Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This past September 24, in the United States, thousands of men and women went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to protest against the G20 summit, which was devoted to giving new rules to an economic system whose devastation is visible to everyone. Along with truncheons, fire-hoses and rubber bullets, the government presided over by the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner used “the Scream”, that is, LRAD—the sonic cannon for dispersing crowds used up to now only in war operations—against the demonstrators,
HAS THE MESSAGE GOTTEN THROUGH?
In Genoa Italy, in July 2001, hundreds of thousands of women and men converged from all corners of the planet to protest against the Earth’s Masters, each demonstrating their rage in the face of a social organization based on profit and privilege in their own way. The reaction of the state, the Italian state in this instance, was unforgettable: indiscriminate butchery. The demonstrators were beaten bloody in the streets and tortured in the barracks. One of them was shot down on the street in front of the whole world. This past October 7, the Italian justice system absolved the police chief and others responsible for the bloodbath. Two days later, on October 9, the same Italian justice system sentenced ten demonstrators to punishments ranging from six to fifteen years in prison. The state’s lackey’s who break bones and heads are kindly protected; free individuals who break windows are harshly punished.
HAS THE MESSAGE GOTTEN THROUGH?
This past October 8, in Athens, Greece, the newly elected leftist government ordered a huge raid in the Exarchia neighborhood, which led to the detention of more than eighty people. Exarchia was the initial hotbed of the generalized uprising that broke out last December following the murder of a young student by the police. For some weeks, fires of rage burned throughout Greece, heating up many spirits chilled by the social winter. The first thought of the new leftist government has been to strike at the heart of revolt, launching four hundred officers against it.
HAS THE MESSAGE GOTTEN THROUGH?
Yes, it has gotten through. Pittsburgh is like Fallujah, Genoa is on the way to Abu Ghraib, Athens is near to Gaza. There is no elsewhere in the one-way world of authority and merchandise. In less than a month, the state sent out its warning several times, clear and unequivocal: order must reign undisturbed; whoever dares to challenge it will be suppressed without mercy.
During the Vietnam war, one of the favorite slogans of the anti-militarist movement was Bring the War Home. Besides being a parody of the more pacifistic “Bring the boys home”, it also had a precise meaning: the war overseas had divided the country to the point that the moment had come to trigger off a war at home. Today, the institutions have brought the war home. The streets are filling with soldiers, divided between patrols and road blocks.
If we don’t want to remain victims or become accomplices of this war of extermination of every form of freedom, the only thing left to us is to take up the challenge.
ABANDONING FOREVER THE DAYS OF POLITICS IN ORDER TO BEGIN THE DAYS OF RAGE
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The Buddha told him, "Silence, you skinflint!"
The dog went to lie down in a corner, all trembling, as if he had been beaten.
When Sudatta got back and saw his dog in such a sad state, he asked who had reduced him to this condition. The residents of the house answered:
"The Buddha, treating him like a skinflint."
Enraged, Sudatta went to demand an explanation from the Buddha.
"First of all, why did you treat him like a skinflint?"
"I merely spoke the truth. That animal is your deceased father. Born as a dog in his new life as punishment for his avarice, he continues to keep an eye on his goods. Force him to show you the treasure he has hidden from everyone, even you."
Sudatta returned home and scolded the dog.
"Since you were my father in your previous existence, everything that belonged to you now belongs to me. Let's go, show me the treasure that you kept hidden from me."
The dog slid under the divan and began to scratch the ground. Sudatta began digging at the spot and brought out a great treasure.
Putting his trust now in the Buddha, he asked him to teach him about actions and sanctions. And, among other things, the Buddha told him: "What happens to everyone is inevitably what he chooses. Will causes action, but action causes sanction, against which willing is no use.
"Poverty is the punishment of the rich.
"The dog's life is the punishment of the rich who think of nothing but being rich.
"Respect your dog of a father. Otherwise, in a future life, you will be dogfood."
Monday, October 5, 2009
On the Internet in the spring of 2000, the first disinformation campaign aimed at giving credence to the idea of religious racism in Europe was developed. It made a strong contribution to the about-face of some left and ultra-left militants. These militants didn’t hesitate in renouncing a project, a thought and a language rooted in three centuries of revolutionary battle. The refusal of their history in the name of anti-colonialism is only explained by the abandonment of the anti-clerical universalism of this history. They no longer defend a cause with conviction as masters of their choice, but rather defend the cause that others have chosen for them. Why should they raise doubts, in an unusual manner, about the reasons for their solidarity? Has this world truly changed? Aren’t the forms of domination the same everywhere? Hasn’t capitalism been a pure, unchanging negativity for some time now? Mincing in their certitudes, they judge their moral rectitude to be incontestable. Like in the Victorian era, they have their poor, and they have found the truly guilty once and for all. They even judge those whose critiques don’t spare the social, cultural and religious practices of the victims that these militants claim to defend unfailingly to be suspect or reactionary. How could they admit that their systematic support facilitates the very specific interests of certain victims who aspire to become new masters? In the final analysis, what must be understood is the way that the language of these militants has been falsified to the point where they confuse the anti-clerical and the religious; why, for example, have they been born along from support of the Palestinian cause to defense of Muslim associations, going from the denunciation of racist aggression and police violence in urban ghettoes to the denunciation of anti-muslim racism?
In the name of an “ethnic redefinition of culture”, relativism has become a conceptual jumble that allows any question of the integralist tendency of religion or any specific critique of the fate reserved for women in the urban ghettoes, to be described as racist. In an upside-down world, the critique of religion is no longer a prelude to every critique; it is downright hostile to it. The effects of such a theoretical shift can be measured by the wretched reflections of a leftist, post-feminist writer: “When the economic level is right and social mixture is assured, no threat – real or imagined – comes to bear; religions are respected and assume the most inoffensive form, coming back by themselves to the doghouse.” It isn’t easy to specify which is the most dismaying aspect of such a statement: the bad faith, the idiocy or the flagrant absence of historical memory. In this so very natural way of hastily repeating the worst counter-truths, one recognizes the effectiveness of those who have all the time in the world to think them up and spread them. Seeing the excellence of the result, one might fear that, from now on, religious integralism1 has all the means for transforming society, on the basis of its advantage. Analyzing religion in terms of cultural relativism and a post-modern ideology of diversity denying that the natural tendency of every religion is integralism renders religion and its foreseeable consequences unassailable.
The struggle for freedom has always been carried out against religion, against its self-evident desire to control society and impose its ways and customs with violence. In Europe, it was through merciless struggle that religion was put aside in the sphere of private life; that the freedom of blasphemy was able to prefigure the refusal of any censorship; that the opposition to the religious fetish preceded the attack against commodity fetishism. The democratic simulacrum that is the supposed improvement of the standard of living doesn’t get rid of the religious question at all, and the example of the United States provides evidence of this every day. So-called “secular society” has no reason to renegotiate the separation that it has imposed between church and state, nor to dialogue with religions in the name of religion. Defending the excluded by identifying ourselves in a centrally totalitarian religion is subjecting society to an attack with fatal consequences: its dissolution.
In the name of the right to difference, of parity between all cultures, all critique of religion gets transformed into a racist crime. It has gone so far as to equate the refusal of the Islamic veil to xenophobia or colonial nostalgia., not to the critique of a religion that oppresses women. One can measure the expected effects by the surprising declarations of some post-feminists for whom “the ease with which European women make love from the first encounter can attack women of other cultures for whom the gift of their body is a spiritual and irreversible experience.” This sudden cultural tolerance in fact implies a cultural vassalage and a condemnation for the fault of sexual freedom that would thus no longer be a universal conquest. It teaches us about a certain basic ambiguity regarding the religious question. The depreciation of atheist positions prepares the terrain for a high-pressure return to moral values, through an opportune media overkill.
