Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Igor - have you watered the brains today, Igor? (A Halloween message.)

Dear M.O’R,

I am eager to hear your news. However, I have deliberately scrambled my password many months ago and as a consequence of this rash act I cannot access the membership area, and therefore am unable to read the personal message you have sent me. 

But maybe that adds to the fun of it all. If you wish to contact me, please do so through Letters Journal. And if you like we can sort out your membership for what we call ‘the salon’. This difficulty in communicating, in an environment of hyper-communication, is just typical of our approach – it may be of interest to explore this a little further. Why are there obstacles, trails gone cold, and an air of neglect where there should be close attention to the details of getting the message across?

One thing I am currently investigating is the boundary found within radical achievement. Once externally encountered limitations have been overcome, and the project is up and running, isn’t there then, a sense of anticlimax, even loss, at what ‘we’ have achieved? Isn’t realised radicalism, tawdry and oppressive? The membership cliques of the established groups wish to communicate the message that they are a clique, that they have made it to that level of seriousness. And yet, where are they? Who are they really? The fusing of the jauntily psychopathological and the ‘seriously’ political is ever a dangerous combination. Even from its inception, the lack of knowledge about its meaning is decisive in group formation. 

Once the new group has broken away from the old and set itself up as a fully functioning apparatus of the idea of itself, the adventure of its formation is dissipated. The event of Occupy was not terminated by state repression but in the tedium of the process it found in its realised heart. Social radicals are so addicted to the festivalised event of project realisation that they are not properly equipped to cope with the inclement circumstance of continuation. This failure results in a perpetual orientation to festival-type events at the expense of everything else that constitutes real life. Debord, describes this rot in the achieved project of the SI but it could describe the contrast between projected image and internal structure of any of the current ‘class struggle’ groups:

The process of alienation gone through by various past emancipatory endeavours (from the Communist League to the FAI, or even, if this comparison should also be evoked in our case, surrealism) was followed by the SI in all its easily recognizable forms: theoretical paralysis; “party patriotism”; lying silence on increasingly evident faults; imperious dogmatism; wooden language addressed to the miners of Kiruna — still rather far off, fortunately — and to Iberian exiles; invisible titles of ownership possessed by little cliques or individuals over one or another sector of our relations or activities, on the basis of their being “SI members” (like people used to invoke the privileges of being a “Roman citizen”); ideology and dishonesty. […] To smash the SI and reduce to nothing the dubious pretensions that would have been able to preserve it as an alienated and alienating model — this had become at least our most urgent revolutionary duty. On the basis of these new measures of security we have fortunately implemented, we can now probably do better.

- Guy Debord, Untitled Text January 28th, 1971

He goes on to talk about the ‘need’ of the situationists for the SI. This desperation which was at the heart of the comedy of Friends goes unexamined in every radical grouping:

As for us here, we can take part in the SI only if we don’t need it. We must first of all be self-sufficient; then, secondarily, we may lucidly combine our specific (and specified) desires and possibilities for a collective action which, on that condition, may be the correct continuation of the SI.

This ‘need’ is the stuff that motivates Nihilist Communism, which is not to say that it is thereby free of it. We feel acutely that 'authenticity' is possible only through artifice... that one maintain a radical perspective only by means of refusing its formulations. There is calculated awareness in Romantic spontaneity:

Your letter gives me credit for more acute feelings than I possess; for though I feel tolerably miserable, yet I am at the same time subject to a kind of hysterical merriment, or rather laughter without merriment, which I can neither account for nor conquer, and yet I do not feel relieved by it; but an indifferent person would think me in excellent spirits. "We must forget these things," and have recourse to our old selfish comforts, or rather comfortable selfishness.

Lord Byron (letter, August 21. 1811)

But anyway, 'we' are investigating it by means of exercising our capacity for becoming ‘not available’. I would like to discuss the nature of the self-limiting further with reference to other theoretical objects and literary examples.

In Marcel Aymé’s Poldevian Legend, the narrative pursues the main character even after death, but at the door of heaven, it all ends abruptly. There is, the story asserts, nothing to be told of in heaven. Is there anything to tell in the condition of adventurelessness, or eventlessness, that is Nihilist Communism? 

Perhaps, there is progressively less to tell the closer one approaches it. In maintaining distance from one’s objective, one remains certain of perspective and orientation. Like the Maltese Falcon, like Hitchcock’s McGuffins, the substance of our fetish is of marginal concern and our getting our hands on ‘it’ is of even less. And so, in order to preserve our project’s vacancy, the designated protagonists of our tale must convolute the plot, in order to delay the moment of its achievement. We must scramble our passwords, we must relinquish the channels, we must flee from company. We must, like all who are earnest, retreat to the country.

