[SC] In Defence of Cultural Production

Jacob Barnet’s 31 August Sagamorial Consideration discussed the creation of a new politic called “Matter Realism,” based off of the broader political theories of Realism and Philia. The politic envisions a Sandus which will encourage the creation of physical elements of the State of Sandus. His concern lies primarily with material production and characterises micronations today as “shells of diplomacy with, if we are lucky, a cultural filling.” In his own words, Matter Realism seeks “to create the genuine material condition of nationhood: production.” Though in private Barnet has informed me that this politic does not include cultural or academic production, the text of his Consideration does not preclude those forms of production, invoking material production and “its overlap with more abstract forms of production (such as cultural or intellectual production).” In other words, Barnet is reluctant to include cultural and intellectual production in his new Sandum politic.

Barnet’s suggestion that Sandus refocus its efforts on material production are admirable, but show a decisive break from Sandum policy established at the last CPS Party Congress in November 2015. At that Party Congress, it was decided to scale back Sandus’s economic policies in favour of a restoration of our cultural policies. At the conclusion of the 2015 Economic Goal, Sandus had laid the groundwork for building an economy in the future, without any decisive deadline or timeline. Barnet’s policy encourages us to reconsider the Party’s decision of November 2015.

We should indeed reconsider our policies. There is something Sandum about the self-criticism which we exercise on our own policies and political decisions. In fact, our political system has long been created to encourage dissent and analytical self-criticism. Since the foundation of the State of Sandus in April 2011, every citizen has had the right to petition the government to reevaluate its decisions and its policies: this has translated into a more thoughtful and analytical form of government, from all constitutional organs.

I feel that I must, however, defend our decision reached at that time — and to exercise the soft spot in Barnet’s Matter Realist politic: cultural and intellectual production. This decision was made in November 2015 because those sorts of production in cultural and in academic knowledge by Sandum citizens had stalled by that time. Few treatises had been published in that time, from 2013 to 2015, before the Party decided to reaffirm our intellectual and cultural roots as a micronational project. The Armilustrium, which we hold as our most sacred cultural holiday, was moved in 2015 from the date of its celebration, 19 October. To this day, we markedly celebrate fewer of our holidays in the name of Sandus — though this is slowly changing.

Cultural and intellectual production is historically valued in Sandus, and Barnet — our former closest friend and ally and now a revered comrade citizen — knows this. Of many micronations, Sandus stands in the vanguard as astutely gregarious in its efforts to discuss and to construct Sandum culture through dialectical and didactic means. Many, if not all, of our citizens approve of these methods and of these ends, encourage them, and even use them in labouring to improve Sandus and its weal. This is not just a matter of egotistical self-reflection, to fill us with haughty pride, but it is a matter of public welfare. Barnet conceived material production as the cornerstone of nationhood (paragraphs 3-5), but rather I would argue that a nation — as a sociological and anthropological construct — often is intangible and immaterial. In other words, a nation is conceived more in the intangible and immaterial culture and academic constructs of a people, less so in its material culture. That is not to say that material culture does not show an indication of nationhood, but that is more in the anthropological and archaeological symbolism of that material culture and less so than in the literal and tangible material produced. Consider, for example, the pignae d’esti, an established Sandum material symbol. Furthermore, our citizens enjoy this cultural and intellectual form of production of knowledge in the Foucauldian sense: it consistently and tangibly improves their welfare and their affect. Rather than making Sandus a diplomatic “shell” with some cultural fluff, as Barnet seems to suggest, this work has improved the gross national happiness of Sandus.

This does not mean that I disagree with Matter Realism or with its implementation. I intend to do my part as an ardent worker of both Tellus and Erganê and as a loyal member of the Citizens’ Party of Sandus under this new politic. I encourage Barnet to introduce it formally at the Citizens’ Party of Sandus’s 2016 Party Congress, and to work with and even to antagonise Party Secretary Adam von Friedeck to incorporate it into the Party’s unwritten platform. But I disagree that it should come at the expense of, in opposition to, or as tacit dismissal of Sandus’s policies for cultural production. Rather, I believe both should be encouraged — even if I partially believe cultural production should be encouraged more.

This should spur an interesting dialectical discourse over the focus of the Sandum Nation-State. I look forward to a response from Barnet and also to other considerations from other Sandum citizens.

C. Soergel Publicola