When blasphemy takes on the pope, it is thought of as an “obsolete practice”, whereas when it attacks the prophet of Islam , it becomes colonial aggression. Here we see how, through a sort of “deconstruction of discourse”, north African and black African immigrants, including youths and new-born babies, get reduced to their mere religious origins. It is necessary to convince them that their history and their culture are summed up in the passive role as victim of the colonial European past. In this way, they are bullied into becoming one of the faithful and submitting to a Muslim nation that doesn’t exist anywhere, but that imposes its freedom-killing project everywhere. Their only “positive” existence passes through religion. They are kept away from any anti-Islamic culture2 within the Islamic world, since recognizing the existence of such a thing would imply that Europe didn’t have a monopoly on Enlightenment.
For the defenders of political Islam, the attack carried out against Houelleberq’s novel, Platform (he is reproached because one of his characters describes Islam as the stupidest religion in the world) has been the beginning of a campaign that is always in its preliminary stages, aimed mainly at transforming the freedom of blasphemy into a racial crime and preparing public opinion for a new surprise attack. As the signal of an early victory, the media would speak from that time on of anti-Moslem racism. The Houellebecq trial was followed by the affair of the Danish cartoons, coming in to remind the most skeptical of what is really at stake in this semantic war. The other monotheistic religions have clearly understood where their interests lie and have aligned themselves with the Moslems.
In less cowardly times, Luis Buñuel filmed a Christ who survived a bloody orgy of 120 days and the execution of a pope; Benjamin Peret spit on priests; Spanish acratics3 distributed a flyer in the midst of the church and throughout Franco’s dictatorship that proclaimed: Christ is in the shit!
Like Salman Rushdie, Taslim Nasreen rightly observes that the condemnation of religious ideology restores to the men and women that this ideology alienates their status, no longer as believers, but as human beings. Defending this point of view today means risking a fatwa, as in other times it meant the Inquisition’s executioners. In a world where people speak more and more commonly about the Christian West, where politicians lay claim to secularity to preserve, if not strengthen , the privileges of Christianity, the humanitarian and revolutionary message can still be heard in the clear identification of its two enemies: capitalism and religion (two forms of the same fetish?) Can one still assert the struggle of those who still consider atheistic thought as one of the forms of the battle for liberation; who hope that the cult of man replaces that of heaven; who curse the cassock because it teaches submission, maintains superstition and favors exploitation? Yes, the histories of Islam and of Christianity are made of cruel and misogynist practices; and yes, the fight against religion is a fight for freedom and not the expression of a colonialist desire to impose the model of the white man everywhere.
The last few generations have underestimated the return of the religious. In their opinion, from the beginning of the 20th century, the religious question was obsolete and its critique, having become out-dated, served no purpose. Not only was the Islamic influence underestimated, but people often felt a sense of guilt that they could not cast off or understand where it came from. This blindness resembles that of the “moral” left. To avoid making the repressive play of the right and being accused of xenophobia, i.e., racism, one adopts a position of principle favorable to immigrants and urban youth by refusing to analyze the religious subordination of many of them. While violence against immigrant is inexcusable, this does not at all justify the humiliating religious vassalage of women that is far too often present in their lives.
The “moral” left can be recognized by its lack of historical culture. What it confronts always seems new. It is convinced that the presence of believers in leftist and ultra-leftist organizations is a recent phenomenon, specifically linked to the development of Islam in France. A superficial study of the organizational practices of proletarian movement of the second half of the 19th century prove otherwise.
In Spain, the militants of the founding cells of the International Workers’ Association had to convince and organize workers and peasants whose daily life was blindly submitted to the dogmas of the violently reactionary Catholic church. These militants, noting that religious obscurantism was universal, radically cut to the heart of the problem by prohibiting any religious manifestations in the proletarian organizations and transforming this ban into a daily critique of religious alienation in social life and state organizations.
Their developmental strategy was ruled by a cultural and educational practice that, alone, might liberate the people from superstition.
It’s difficult to imagine militants of the AIT participating in meetings where militants of Islamic organizations could defend Koranic dogma. It is difficult to imagine them presenting petitions and preparing actions together with religious associations that exclude women from social and political life. They would never put up with the lie, which has gone on too long, that there is such a thing as anti-islamic racism. In their day they would have responded in the way that we can respond today: there is such a thing as anti-Arab racism that needs to be fought, but there is no anti-Muslim racism. Islam is an ideology, and must be fought as an ideology, in the same way as capitalism, Nazism, Hinduism, Catholicism. What we have conquered through hard struggle cannot be compromised by making peace with any cult.
1 I have chosen to translate “integralismo” as “integralism” rather than “fundamentlism” in order to make it clear that the problem is not one of a literal interpretation of scriptures, but of trying to bring the whole of society under religious control, to integrate all of society into a religious body.--translator
2 For example, Qadarism in the 7th and 8th century, whose refusal of divine fatalism led to the execution of Ma’bad al-Jahuni in 699 and Ghaylan al-Dimashqi in 743 by the Caliphs; or rationalist Mutazilism in the 9th century with the famous “House of Wisdom” in Baghdad where Nestorian physicist Hunayn ibn-Ichaq (called Joannitius) translated Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Categories and Physics. Qadarism and Mutazilism were judged as heretical by orthodox Islam and condemned. In 922, the well-known mystic al-Hallaj was whipped, mutilated, hanged on the gallows, beheaded and his corpse burned.
3“Acratic” is a term that anarchists in Spain and other places have often used for themselves. It indicates that they are for acracy—no government—rather than democracy—government by the people. If only more present day anarchists would get this.--translator
Sunday, October 4, 2009
How could someone think that he had to make belated “excuses” – or even merely express “regrets” – for the passionate groping path, for the fever that had been?
For desiring only the fiery beauties and comradeships never dared – with a frightening lack of concern (never found again) on all sides in the face of all powers?
It is definitely necessary to pay for guilelessness of this caliber. We have seen reason.
But once they were dreamed, could beauties, comradeships, expenditures without calculation ever cease to be – even if we ignored the entire world in which they demanded to have a value?
Besides, how could it have gone differently with regard to knowledge and action, considering what we were in that historical instant and in that moment of our life?
A force drew us, blind as life, without fear or remorse: a possibility, a happiness, an innocence, a festival.
That loss would be expiated through leaps of this kind: and how thoughtless, empty, out of place it would be!
What we wanted so intensely, others will “want” with the same boundless passion, without having “chosen” it first. The world will be young and beautiful once again, each time authentic life abandons its old skin at the winter’s end.
This is not a prophecy. Just a statement of fact.
How could anyone go to meet such an unknown, if not with a blindfold over his eyes?
If “everyone is a Child of his times”, what sense is there at this point in “repenting” in the face of absolutely destined passions? And how do we abandon ourselves to repentance, when, contrarily, in these transits we stored up a stock of cloudless joy for so much time? – of fierceness, honor, pride, guilelessness, beauty, courage?
Should we excuse ourselves for having been happy, innocent, mad and beautiful?
Another problem is really knowing how much of our “knowledge”, our words and even our actions we had “chosen”: above all, it was an uncontainable, very youthful, vital thrust!
Presuming that then we had not recognized the fantasies that carried us away as fictions – powerful, outdated illuminations. Again: fated –, what sense would there be in not recognizing these illuminations as such? So that we can be pitifully cross with the boundless drunkenness generated by those battles?
And how will we be able to speak without sadness of any new acquisition of “knowledge”, if we had to barter for it with so much lost joy?
—Meager profit, great loss.
Not that we wouldn’t like to think of ourselves as old children.
“A form of life was experienced.” Everyone became someone else.
But at least don’t let our new life pass at the expense of slander against what we were in other times.
An injustice of this sort about the past would leave questionable contributions of expectations for future young lives.
We would teach them resignation – the worst defeat of all.
Do what you will, we will not excuse ourselves.
