Thursday, December 25, 2008

Pretty Objects of Revolt

“What you feel as the intimate estrangement of corporeal need is what I feel as the estranged intimacy of desire: your need is my want; my want is your need”
- Sade

The cradle of democracy is burning. It may change its frequency, its duration and its specific location, but I want to be clear about this: the interruptions that strike at the thresholds of the state-form and that press against the fleshy anterior of capital are en route.

I risk speaking in terms of slogans when I say this but I want to go to where the fires are—where everything enables the desire to reduce monoliths and dialectics to ashes. I think this is why there are these riots; because we can’t afford to go to where the riots are, because the people in Greece are at home with their perverse desire and are at home with their endurance. Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was murdered by the functionaries of the state, for fifteen years inhabited this fact and his friends, comrades and so called genre, continue to inhabit this fact. I see my self in Alexandros, as I see my self each time the state exposes its function—when police act by grace of sovereignty to erase bodies with an “accidental” just violence. The libidinal economy of death acts as a force to produce human bodies as subjects. By the 6th century this originary biopolitical imperative is already clear in Pindar’s Platonic proverb:

The nomos, sovereign of all mortals and immortals

Leads with the strongest hand

Doing violence to the most just.

Today, there is only a zone of indistinction between the force of law of the ancients and the force of law of the modern states.

The Greek riots trace a seam directly through our bodies—dividing me and then dividing me again. At once, I am interrupted from my habit of producing pretty espresso drinks and culture; feeling the seam of the Greek riots cut through me, pulling me to the shadow of my historicity—recalling different riots I’ve experienced, watched on TV, read about in books and recalling my relationships with different people; the abuses I’ve dealt and suffered; the ways police and managers and doctors have acted on my body, the separations they’ve made. I think about watching that terrible movie The Dreamers just for the scandalous parts and for the money shot at the end and I try to distinguish whose body part was in what orifice and whose desire reigned with so-called impunity.

The media speaks of the “seven hundred euro generation”—it is they who riot, who have been let down by the Greek government in particular. Yet this month I will struggle to make a rent of three hundred dollars and my roommates will struggle as well. Tomorrow, we will go out on an odyssey to find cheap enough cigarettes. Tonight we trade roles of support; I have the pack that is not empty and my roommate the bottle of whiskey and the bag of coffee seized form work.

None of this new and those rioting in Greece know this. Certainly we could work more; two, three, maybe four jobs. Certainly that would keep us busy but we would prefer not to. I’ve learned to endure so much and what those of us who work for shit jobs and produce nothing material know is our conditions is more than mere poverty. It’s historically constructed, and it’s not necessarily of our choosing but we wouldn’t keep doing it if we didn’t like certain aspects of it. Maybe it’s the power to wield subcultural capital, maybe it’s the potential of not-work every so often—while on the job or on holiday (because all aspects of our lives are colonized by work); maybe we want to be in systems of asymmetrical power where we can be pretty and ugly objects. Whatever it is, we kind of like it. What is it at stake and what makes my skin so raw when I feel my empathy surface from the image of people gleefully demolishing temples of capitalism is the desire to interrupt functionality with play, with pleasure that is prefers not to reproduce, with violence that is bored with death.

I fear saying this out right because the psychologists of all the sciences want to know it; because they will sell it to public relations firms and they will employ me or my friends to mystify this fact and make it into more jobs. Furthermore because the state will put to a specific function the things we say over drinks that cause us to recognize each other. They will include us the way the Jewish religious hierarchy was included to make the ghettos and gas chambers function—the way black leaders are employed to neutralize the potentiality of rebellion every time what happened in Athens happens in every urban epicenter in the US.

Already in the US, the political class of simulations and the petite Leninists who paint themselves in red and black are getting organized; attempting to reconstitute the Left at Obama’s Inauguration. If it were not for the tactics they wish to employ, I would care less, but how matters and their desire for sovereignty is only loosely veiled. The advocates for the popular power bloc demand nothing less than recognition for their rightful inheritance of sovereignty and thus the state-form. When they say they wish to celebrate the victory of the “grassroots movement” of organizers that got Obama elected, they are clarifying this: a desire to celebrate management and discipline of a constituting (or so-called constituent) power. The horror of recognition prefers a site of pleasure in whatever singularities, not the banality of reproducing management and discipline of subjects.

I want to be vulnerable to you because I know you and you already recognize me and because you are always, and above all, anonymous—a quality that makes you potent. You, the unknown and the known, reading this text are a force and an orifice, a face and a chair. And yet so many managers; so many police are present here. At a party, in a bar, at a grocery store, we might cross paths; and I would want to share with you the simple pleasures of my existence but my desires conflict and our inclinations are veiled because my simple pleasures are criminal. I imagine yours are as well but what if you tell my boss or the grocery store owner about my proclivities?

