative futures].” (p.484)
According to Islamic counter-racism, there is an alternative to Racism (White Supremacy) that can be achieved in this world that is worth struggling – even dying – for and that is justice, a condition in which no person is mistreated and the person who needs help the most gets the most help.
The colonisation of the future is (yet) an(other) attempt by the coloniser – the Racist (White Supremacist) – to prevent such a possible future becoming a present reality.