1. A Joy
I recall happy faces, for the most part young people, if not even just teenagers – it takes fifty years to make a man, and most of us were not yet half that age – A joy – very special because it was a historical joy, with an incomparable tone. I have searched high and low for its equal, and I don’t see it.
A discrepancy without equal, in most of the militant groups, between the event and its representation: typical, outdated, compromised, overused discourses – when not downright antithetical, clumsy, stupid, awkward, false (the “pro-Chinese” shamelessly praised Stalin, the gulags, the Moscow trials, Enver Hoxha!). The most timid unduly praised the “popular front” and the “Resistance”; in short: whatever took place in another time, through the pure inability to consider what had never taken place. The Unknown overwhelmed them from all sides, inebriated them, would have left them breathless if it hadn’t been for the old emaciated refrains: their youth, freed from the servile duty to prohibitions that had just the day before limited the possibilities in play to the usual conflicts with heavy overcoats.
3. Old Moons
The beginning of the end for the old moons that had launched pale glows into earlier skies. Retrospective statement of the obvious about a relationship (underground, but direct) between the French May and the internal collapse of the pyramid of state lies and terror that had assumed the appearance of a fatal future in the East for three or four decades. It took the living dead a quarter of a century to realize that they were living dead, but on May 13 for the first time, “the stalinist scoundrels were in the caboose”.
4. The Real End of the “Post-War Period”
The real end of the “post-war period” – After Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, the horrendous colonial wars in Indochina, Algeria, Vietnam, a deep need to look elsewhere was noticed. A certain juvenile pleasure in disorder was a way of breaking down the obstacles of the already given. Proselytes of every sort attributed the most diverse aims to the movement. Everyone brought their demands to that flow. The movement welcomed them all. But the unique tone that was its own did not depend on demands. A fact that may be hard to understand: aware of what it no longer wanted, that May did not have a precise idea of its future and perhaps had no need for one. It went to meet the unknown with a lack of concern never seen in analogous events.
5. A Young Life Awakening
The vital poem of life that awakens. Any poetry other than that of living life would have caused a shrug of the shoulders. Nietzsche: “I am not always sad. I don’t always have ideas.”
6. Return of the Repressed
The return of the repressed, of all the “madnesses of freedom” – from Saint-Just to Rimbaud, passing through Mallarme and Sade, the surrealists and Dada. Far from the obsessions of all the police of thought and feeling. Holderlin, Nietzsche, Breton; and not Jdanov, Stalin, Kanapa. History substantially changed direction. At a single stroke, the prefrontal overturning of symbolic activity occurred in history. Goodbye forever, reptilian brain! Goodbye forever, brow ridges!
7. The innocence of becoming
The innocence of becoming became dangerous again. An adventurous search for a bit of authentic unknown in history. What enthusiasm in this leap. Moods and nuances are all that will be remembered of it.
8. The Impossible
Disarmingly guileless hopes were affirmed with the most tender seriousness. The linear History of yesterday, having escaped the bed into which it was channeled by ideological terror, exploded into unpredictable, distant stars, beyond the barriers. The “im-possible” seemed to be the minimum that was desirable.
9. Authorized by Oneself
The two symmetrical infamies that had terrorized the century were delegitimated together by the children of the protagonists of the preceding generation, which symmetrically lacked the means for reestablishing moral authorities discredited by so many repetitions and now without a future – The first attempt to come out from the logic of resentment in "revolutionary" movements. A new life wanted to live, which was authorized only by itself.
10. “Rather Life!”
Those whose lives then vibrated to the emotional pitch of freedom and existence will never cease to be affected by it. How could they line up for ordinary life any more – taking care in their retreat not to pay tribute to the grayness of the day. They certainly didn’t fight to get wretched “official recognition” or to go up the ladder – “Rather life!”
11. Here and now
The French May was the first revolutionary movement whose stake was not the conquest of state power. In this perhaps it prefigured the future of truly liberatory human movements: when individuals, many of them, will devote themselves to themselves. Concerned with the effective possibilities that they will have at their disposal for entering directly into the new life that they will have the strength to conceive here and now. And here they are suddenly becoming responsible.
12. Non Serviam
“Not a society of slaves without masters, but a society of masters without slaves.” No revolution despised voluntary servitude as much as the revolution of that May, and, more than this, it distanced itself from the old fatality of separating one’s life from oneself. The taste for style again found an effective use. The S.I. gave it back the brilliance it always had with cruelty and genius.
13. Many Free Human Beings
One result that statistical experts and ideologues didn’t notice: that May would restore many free human beings to themselves, human beings who would never again return to the ranks. This is no small thing. The tone of life would change. What more could one want from an effective revolution that didn’t limit itself to the expectations of slaves? – We had this.
A mutation in spirits. A potent incitamentum to experimentation with concrete freedom. This bad example given to all would go on feeding new audacities. “Do away with the heritage of May '68”, monsieur Sarkozy, is one of the most rhetorical of programs.
15. The Authentic Place
Making the economy ironic. Desecrating the political. The return of complete life as complete, not as mishap, but as possibility, since everything is starting over, with each new young life. The content of real existence – things that have place only once – considered in earnest.
16. A Single Cry: “Be beautiful!”
The end of the separation between art and life, formulated not as a “demand” that leads to a coalition of desires always frustrated at not achieving their aims, but as a sovereign practice of life as art, that suddenly gives everyone what they no longer had a way of “reclaiming” abstractly for an abstract future. The enjoyment of the present, of play, of efforts dared: superior resources of festival and joy. With this, stammerings, so many hints of beautiful moments. - A single cry: “Be beautiful!”
“Slaves, we don't curse life!”
*Latin for incitement
Saturday, October 3, 2009
It's a problem that gets talked about a lot, but whose diagnosis is terse. On the right and on the left, the verdict is the same: we live in an "unsafe climate".
Everyday the news showers us with gallons of blood gathered at the scenes of ambushes, rapes, murders. Bloody events described and filmed with a maniacal wealth of details, making horrible shivers run up our spines that are already weakened by daily genuflections.
Watching the misfortunes of others is no longer a consolation. We aren't able to heave a sigh of relief at having escaped it. It is a nightmare, because these misfortunes seem to press against the screens, so as to hurl themselves onto our living room carpets. And if one day we become the protagonists of these news broadcasts that now drip only death? Prey to terror, we begin to triple lock the door, not talking to the neighbor or going out at night any more. Panic spreads as the following certainty is generalized: lack of safety is the scourge of our times. If it is solved, the gates of paradise will open for us.
To be blunt, there is some perplexity over the real increase in violence. Facing explicit demands, the "experts" themselves are forced to recognize that there is no substantial difference in comparison to the past: the leap in statistics is the fruit of different bookkeeping criteria. But also of visibility. It works like this. The political class puts the question of safety at the center of all its interventions. Journalists, accomodating to their masters as usual, repeat the concerns of the politicians and enhance them, illustrating them with news items. There is no lack of news to report. If the stories aren't relegated to a paragraph on the fifteenth page, they will expand out of proportion until they become exemplary. All that remains to the politicians is to comment about them and the play is made: "Do you see that our concerns were more than justified, they were indisputable? There truly is a safety problem!"
Ultimately, all this ado would not have much importance if it didn't aim to spread terror among the people, pushing them to demand drastic measures from their representatives. Against whom? Why, against those petty criminals who become giants of crime as soon as they end up under the spotlight.
It goes wiothout saying that petty criminals are not exactly at the top of the list of problems that disturb our lives. Quite different problems place our survival and that of our times in danger. The planet is threatened by ecological imbalance, cuts and restructuring loom over workplaces, our houses are at the mercy of theft by the banks, our health is threatened by the poisons we eat and breathe. Our entire existence is threatened by immanent danger (no to speak of current and future wars with their unforeseeable collateral effects), whose consequences are much worse than the theft of a wallet on the bus. The inventory of possible misfortunes is so vast, our days pass so much under the sign of precariousness and misery, that it is completely crazy to think that petty criminals are the cause of the social malaise.