It is this surveillance that causes our emotional poverty—a surveillance that congruently silences our brittle lips from talking about abuse and that disables the force of our limbs to make gestures of care.

I know it seems absurd but it is in the spaces where I can feel anonymous—where I can lose my sense of individualism and even my sense of dividuality, where I can feel my singularity; my point in time and space that is attached to all that matters—that the force of kindness and my desire are proven to be potent. It is these spaces—where the party’s shared joy overwhelms our fear of foolishness, where our circumstances incline us to support each other—that I can be vulnerable, powerful and happy. I want to meet you there and I want to extend these spaces with more duration and with different frequencies.

So I’m going to put on a black mask or I’m going to transform the meaning of a t-shirt by wearing it on my face as such. There is no other zone of desire that is pleasurable. The t-shirt, the sneakers, the bottle, the car, all our commodities have proven they are bankrupt if they remain as property—they must be profaned and put to use in the sphere of human desire lest they end up in museums. I want to put everything to use to prove the fact of its potentiality and to locate that it is my gestures that inscribe meaning; that pull, stretch and interrupt the continuum of time.

There is an insurrection coming because there is always an insurrection coming; because there is always in-surrection. It is in place because it is in practice; always exposing the seam of power and desire of function and potential. Those rioting across the sea are sending to us this subtle communiqué: we are running faster, evading the social sciences’ force of recognition, of identification; running across borders; throwing rocks, burning arcades and prisons and kicking at the thresholds of the state.

The insurrection in practice draws us closer and whispers, “It is possible, it is in practice and you, these bodies that you are, are potent with its possibility; the secret is to really begin”.

Liam Sionnach, The ass-end of December 08

Saturday, August 2, 2008

How is it to be Doing?

There is this question with a haunting tune of skepticism that has found an instrument in both the hopeful (1., 2.) and the jaded who leave their mark on the anarchist milieu. It is an important question, one not to be merely gestured away with a flick of the wrist. It begs our attention to remember, and it demands we leave behind our immediate plans. It is ubiquitous, and we will likely encounter it whenever we succumb to the pleasures of sociality. Today, it has positioned its bony fingers at the national conventions of the Democrats and the Republicans and like always it sits us upon its knees, smiles and says, “This is all well and good and I hope you destroy as much as possible, but what do you intend to do next? I mean, what will all of this organization you young people have been doing amount to?”

We wish to answer this question but first a little about our selves and the tragicomedy of summit activism.

The Institute for Experimental Freedom (IEF) has contributed little in the way of material changes in the world. We are a couple of friends and a small network of more friends. We do not have the capacity to add to the existing desire that programs the human species—as mentioned in my recent piece Earth First Means Social War, that is capitalism, not us. We knew this from the beginning. However, we feel we have contributed to the existing discourses of anarchist/anti-authoritarian theory, aesthetics and creativity. The ideas, styles and forms that we have been appropriated by are now more visible throughout the US milieu. We consider this a success. Furthermore, the IEF can now be lost in the turbulent waves on the fringes of radical subcultures. We can pass for grad students, train hoppers, young urban professionals, hardcore kids, hipsters, squatters, almost anything people can buy into. It is from this acknowledgment that we begin out next journey, from going towards the light to positioning it our selves.

Subcultural and political identity have little to offer. We're going to the conventions because we lack the power to attack material manifestations of capitalism—to produce or amplify social conflict—everywhere else in our lives. There is this strange opportunity once or twice a year where we can feel powerful, and we can attempt to edit the universe as a social-cohesion, albeit with limitations. We know this is not enough, and this knowledge conjures a profound sadness. It's the feeling we encounter when we return to our homes, and those who feared for our safety are weeks later upset with us for hanging out with their old friend who is now their new enemy. When we return to our work and there is no one who's got our back. The tragedy reveals a kink in our system of lack-protest-power-lack-protest-power, and we question its sustainability. Our sadness is compounded by the inevitable defeat. Soon we can no longer justify our actions, and we revert to performing subcultural identity, make the transition from “those who specialize in social change outside of electoral politics” to “those who specialize in social change inside of electoral politics” or we are swept away by capitalism's compelling arguments. We understand the critique of these events.

However, we have a counter-narrative.

Some say, “On the one hand we wish to live communism and on the other hand, to spread anarchy.”

We translate: On the one hand we wish to live the dance of contradictions, variables and coincidences that reveal knowledge—to partake in our own scientific methods.

And on the other hand to spread a destabilizing, de-hirearchicalizing turbulence of emotional wealth—to sprinkle affect wherever desire takes us.

