Friday, 24 August 2012

Bad thoughts, and one case history

The actual circumstances of political radicalisation, by which certain individuals are separated out from non-radicalised others, subsequently prove insufficient, or rather inappropriate, for those individuals’ later purposes. The radical’s self-narrative tends to emphasise a preference for another path along which radicalisation should occur. 

The radical complexity of the radical’s consciousness emerges partially in the form of an assertion that is drawn from compensatory fantasy – it shapes itself as a wish that radical consciousness should be radically simple. In seeking to assert the reality of this wish, a necessary pathological trait of radical consciousness is established, namely the practice of erasing the actual circumstances of its origins. This covering over of tracks is partially attributable to a subjective need for setting the question of radical consciousness at a higher level, for which there are at least two legitimate rationalisations: i. so as to apply lessons learnt personally to general circumstances; ii. in order to speak beyond personal anecdote. 

However, self-mystification, an inescapable theatricality, is a core constituent of radical consciousness – which functions as a ruse for evading knowledge of the self’s motivations. Radical consciousness is never more than a roundabout means for shirking a responsibility, evading a blockage, or ignoring a problem. 

Radical individuals are driven by their discontent to assign themselves other and better origins and other and higher motivations. In effect, they are like characters perturbed by the story in which they are bound to appear, and who, in consequence, seek to usurp the role of narrator for themselves – the goal of radical consciousness is to insert a narcissistic image at the centre of its world-changing practice. 

In this way, serious or 'class struggle' anarchists are driven to denounce 'counter cultures' such as punk from the vantage point that marks the end of their individual ideological development. This ritual of denunciation is perceived as a necessary step of self-separation from the small world triviality of its origins and which is equally essential to the establishment of a serious politics on other grounds

However, all too often, it is a step that is taken against the very nature of origins, and thereby records the almost inevitable lapse into ideology. The shame of radical consciousness, which ends with the complex elaboration of dialectics, critical theory, scientific and cultural analysis, is that it begins furtively in some inappropriate countercultural exchange and is driven by the radical’s own deviant psychology – a narcissistic desire for a more elevated identity. 

The initial, and always mysterious, motivation (and the cultural milieu within which it was first manifested) is later minimised upon contact with the generalising categories of theory, which functions as an intellectual defence mechanism, a means of deflection. Theory is deployed for no other reason but to rationalise and further obscure the transgressive wishes which can never be divided from the small-world of the naughty boy

Retroactive mystification, and the covering over of tracks that this entails, sets in motion pathological processes which come to malignly influence later political rationalisations for externally directed acts of ruthless suppression. The character trait of the authoritarian revolutionary has been termed repressive consciousness, which is defined by its willingness to use dehumanising means to gain liberatory political goals. The communist’s willingness to separate means from ends is only comprehensible when considered in relation to the separation of grandiose ideologies from small world origins. 

Bizarrely, the pathways along which radical ideas are communicated by ‘serious’ political radicals, their dull and serious political newspapers and websites, must deviate from all prior experience of radicalisation whilst also failing to establish channels along which others might reasonably be expected to become radicalised. There is in radical consciousness a doubled narrative manoeuvre against the conditions for its own possibility, and which self-corrects in favour of its self-mystification. This manoeuvre is directed perversely against the narrator’s own personal history, and also against the paths along which others might connect to it. 

A case history
It might be useful to keep in mind the mechanism of the double bind when contemplating the bound character of radical consciousness. The double bind supposes two equally compelling commands appearing within different operating procedures of a self-correcting system... the commands are mutually exclusive (leading to an impasse) in the moment of crisis in which the doubled bind is activated but they are not directly antinomic in natural state.  

There are several examples of this double binding of the individual between different command registers in the film Journey into fear. One of these involves the protagonist, Graham, having the intimate contents of a telegram he wishes to send to his wife read out in front of numerous shady characters. Another, exposes the heart of ‘radical consciousness’ as a variation on oedipal dynamics: the character Matthews is an oppressed husband who has  announced himself  a socialist so as to humiliate his snobbish wife in public. A transcript of a scene from the film illustrates the absurdities resulting from the simultaneous application of numerous command binds which are otherwise unrelated:
Matthews: Have you got a wife sir?
Graham: Yes I have.
Matthews: Has your wife got a bad temper?
Graham: No, very good.
Matthews: Oh, you’re lucky. For years, I lived in misery. Then, one day, I made a great discovery. There was a socialist meeting and I went to it. I wasn’t a socialist you understand. I went to this meeting because I was curious. The speaker was good. Then, about a week later, we were out with some friends and I repeated what I’d heard. My wife laughed in a very peculiar way and when I got home, I made a discovery. I found out my wife was a snob and even more stupid than I’d dreamed. She said I had humiliated her by saying such things as if I believed them. All her friends were respectable people and I mustn’t speak as if I were a working man. She wept. Then I knew that I was free. I bought books and pamphlets to make my arguments more damaging. My wife became more docile. She even cooked things I liked, just so I wouldn’t disgrace her. 
Graham: I see, so you don’t believe these things you say.
Matthews: Now, that’s where my little joke comes in. You see, for a while, I was free. But then a terrible thing happened. I found I began to Believe these things that I said. The books I read showed me that I’d found a truth. I, a capitalist by instinct, became a socialist by conviction. Worse than that, there was a strike at the factory and I, the manager supported the strikers. I didn’t belong to a union naturally. So I was dismissed. It was ridiculous. So here I am, I have become a man in my home at the price of becoming a bore outside. 
In a later scene, Matthews repels his nagging wife by proclaiming loudly that he is planning with Graham to attack the Bank of England and install a communist government. In the absence of a revolver he then arms Graham against the remorseless, Luger-waving Gestapo assassins who have him cornered with a surrealist umbrella and a miniscule folding pen... the weapons of last resort for a henpecked husband