Well, then, why the hell is it repeated until we're dizzy that aggression waits in ambush just around the corner? Simple. Because the state can dress up as the Great Protector around which to rally and the Righter of Wrongs to whom to turn. Muggers, purse-snatchers, drug dealers, rapists or murderers--random or hardened, real or presumed, native or foreign--not being the ones responsible for environmental devastations, job losses, financial devastation, food adulteration, workplace accidents, bombings of civilians, famines that afflict the world or any other great social problem, is it necessary to reveal those who are most directly responsible for all these occurrences? The punishment of chicken thieves in the public square serves the state and its hired killers by diverting the general attention from the private foraging of the sharks. One worry drives out another--this is why the institutions spread a panic to be attributed to someone else, feeding it continuously and increasing it in every way.
As a result, the hang-up about safety provides another advantage to the political class, justifying its recourse to increasingly tougher and more severe measures demanded by the population itself, to obtain, first of all, "the certainty of punishment". (For whom? but that is another matter.) Be that as it may, a population terrorized by the possibility of having their pocket picked applauds the increase in the forces of order. A population intimidated by crimes committed by immigrants welcomes the CPTs (Centers of Temporary Residence) with relief. A population frightened by the possibility of finding that someone has broken into their house is favorable to the spreading network of surveillance, and so on. But the provisions enacted in the name of the struggle against a few petty criminals will come in handy especially against the many potential rebels. More than petty criminality, the real danger to repress is social conflict. The political exploitation of the feeling of being unsafe is a formidable force for repressive laws. the climate of terror in which we live is not the natural outcome of hateful social conditions. It has been deliberately created to slip the satisfied city dweller into an unprecedented police regime. The state identifies the problem of public safety with "microcriminality" with the aim of imposing its solution: Public Safety, i.e., the cops.
All safety measures are authentic attacks on individual freedom and couldn't be taken so lightly if there hadn't been a genuine thought police operation aimed at imposing the idea that safety is the guarantee of freedom rather than its preventive negation. So the disease and the cure have been created, reconciling safety and freedom in a firm ideological alliance. An absurd alliance, impossible between two contradictory notions, which, like water and fire, cannot remain in contact without dissolving each other.
The construction sites of safety are built on the tombs of freedom. Safety has the objective of distancing all danger, while the practice of freedom, on the contrary, entails a challenge to every danger. It's no accident that the expression "making safe" usually means the act of putting something under lock and key. The typical example is that of the wild animal snatched from the jungle to be locked in a cage. In this way, the zoo administrators assure us, the animal is rescued from the dangers of the jungle and made safe. Behind bars it will not incur the risk of being shot by hunters or torn apart by savage beasts. Well, this animal is certainly safe, but at a heavy price--its freedom. It is well-known: when one avoids danger, one doesn't live life, one barely preserves it; because only by going to meet danger does one live life in its fullness.
Thus, safety and freedom are utterly incompatible.
"The more control thare is the safer we are," say the knuckleheaded people. And then add: "Video surveillance cameras are useful because nothing can happen under their eyes." Appalling expressions, symptoms of unconditional love for big brother. But who would want to live a life subject to control where nothing happens? Only at the cost of completely clouding the mind could one happily enter into the emotional desert through which our era trudges. Freedom is self-determination, choice of any possibility, risk, a challenge to the unknown that cannot be pampered under a glass bell.
But in our times the first quality required of an "honest" person is precisely that he conduct his life in transparency. A transparent person has nothing to hide, nothing to silence in his public or private life, thus, nothing to fear from others watching him. In the name of transparency, every intrusion is justified, any will to keep a secret indicates guilt. It is curious how the private life of individuals, which was once surrounded by respect and discretion is now watched with suspicion. Through logical and rhetorical acrobatics, protecting one's secrets has been made into a shady behavior. Banishing private life, it is clear that what allows its unveiling--investigation--is consecrated as a primary value. If this is so, then the means employed for this purpose are not and cannot be questioned. A defense of wiretapping!
At first, this demand for transparency was developed to contain the abuses of those who hold power. Requiring transparency in the lives of public men, of those who have high responsibilities, has a more than understandable function. They have to answer for the way that they manage the "public thing", i.e., put in a position where they can't abuse their privileges. But the reverse demand--that common people should be transparent to the eyes of those who hold power--is more terrible than one can imagine. Under the pretext of the exchange of "information" and of mutuality in control, the foundations for totalitarianism are laid.
Already in itself, transparency at all costs has unpleasant fallout. There are areas in the human being that naturally escape every indiscreet gaze. A person's intimacy, with his sexual tastes, is one of these. There was a time when someone who was interested in the intimate life of others was accused of wallowing in rumor-mongering and looked upon with disapproval. Renamed "gossip", rumor-mongering is now considered the spice that gives flavor to otherwise insipid conversations. The dreariness of a world that has transformed private vices into public virtues.
But who stops to reflect on what the cause of this effect might be? Our houses have become caretaker's lodges*, it's true, but it is a matter of a contraindication to the shock treatment ordered against freedom of thought. To flush out this freedom that can always be protected by the secret, the whole pile gets set on fire. The demand for freedom is the eulogy that comes before the funeral of the corpse of freedom in every sphere of human life.
And rather than rebel before the firing squad, we bow our heads. We live in a society where we are all on probation, and every day we diligently go back to sign the register of resignation. Because of the uneasiness we feel in the face of absolute freedom, without limits or boundaries; because of the deafening media overkill that causes us to see enemies everywhere, spurring us to opt for the lesser eveil of social control; but also because of our coparticipation in degradation--we feel somewhat relieved. Over the past few years, televison has reassured us about the goodness of the police, federal agents and judges--heroes of numberless tv shows--but how often has it invited us to directly spy through the keyhole. So-called 'reality shows" have had the effect of making the idea of a transparent life, that unfolds before all eyes and is periodically judged, punished and rewarded, familiar and normative.
The protest against the devastation of discretion runs into a barrier that has become classic: "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from control". Astounding, cop-like reasoning, which once again uses a logical reversal to make discretion a vice and meddling a virtue. Mor and more, daily life comes to resemble a prison, where they take the fingerprints of everyone born, where you walk through numberless metal detectors, where you are observed by electronic eyes, where the presumption of innocence has given way to the presumption of guilt.
There is a further consequence of the climate of terror fed by the ideology of security. If everyone feels unsafe, it means that each represents a threat to the other. Thus, there are no victims, only the guilty and the potentially guilty. If I want to be protected from my neighbor and my neighbor wants to be protected from me, it follows that we are both potentially aggressors and it would be dangerous to grant us our freedom.
We have all become suspects for what we might do if we used our freedom. The state goes all the way with this logic and asserts its right to punish this threat even in its most innocuous manifestations--even preventatively repressing it. Earlier at least, it was maintained that the individual would become punishable by law when he put his transgressive intents into practice. Anyone could dream of killing, you just couldn't do it with impunity (unless you were dressed in a uniform, of course). Western, democratic civilizations loved to shove its superiority over other civilizations down our throats. These other civilizations were judged as obscurantist because they did not guarantee complete freedom of thought to those within them. Just lying propaganda, of course, but that at least had to disguise itself to appear true. Today, repression has rid itself of the burden of any embarrassment, , and it is obvious to all that the mere dream of transgressing, the mere deviation of thought, is enough to attract the iron fist of the judicial system. An example? The busts that periodically snap the handcuffs onto someone who has downloaded images of "child pornography" from the Internet. Ho9wever contemptible, criticizable, hateful such behavior may be, the fact remains that these people are incriminated not for having abused any minors, but for looking at photographs in the privacy of their own homes. How long until the public burning of the works of Sade? Another example on the horizon is what happened to some friends of those arrested last February 12 in relation to the investigation of the so-called "new BR" (Red Brigades). Stopped by a police patrol in the very serious act of putting up posters, they were taken in for arrest. Already the event is telling in itself, since atmost, a poster can express an idea. Furthermore, the idea expressed in these posters wasn't an incitement to armed struggle, but rather the leveling of th War on Terrorism. How long until the raids against anti-militarists and pacifists?