These events—the protests, the gatherings, the counter-summits—are not the result of our political or subcultural identities becoming empowered. They are the happenings of our real selves, produced and exploited by capitalism searching for a sense of we and a direction towards which to position our creative (and destructive) urge. We have made conflict our object because we have been crossed. The trick to surviving the seduction of politics is to simply tinker with why, how and where we attack.

A couple of hypotheses: The only victory we need is the one we set out; the only hastiness we need to employ is in the quickness of our strike and our exit. If we refuse the political identity of the protest and instead engage it as a petri dish for us to play and experiment with, the psychological and emotional crisis experienced by the activist who failed to do what they never could will soon pass. What will remain is the social cohesion, the customs and rituals of food, play and romance, and the power of wildin out together. The next step is developing our form and technique. We understand the use, the meaning and the desire, but what is the anatomy and geography of these encounters? What will it take for us to produce ourselves as more than mere moths seeking out a beacon of peak experience and instead as those with the capacity to strike anywhere? To our frowning anti-activist peers we propose this endeavor: to experiment with power and capacity, map our findings and develop our forms and techniques.

“Projecting our selves into the future,” and then some.

The IEF would like to continue our contributions in the way of theory, print and aesthetics of course, but we would also appreciate meeting you and the chance to share stories and notes. We've accumulated strange successes, pleasures and Other narratives that we'd love to make common. We feel it is a circulation of these stories and their affective potential that will produce for us the necessary basis of our conspiracy. And so this is the answer we dole out to our pessimistic haunting: we see clearly now. We know that it is power and dehirearchicalization that we seek. Thus we have only bad intentions. We intend to contribute to the founding of a parallel and adversarial structure—to develop the current subcultures and their practices beyond their limitations and strike a rhythm between our ideas and our current experience as exploited, emotionally impoverished and alienated individuals in the service and culture producing industries. This structure will likely have no name or political identity, but it should achieve for us the survival mechanisms of the late radical labor movement, the existential clarity produced through feminist consciousness raising groups and the culture producing capacity of the current party, design and music scenes.

The task of those who find one another in the attacks against capitalism is to reveal their experience to their friends and co-workers and to transform affinity groups for protests into subversive nodes in this developing structure. We intend to contaminate all portions of society and at all levels of human development—set up Jr. high through high-school consciousness raising groups, university clubs and alternative fraternities, workers organizations and social centers. Our undertaking is to make these organizations into nodes and to develop our circuits of information, desire and affect, to open our circuits, produce portals to our worlds and accumulate resources and money to share with each other. To achieve these endeavors, the question of “how?” constantly must be approached and answered with experimentation. Our human creativity can achieve anything; let nothing be too decadent for us. It is from these material solidarities, these circuits of power and desire that the basis to make a real counter-offensive will become possible.

The strategy to achieve revolution does not require the accumulation of more people with a political identity nor does performing as an anarchist require one to equate freedom and choice and simply make ethical decisions. We are intent on producing this structure as proof of this contrary direction. We are swept away by the movement to make human utopia; we contribute only to its foundations. Thus we would propose that the current gateway drugs are lacking. There should be no more Food Not Bombs chapters set up to seduce young do-gooders. Instead, a better gateway drug might by something that is also materially beneficial but that releases its self from the tugging hands of liberalism—weekly potlucks or shoplifting gangs perhaps? There should be no more bike shops under the influence of two wheels is better than four. Two is just another market option, but a reasonable way to get around—let’s start from there. If we wish to get our hands dirty, let’s simply squat and produce beautiful social centers—brush our fingers through the dust and liberate our human creativity. If we are interested in acting in a way that confronts the roots of climate change visibly, then let’s not play around anymore and simply attack cars and produce a custom of car-burning, and let's not stop there. We will have to seize the means to produce and distribute all that currently threatens life on the planet and denies us from resources. Let's remember this and act accordingly.

To dance in our own myths, to produce our selves as our own protagonists and to, as they say, become an autonomous social force, is our modest enterprise.

We caress the face of our omnipresent skeptic, kiss their brittle lips and feel their wisdom enter us. We are fucking serious. Join us in this living delusion of grandeur.

After the convention events in particular, there will be small gatherings (15-25 people) to mark the beginning of different ways to do conferences. Perhaps you should gather your own close friends and those with similar ideas. The purpose of these will be to develop a different social cohesion of those who wish to totally transform society as a social project. The question of, “how do we get organized and with whom?” should be a useful axiom to begin from. We will continue these encounters until their expiration date is reached.

Further reading:

  1. Earth First Means Social War: Becoming an Anti-capitalist Ecological Social Force
  2. "Plan B" from Politics is Not a Banana
  3. Assuming Hostilities: Towards a Pro-revolutionary Milieu with Teeth
  4. "Hypothesis not to be Rejected" from Nights of Rage