Or, I am joking. It seems to me there are two issues here about operating in the world, one concerns the rhythm of ‘activity’, the other ‘consistency’ of a project. The latter need not concern us too much for the moment, it is enough to say that although we rightly identify malignancy in other structures this in no way indicates an ‘all clear’ for what we undertake. We are no more capable of really articulating our aims and motivations than anyone else. Like everybody else, we are a mystery to ourselves. It is likely that we ‘continue’ for no better reason than that the resistance to us produces interesting research data – we have our own little festivalised events. 

Whilst, it is true that Nihilist Communism continues to advance into the world like Ballard’s Crystal World, it is also true that it can be temporarily (and locally) ‘deliquesced’ by the power of a mightily wielded bejewelled crucifix. Even so, the rate of appearance of Nihilist Communism depends both on ‘works’ (i.e. the independent realising gestures of different individuals) and environmental conditions. 

And so we turn to the rate of movement into the world, the creep of the crystallising process through the forest. In the tempo of individual ‘works’ of realisation I think we can identify a similar division between subjectively imposed ‘rules of involvement’ and objective environmental constraints. Debord addresses this in Society of the Spectacle where he identifies disjunctions between different orders of time. Of interest to us is the break, which also becomes an opposition, between the ‘cyclical’ and ‘pseudo-cyclical’ domains. 

In the present, this opposition of temporalities, is best demonstrated in the conflict between the tribal fighters of Afghanistan and the Nato forces directed against them. The tribal fighters are distinguished by the ‘seasonality’ of their campaigns... as the Crystal World of snow and ice advances into the world, they give up and go home, with the Spring thaw they take up again where they left off, as if waking from hibernation. For them, setting off for war and then returning from the war, is like rotating their flocks: through different pastures and through the fixed points of the year. 

CYCLICAL TIME was already dominant in the experience of nomadic peoples, who confronted the same conditions at each moment of their roaming; as Hegel notes, "the wandering of nomads is a merely formal one, because it is limited to uniform spaces." Once a society became fixed in a locality, giving space content through the individualised development of specific areas, it found itself enclosed thereby within the location in question. A time-bound return to similar places thus gave way to the pure return of time in a single place, the repetition of a set of gestures. 

Thesis 127

The act of relinquishment which is made under pressure of the seasons of the mountains, and which is the identifiable traits of the tribal warrior mode of warfare, is strongly contrasted with the tempo of total war conducted by ISAF. In this model, all channels are open all of the time. ISAF manifests itself as its own crisis, and must operate permanently at the edge of its capabilities... It is caught, as Foucault observes of all disciplinary institutions, by the necessity to impose its own space onto existing space, its own time onto existing time. 

The industrialisation of time, or the disciplinary tempo, as Debord says, is the temporal template into which different but compatible contents maybe added. The same tempo dictates the conduct of a war, the running of the Olympics, or a programme of charitable ‘aid’. In all examples, ‘optimisation’ is the key to the realisation of an event which also contains the process of continuation. New events must be made to occur constantly and these must all be both the same and novel.

The practice of logistics directs itself to collapsing the transition between the natural states inherent to events in order to produce a single totalising moment. The moments nominally identified as distinct, ‘boots on the ground’, ‘getting the project up and running,’ and ‘rolling out the programme’ are all run together. The logic of process as event and event as process is inherent to the ‘channelling’ technology which dominates all current spectacular decision making and its related activity. 

All events take on the same character because they are all supplied through the same industral apparatuses. 'Channelling' technology implements a ‘just in time’ freneticism, as pseudo-events’ queue up behind each other (hurricanes follow hot on the heels of child abusers, which crowd out presidential elections, which take their turn behind The Olympics) to inhibit the appearance of anything else. The effect is described by Michaux in The Hivinizikis: 

The play continues, always at great speed, and before the kneeling man rises ten or fifteen years ave passed, maybe more, the young woman is now a grandmother, somebody has just brought her a white wig.

It is also the logic which dominates, by means of self-managed acceleration, the practice of ‘pro-revolutionaries’... for whom, all channels are open always. Pro-revolutionaries are always building, and the struggle never ceases. And yet, or so it seems to me, if one does not wish to realise a different content within the same temporal/disciplinary template, it becomes necessary to get in touch with, perhaps romantically, with the seasons of the mountains. 

If we are able to fix our efforts onto other objective tempos, then perhaps this is begun variously by introducing breaks into the rate of our activity, by including flaws into the carpets we weave, and by acts of relinquishment before the weather. Would it be presumptuous to describe this as a variant of bunburyism? 

Well, all this is a complicated explanation for why there is no email button on my project. 

And it is also a long way from the barbarity of Afghan tribal warfare (that is, it is as far as it is possible to get whilst not also denying the provenance of that particular lesson).

Even so, I look forward to your negotiation of the obstacles strewn in your path



PS. This text was constructed from quotes acquired by means of sortes divination... the text was written as a mere supporting medium in order to show them off. It is likely that there is no meaning to be extracted from it. I have not managed to include other quotes, particularly from the story of the death of Hyacinth, and the means by which Puss in Boots outwitted the ogre.