The individual, with her ideas, desires and impulses constitutes a threat for the social order, but also for himself and others. From this is born the climate of civil war that is spreading: nocturnal curfews, patrols by armed soldiers, roadblocks. It is as if war had been declared on an imaginary enemy, that isn't there, but that might be us. On everyone and no one. If each individual is a potential criminal and if every criminal is an enemy of the state, then a war against individuals is being carried out. Now there is a substantial difference between the concept of the criminal and the concept of the enemy. The former is recognized as part of the community. The latter is not. The enemy is not granted extenuating circumstances, his punishments are not negotiated. No pretense is made of wanting to rehabilitate her. She is destroyed. Against him, everything is allowed. Wars are police operations, and police operations are wars.
There is only one way to avoid being considered an internal enemy to eliminate. Respecting legality. But prayers to this modern idol don't protect you from dangers, except maybe that of divine wrath. In an atheist, however, a horrible doubt arises: Why should the law as such by synonymous with the good? Under nazism, the persecution of Jews was legal. The death penalty, torture as a means of extorting information, the manufacture of nuclear warheads, these are all legal in many states... The legality of an act merely denotes its conformity to what is prescribed by law, i.e., to the interests of the ruling class that is its author. It tells us nothing about the value, the meaning, the consequence of the act. The culture of legality thus leads exclusively to ignorance through obedience, which ceased to be a virtue many years ago even for priests (while continuing to be the sweet dream of tyrants).
And this isn't even the worst aspect. To catch a glimpse of the abysses toward which the exaltation of legality pushes, it is enough to ask a simple question: Why don't we cammit an act like, for example, rape? Do we reject it because we consider it a repugnant act, which goes against our ideas and feelings, or because there is an article in the legal code that prohibits and punishes it? In the first case, our motivation could be described as ethical. In the second, it is legal. Maintaining that human beings should follow state legality rather than their own individual ethic means declaring that it is impossible for an individual to establish what is right and wrong for himself. After the capitulation of free will in the face of the will of authority, the penal code becomes the conscience of a world that no longer has conscience. A world in which the human being is thought of as lacking intelligence, with dulled feelings, insensitive to suffering--a savage beast to cage, control, repress. It is the price to pay in order to keep ethics from rising up against legality.
A society that sees its members as its enemies and entrusts authority with the task of repressing their thoughts and actions, a society quick to sacrifice every freedom in exchange for a crumb of safety, a society that sees Good as obedience to the law and Bad as transgression of the law, can only end up becoming totalitarian. How else can you describe a society placed under a regime of probation by a state that is granted every weapon and every police method for dealing with every particle of a person's life? As Hannah Arendt maintained, even a democracy can be totalitarian. A totalitarian state is one that makes it a required civic duty not only to respect the law, but also to think what those laws require you to think. Put simply, the insurgents who broke bank windows in Genoa in 2001 were not the only criminals; those who "psychically participated" by not stopping or denouncing them are also criminals. This social order doesn't limit itself to repressing hostility against itself, but also indifference: loving it is a duty, and whoever doesn't carry it out is persecuted.
Unfortunately, there is a blind spot in our minds that keeps us from comparing the totalitarianism of the modern world to the kind that characterized the first half of the last century. As if the heaviness of what happened in the past certifies the lightness of what is happening in the present. As if the barbed wire that surrounded Auschwitz was of a different gauge than the wire that surrounds present-day concentration camps from Guantanamo to the Centers of Temporary Residence (CTPs). But anyone who doesn't stop in the face of the lack of gas chambers, who doesn't believe that the ruthless ness of a regime is determined by a particularly gruesome aspect, can't avoid grasping the similarity that exists between the two eras. It is enough to look around to notice the same banality of evil, and identical alienation of the individual, the same loss of the I through a combination of ideology and terror. Today a single model of life reigns from west to east, without being called into question from any side. This omnipresence is becoming its concern. As long as capitalism had an enemy, it also had a scapegoat on which to unload all responsibility (a thing that occurred reciprocally for the other). But now, who is there to blame if the world finds itself on the edge of an abyss?
The world at last affordable to all--a vast supermarket vomiting out plastic-coated goods--has not at all increased happiness, peace or equality. The enemy has now become anyone who protests against the world, i.e., potentially everyone.The ideology of safety anticipates the times. It doesn't wait for the explosion of rage. It attributes the terror of current social relationships to the freedom of individuals, suddenly transforming everyone into the enemy, making us all suspicious in the eyes of the other, isolating us in our fear, provoking a war among the poor in order to defuse a social war. And it takes the legislative and police measures necessary for repressing such a threat. In this sense, what some people call the safety drift can be thought of as a huge preventative couterinsurgency operation.
* In Italian, there is a saying: "gossip like a caretaker".
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
If we address ourselves to you, men and women who have reached the point of essential revulsion and who nothing and no one could any longer rescue from a tragic destiny, it is not to remind you of a non-existent duty in the face of a life that isn’t worth living. We don’t lack respect for your decision, because you and you alone know the precise extent of the pain and anguish that poison your existence. Those who do not feel that pain and anguish, those who have never even come close to this because they are kissed by fortune or soft in the head due to faith, have no reason to censure your fatal decision.
So we don’t want to preach you any sermon or keep you from acting on your decision. We only intend to ask a favor of you, a small favor for you who have decided to abandon this world, but one that would give great joy to those of us who have decided, for the moment, to stay here. Since you are resolved to embark on the Great Voyage, while you are at it, could you maybe bring a few of the known calamities, that made your days on this earth unbearable with, you? Wanting to take the last step in solitude is understandable, it is human. But to do it in company is sublime; it is godlike. Besides, what do you have to fear? For once, no one will get to harass you, throwing the consequences of your gesture in your face. To give an example, you could swallow your poison after making the congressman, who has given you the poison of his lies to drink for years, taste it. Do you want to add a bit of weight to your brain? Very good, but not before supplying some of it to the bank manager who ruined you. If instead you want to squeeze a noose around your neck, it would be good if you first got some practice on the neck of the industrialist who fired you. Before going into the beyond, you could give the bishop who excommunicated your consciousness a surprise by arranging an immediate meeting for him with the Supreme Boss. And why not drag the cop who is standing beside you waiting for the train or subway with you onto the rails? He will finally lose his ugly habit of imprisoning other people’s freedom. Not to offend you, but we have never understood why courthouses and stock exchanges don’t excite the fantasies of you desperate ones in the way schools seem to in the United States: Target practice on judges and financial speculators would be a stirring goodbye gift to your companions in misfortune.
Imagine what might happen if only a fifth of the inflexible suicides of all countries were to associate their last breath with that of a despicable person in power? Thanks to you – you suicides who are usually reviled – we would be witness to a great ethical awakening. On high, anyone who managed to avoid you would think twice before casting other human beings into desperation. At the bottom, we cowards who aren’t capable of making a revolution might find the strength to bring the work that you have started so generously to term.
We ask you, we beg you, if we may, great desperate ones of five continents, have heart one last time. Don’t die alone and ignored, a sardonic conclusion to a life already lacking in joy. Select an institutional celebrity and knock him off allong with yourself.
Friday, September 25, 2009
In those days, Chigalev told his followers: "One man in a thousand enjoys an absolute freedom and exercises boundless authority over the other nine hundred and ninety-nine. The others have to give up all individuality, become a herd and through total submission, by means of a series of regenerations, reach a state of primitive innocence, something like Eden, even though they will still all have to work."
In our day, the vote is in real danger of becoming mandatory. Along public buildings, we are ordered to vot for Dick because Dick is Harry and Harry is Dick. Yesterday evening, Sunday, in a certain place in the capital, near an old church, in a place where school didn't last long enough to spread the idiocy of candidates, panels in the shape of Chinese screens were made available. In the darkness, this formed a toothed fortress. On this fine spring night, lovers occupied the polling stations and a vagrant snored by his litre of red wine.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Worldless individuals, we are alone with ourselves. Our critics shake their heads before our meager results and scold us for our lack of willingness. But in the end, let's admit it, one gets bored. Is it possible that there isn't some small place in the sun for us as well? If many consider extremism an infantile disorder, it is by virtue of this banality: only in youth do we feel capable of refusing the world, this world that is not our own. When we are full of strength, with the entire future before us, we fear nothing, neither police charges nor sleeping under the stars, and so even less, disdaining compromises. In this perpetual childhood, everything seems possible and within reach. This is why we refuse to throw our life to the bookkeepers of survival. We love with passion, we hate with fury. And if this exuberance, this proud love of ourselves, has the consequence of exiling us with our solitude, so be it! But then as the years pass, something intervenes. Energy is used up, stockpiles are reduced, ammunition is lacking, we notice that we have very little within reach for confronting what is left of the future.
Meanwhile, the social winter advances, covering the landscape with frost. In some way, it is necessary to put forth a remedy. Then staying at the margin of this world is not so very comfortable; perhaps at times the heart warms up, not the bones. Community will even be a therapeutic place, curing and removing "deviance", but that torpor within it, the guaranteed meals, the dry beds! And so, bit by bit, with almost unnoticed movement, we approach the polis. If earlier this world could not count on our sympathy, if earlier it drew all our hostility, now it can rely on our understanding: the critical eye has given way to the entranced gaze, the biting word has been replaced by persuasive discourse. And once one has entered the polis, it is necessary to lose all the old habits and acquire new ones. Life in community requires respect for schedules and good manners. It is necessary to know how to tolerate if one wants to be tolerated. It becomes indispensible to to avoid behaviors that might provoke public indignation and to close one's eyes before the unwelcomed behavior of others. "The one who does is always right," says a widespread commonplace. It is like maintaining that "the one who speaks is always right". What is valued is not the intrinsic quality of the movement or speech, but their mere existence. And yet silence is revealed to be golden when you don't know what to say: better to remain silent than to let yourself go on in endless, idiotic babbling. If this is so, then why fret so much when one doesn't know what to do? Why dedicate oneself to activism, to this compulsory doing, to this constant, omnipresent mobilization, which, indeed, fills the emptiness of our existence, but without giving it a meaning that our own, that is autonomous, that bears the mark of the difference, the uniqueness, that stands at the origin of every true action?
The fact is that outside the philosophical fogs, there is a horror of the "creative nothing", in which we do not see the opportunity for reaching our fullness, but only the promise of falling headlong into the void. Better then to trust in the perpetual motion of the urgency of things where there is no time to reflect on ends because it is necessary to think about how to organize means. Utopia is beautiful, but it really isn't practical.
In France, it is called citizenism, a term that indicates a movement made up of a vast and multiform achipelago of associations, unions, collectives, press organs and political currents, whose aim is to fight for the restoration of "democracy betrayed". The fact that our planet is at the end of its rope from the social, political, economic and ecological point of view, is now not hidden from anyone. The citizenists trace the cause of this situation back to a lack of respect for the "popular will" which--once it has fallen into the hands of politicians hungry only for power, in cahoots with businessmen greedy only for profit--would be disregarded, manipulated, denied.
Enemies of these politicians and businessmen (more than of the social system of which they are mere expressions), the citizenists are convinced that democracy--in its most genuine, roughest form--is effectively the best of all possible worlds and that it is possible to improve and moralize capitalism and the state, by opposing their obvious harmfulness and abuses effectively. But on two conditions: that this democracy expresses itself through a political rebirth that is modelled more after Pericles' Athens than Machiavelli's Florence, or with greater direct participation of the citizens, who should not just elect their representatives, but should also constantly act to put pressure on them so that they truly stick to what they were elected to do. This pressure can be exercized in the most varied manner, including those acts of "civil disobedience" that make the most loutish reactionaries spit venom and that cause so much admiration in the movement.
One could say, in a certain sense, that citizenism is born of disappointment. In its most reformist variant, disappointment about the distance that increasingly separates those who are sent to the Palace from those who remain on the streets. There are many respectable people--to be clear, those who are convinced that it is power that creates and safeguards freedom, that the market should be based on ethical principles or that the military should respect a moral code--that no longer feel that they are represented by a ruling class which is openly accused of forming a privileged caste, of being deaf to the interests of the common people, of being concerned only with maintaining their positions. These respectable people firmly believe in the state, in the necessity of the state, in the usefulness of the state, in the justice inherent to the state, but they are temporarily disappointed with it, holding that today it isn't guided by competent, honest, upright, loyal politicians. This is the source of their distrust for professional politicians, parties or unions, while still not abandoning their search for someone who will meet their highest demands.
Feeling neglected, the citizenists find themselves constrained to go down into the streets to defend their "rights". Their struggles always have precise objectives, are limited to saying a sharp NO to a specific state project that jeopardizes their health, without in the least wanting to call the social organization that produced it into question. They don't concern themselves with radical moments, subversive tensions. They are honest citizens, not "hooligans" or "terrorists". It goes without saying that, though they are ready to carry out formally illegal acts like street blockades, they are declared enemies of violence. They don't support the truncheon of the riot cop that suppresses any more than the sabotage of the rebel who rises up. The only acts of force that they accept are the controlled, minimal, integrated ones that they occasionally carry out to draw the attention of the adversary, or rather of the authorities. The acts of force can sometimes even be quite spectacular, but that wouldn't prevent the one who carries them out from competing in presidential elections in the future. In its less reformist variant, citizenism is the fruit of disappointment in a revolution whose historical project has been revealed as bankrupt. Despite different expressions, in its principles, this project aimed at a reappropriation of the capitalist means of production by the proletariat. In this perspective, the proletariat is seen as the authentic crator of social wealth, which is, nonetheless, is enjoyed exclusively by the bourgeoisie; to the proletariat the effort of sowing, to the bourgeoisie the fruit of the harvest. With such a premise, social change could only be considered as a mere suppression of the usurping class. Therefore, the expansion of the production forces was seen as a step forward on the road to revolution, going along with the real movement through which the proletariat was constituted as the future revolutionary subject that would have realized communism and anarchy. The bankruptcy of this perspective began to peek out in the first half of the twentieth century, with the defeat s of the revolutions in Russia, Germany and Spain. The final shock was the French may of 1968, which opened another decade of bitter conflict. The 1980s put an end to the last great assault on the heavens, marking the irretrievable decline and disappearance of this project of social liberation in conjunction with the restructuring of capital, which, through the introduction of automation, set up the end of the centrality of the factory and the myths linked to it. The orphans of proletarian revolution found a form of protest in citizenism that could console them in their mourning. Some of the ideas that circulate in it, like those about the "redistribution of wealth", come directly from the old workers'movement that planned to manage the capitalist world on their own behalf. In such concepts, one can glimpse a return , a continuity and even a highjacking of former ideals by citizenism. This is what is called "the art of arranging the remains".
Whether it is enlightened members of the bourgeoisie demanding more transparency in public affairs or disppointed proletarians wanting to fill the void left by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fact remains that citizenists, incapable of having a unique thought, at least have a common thought: another state is possible. If in this vast cloud, it is possible to find so many minds, sometimes even in contradiction, it is because citizenism expresses an integrated form of protest that hopes to be able to put the malfunctions of the economic system back into balance or to readjust its drifts through greater citizen participation. In this way, citizenism manages to cut across party lines, keeping protest and collaboration together. The protest spurs the collaboration; the collaboration satisfies the protest.This explains its success and its certain future. It is the only mediation that allows you to obtain immediate "victories", however partial, through coming to terms with the institutions.
SOMETHING HAS BEEN LOST
In Italy, citizenism took its first step in Val Susa, with the struggle against the high speed train (TAV). To tell the truth, the struggle aginst the TAV in the Piedmontese valley began more than ten years ago in a completely differetn way, with some acts of sabotage against the earliest construction sites. Small actions brought into the limelight of the newspapers with the arrest of those presumed responsible, three anarchists who later proved to be unconnected to the events. In the course of the investigation, two of them committed suicide. The clamor these events provoked at the time, sufficiently well-known that we don't need to go over them, drew attention to the state project in Val Susa. This gave birth to a protest movement that--though it met with quite a bit of sympathy--remained limited, for the most part, to the militant milieu for several years. But starting in November 2005, when the real work on the TAV line began, this movement managed to break the dam, assuming a mass character. What happened in Val Susa provoked a general enthusiasm that led many to think that they had finally discovered the magic formula that merely had to be repeated in other contexts to get the same results. From this came the spread of committees, assemblies, popular initiatives against "harmfulness" that are filling the agenda of the movement throughout Italy. But what is behind all this unbridled activism that in July 2006 was coordinating in the Pact of Solidarity and Mutual Aid? The primary discourse is that of creating a "new" and "real" democracy, i.e., the citizenist discourse. The Pact is presented by many as a liberatarian text, but its text is a perfect example of a political document, marked by the ambiguity of those who have a foot in each camp in order to satisfy all palates (and if seeing that so many citizens have taken a step outside the institutions can only bring us joy, what are we to think of those rebels who, in solidarity, take a step into the institutions?). There are anarchists who exult in reading "The National Pact of Solidarity and Mutual Aid is certainly not an attempt to stealthily infiltrate into the politics of the palace, nor does it intend to get hosted in the palaces of politics. It has no friendly governments to which to look with trust. It has no parties to which to give a blank slate delegation, and it certainly has no intention of going down a road that would lead it to becoming a part itself", without noticing that this merely affirms the cross-party and lobbyist nature of citizenism. Citizenists are balanced people, they don't want to become a party, but rather to put a certain type of pressure on parties. They are well aware that fighting in the political arena is not exempt from unpleasant consequences. And the way to avoid this risk is to assume the form of a pressure group that is careful not to directly exercise power. This is why they cannot present "blank slate delegations", since they don't want to talk with a favored few. Anybody who listens to them may be okay. This is why it is pointed out immediately afterwards that the Pact "does not, for this reason, avoid politics and confrontation, and is able to distinguish those who operate with transparency from those who try to contain struggles. The model that it proposes is at the same time the only method that it is willing to accept; that of the active participation of citizens". In fact, citizenists don't avoid politics, not at all; they simply no longer want to be made fun of: clear understandings... Far from supporting abstentionism, they preach participation. So it is no accident if the anti-TAV protest in Val Susa is clearly still too rooted in the old world, if after having clashed with the forces of order and devastated the unborn construction sit at Venaus (a moment of rupture that later vanished in the pro-Val Susa narratives, which preferred to dwell on the more presentable popular assemblies), this protest later flowed into the ballot box where the high turnout at the polling stations recorded there in the last elections saw the triumph of the left that was most present. Thus, clashes and barricades (for now?) have not fueled the revolt against all parties, but has rather favored some of them.
And if the large presence of subversives in Val Susa has given the opposition a particularly lively color, the struggles that followed elsewhere mostly seem to be fed by the nonsense of the Grillo boys*. For example, in Vicenza, where the struggle against the expansion of the US military base is going on. The No to Molin Committees expressly state that they demand "respect for the Union** program" and are coming out against "the project that from the environmental point of view violates the directives already acknowledged by our regulation 2003/35/CE," all in order to "promote change and affirm a new alternative project in defense of the values and common good of the collectivity". Their nature as aspiring governors is such as to cause them to sponsor their initiatives under the aegis of "AltroComune" ["Other Municipality"--translator]. With such a premise, it is no surprise that these Committees, having designated themselves as the only legitimate representatives of the struggle against the US military base, have excommunicated the authors of some acts of sabotage that were carried out against the base last April. Distancing themselves from the acts was clearly not enough. Nor is it strange that any scum with an institutional pedigree gets invited into their paid campgrounds to babble in the name of democracy. Even less, one can get indignant if during the periodic protest marches that parade through the Paladin city, like the one of last December 15 , they play the role of firefighters, coming to openly block demonstrators who intend to sabotage the expected walk. If anything, it is astounding that, after having maintained the No to Molin Committees (with a court-registered trademark!), published their initiatives, expressed their solidarity, spread their slogans--clearly having lost confidence in the possibility of an autonomous intervention in what is a struggle against the US military base and not the No to Molin struggle, which is merely the reformist expression of the larger struggle--is the hope to provoke a sudden radical "turn" with regard to their objectives (among which is the demand for a moratorium, whose principle has been valorized within the movement precisely by thePact of Solidarity and Mutual Aid, part of which will be translated below).
As was already said, citizenism starts out as a political reaction from below to the so-called "crisis of representation". A reaction that aims to overcome and cure this crisis through new forms of representation. From this point of view, it arises as a natural heir to the parties and unions in the recuperation of more radical and subversive tensions. But this doesn't take away from the fact that the contexts in which it is manifested present elements of extreme interest, because they are potentially pregnant with favorable opportunities. The citizenist doctor appears where the political invalid is in the throes of agony. Its presence alone is a surefire indication of the opportunity for action. In fact, while the doctor is busy prescribing remedies, couldn't one take advantage of the confusion to carry out a healthy euthanasia on this patient? So it is understandable that many subversives have decided to intervene in these situations of struggle with the intent of exploiting the occasions, of radicalizing citizenist objectives, of getting beyond them and making them face their contradictions. But how?
This problem has perhaps been underestimated. One hypothesis of this sort is a reposing of the old theory of "accidents along the way". Even though a movement is born on reformist bases, it can always jump tracks and change course. After all, it has been noted time and again how banality has been the calling card of revolutions throughout history. This is certainly true, but... it isn't a good reason to begin supporting banality. As to accidents along the way, historical experience teaches that subversives are often the ones to willingly suffer them. These subversive, frantic to take part in reformist movements with the aim of radicalizing them, have often ended up changing course themselves. And this is inevitable when one adapts to events instead of trying to force them by maintaining one's ideas (at the risk of remaining at the margins of the "mass"). Unfortunately, this aspect leaps before our eyes now as never before. Laying aside individual insurrection, one now supports the direct democracy of the people, takes part in more or less massive political demonstrations that one used to call others to desert, hosts the academic professionals of separated knowledge, who one used to despise, in one's intiatives. One is no longer proud of one's qualitative difference, but of one's quantitative identity. One no longer launches radical critiques with the intent of provoking conflict; instead one silences blasphemies to find harmony.
In Val Susa, for once, after such a long time, subversives weren't chasing after the struggles of the "common people", but rather the common people were joining with subversives in their struggle. The presence of the "masses" must have gone a bit to the heads of the subversives since, after they had maintained for years the necessity of keeping hold of the critical aspect in every situation of struggle with the aim of strengthening, in Val Susa this did not happen. Instead, the subversives allowed some conceptual corpses like "the people" and "direct democracy", in their various ideological adulterations, to be put back in circulation.
And what is the people? It is an ensemble of subjects characterized by the will to live under a single legal system. The geographical element is not enough to define the concept of the people, which requires the consent to the same rights and a community of interests. The people is a political and historical identity, which has access to stories and memories, the right to commemorations, demonstrations and marble gravestones. The people is visible and speakable. structured in its organization, represented by its delegates, its martyrs and its heroes. It is no accident that its myth has been embraced by authorities of every stripe, or that it was abandoned decades ago by libertarians (at least by the less lobotomized ones). Its uninhibited exaltation in Val Susa has had the consequence of the immediate appearance of the syndrome of populism. Generally, this term is used to refer to any political formulation based on the premise that virtue resides in the people--considered as a homogeneous social aggregate, the sole agent of positive specific and permanent values--and in its collective tradition (Val Susa as land of the partisans...). In populism, often the rural element is predominant since those who have remained in contact with the land, with the mountains, look with some suspicion and hostility on those who live in an urban environment. Populism is ecumenical. It excludes any class conflict since it considers the people as a homogeneous mass. From the historical viewpoint, it tends to spread ideologically in periods of transition, as well as those of strong tensions between metropolis and province when processes of industrialization are going on, because they offer a reason for cohesion and at the same time for warning and coagulation. Populist formulas revive whenever a rapid mobilization of vast social sectors and an intense politicization outside of existing institutional channels is seen. The appeal to the regenerating force of myth is lurking even in the most articulate and complex society, ready to materialize in the moment of struggle. And the myth of the people is the most appealing and the most obscure at the same time, the most groundless and the most functional in the struggle for power.
All these characteristics are very much present in Val Susa, exploited by the many sides involved that don't want to let the delicious occasion of a general mobilization with certain potentialities escape them. Even from the anarchist side, there are those who have not flinched, placing confidence in libertarian populism that knows its distinguished theorists and has its best expression in popular assemblies. Starting from Val Susa, the feeling has spread that every individual can have control over the decisions that determine the destiny of our society: it is enough to know how to discuss with others. This conviction has led to the revival of direct democracy, of politika in the Hellenic sense, of the myth of the agora--the civic space in which citizens can gather informally to discuss, exchange ideas and involve themselves in useful relationships, in view of those popular assemblies where they will confront the common questions with the aim of reaching agreement in a direct, face-to-face way. In short, what the flabbiest, sorriest anarchist militants have describes for years as "non-state public spheres".
It is certainly no accident that the Greek word for assembly is ecclesia***. If the most perfect organization in the universe can be called God, then the link between politics and religion is emphasized. Less obvious is the attractive force it exercises over those who intend to subvert this world from top to bottom. The monstrous aberration that causes men and women to believe that language is born to facilitate and resolve their mutual relationships leads them to these collective gatherings,where they debate how to face the affairs of life. That theses affairs are experienced in different ways among those present, that the debate cannot be equal since capacities will not be equal (those who know more and speak better dominate the assembly), that the minority has no reason to accept the decision of the majority... all this gets noted only when one doesn't frequent the agora. As soon as one sets foot there, perhaps prodded by events, old perplexities dissipate; a miracle that occurs much more easily if one discovers that he has a fine "capacity for oratory". And yet there are still those who go on thinking that this effort to unite individuals into a community, to supply them with something to share, to render them equal, is odious. Because it is dripping with hypocrisy. The same hypocrisy that, after ignoring the slaves that allowed the ancient Greeks to deliberate non-stop, after removing the amorphous and anonymous plebeian unworthy of being a part of the people, is now prepared to overlook the fact that human beings can join together only if they renounce their respective worlds--sensitive worlds, without supermarkets and highways, but rich in dreams, thoughts, relationships, words and loves.
In political reason as in religious faith, the leading idea is that equality comes from identity, from common adherence to one vision of the world. We are all equal because we are all children of God, or citizens of Society. The opposite possibility, which has also cropped up in the course of history, is never considered. That general harmony of humanity might originate in the division of individuals pushed to infinity. Individuals are equal either when they are all identical or when they are all different. In the assembly that unites everyone, reason--the Logos--is evoked through discussion. Speaking, reasoning,arguing, this is where problems melt like snow in the sun, conflicts are settled, agreements are made. But how many compromises, how moderation, how much realism are necessary to reach a common agreement, to suddenly discover we are all brothers?
Thus, after having so thoroughly criticized the conviction that one can return to a science of social transformation, after having affirmed that there are no laws that control social events, after having refuted the illusion of an objective historical mechanism, after having cleared the field of all the fetters that get in the way of free will, after having sung the excess that repudiates every form of calculation, one goes back and takes a yardstick in hand to measure the steps carried out. The participants at initiatives get counted, the media coverage received is controlled, continuous forecasts of the balance are made. Clearly then, the passions were not so wicked, the desires were not so wild, interests were not so distant.
Nor is it understood why direct democracy, as a mediation between various forces in the field that arises in the course of an insurrectional rupture (as has happened historically) should become an ideal to realize here and now in collaboration with various mayors, local authorities and politicians put on the spot by disillusioned citizens. Direct democracy is a sham good idea, It shares with its big sister, Democracy in the broad sense, the fetishism of form. It holds that the manner of organizing a collective pre-exists the discussion itself, and that this method is valid everywhere, at all times, and for every kind of question. Defending direct democracy, counterposing--as "real" democracy--to "false" representative democracy, means believing that our authentic nature can finally be revealed when it liberates from the constraints that weigh on us. But being liberated from these constraints supposes a transformation such that at the end of the process we will no longer be the same, or better, we will no longer be what we are in this civilization based on domination and money. The unknown cannot be reached by known routes, just as freedom cannot be reached through authority. Finally, even in accepting the possibilities of establishing an effective direct democracy, there would still be an objection: why should a minority ever adapt itself to the desires of the majority? Who knows, perhaps it is true that we are living in an ongoing and terrible state of exception. However, it is not the one decreed by power in the face of its own rules--rights are a pure lie invented by the sovereign who is not held to be consistent with this lie--but rather that of the individual in the face of his own aspirations. It is not living as one would like to live. It is not saying what one would like to say. It is not acting as one would like to act. It is not loving who one would like to love. It is having to lower oneself, day after day, to compromises with the tyranny that condemns our dreams to death. Because here it is not about winning or losing (a typical obsession of militants), but of living the only life one has available, and living it in one's own way. Small gestures and common words can hold crowds and crowded streets together, but can we only seek these gestures, these words, outside ourselves to satisfy a new sense of belonging to a community? Not unless we want to give the individual a blank check, only in order to later let them know that it was really toilet paper.
* The Grillo boys are similar to Michael Moore--translator
** The old name of the Democratic Party of Italy, before the Rifondazione Communista split off--translator
*** Which also means "church", hence, the word "ecclesiastical".--translator
EXCERPT FROM THE "NATIONAL PACT OF SOLIDARITY AND MUTUAL AID":
At the end of the Venuas-Rome NO-TAV Caravan, the Committees, Networks, Movements and Groups assembled here in the room of the Protomoteca of the Municipality of Rome, on this day of July 14, 2006, in common agreement, determine to create a PERMANENT NATIONAL NETWORK AND A NATIONAL PACT OF SOLIDARITY AND MUTUAL AID in order to affirm in our country:
- The right to precautionary information and active participation of the citizens with regard to every intervention that wants to operate on the territory on which they live, sharing the common goods (water, air, land, energy);
- The use of systems of promotion and consumption that valorize territorial resources, minimize environmental impact and the movement of merchandise and people, and that are not based on exploitation, particularly of the South of the world.
- The beginning of a national moratorium on the carrying out of large public works and on the localization of energy plants [...here I left out a list of specific types of energy plants, because I couldn't find translations for most of the Italian words in any of my dictionaries...] both due to the lack of a national energy plan and to prevent the business logic of the few from devouring the resources of the many.
- The urgency of the cancellation of the Objective Law, the Environmental Proxy Law, the Central Release Law, Green Certifcates for incinerators and the radical modification of the Design Law on Energy.
On these bases, we are giving life to a National Coordination (with website and e-mail) constituted of a representative from every participating otganization and we invite all other Committees, Networks, Movements and Groups to join together in this National Pact of Solidarity and Mutual Aid.