THE IDES OF MARCH & THE DAY AFTER
How did the world come to be crowded with so many little Caesars? Are we approaching a new age of ceremonial regicide? For too long a revolutionary perspective has been the view from a periscope, whereas the true corruption lies in our spleen, like a sludge of accumulated microplastic. It’s no longer enough to “cut off the head of the Beast,” the virus of the Corporate-State Apparatus has infiltrated every vital organ of the social body, the lymph, the entire nervous system. It has infected the stratosphere, poisoned the oceanic abysses. Its replication has gone into overdrive: soon the planet itself will be nothing but one giant sarcoma. It won’t be a question anymore of the accumulation of Capital: there’ll be no more air for what once was real to dissolve into. For too long we’ve been told to be prudent, that “revolution” is a child’s cloud-castle. But prudence, as Blake said, is a rich ugly old maid courted by incapacity.
“NOBODY HAS DONE THIS TO ME!”
On the 16th of March, the mainstream press reported that Emmanuel Macron had cut short a skiing trip in the Pyrenees in order to chair a crisis meeting with government ministers, following the burning & looting of a Hugo Boss designer store on the Champs Élysées. Macron had been feckless enough to be caught by the cameras wining & dining on the terrace of an exclusive resort while the Gilets Jaunes battled with riot cops for the 18th consecutive Saturday. Under the tag #Le16TousAParis, Macron had been forewarned for weeks about this planned concentration of Gilets Jaunes protests in the French capital, but in the spirit of his Grand Débat elected to absent himself from the city in order to swan about on the ski slopes while an estimated 270,000 protestors across the country attempted to make their grievances heard (a number that officials modestly reduced to 32,300 in their press briefings [7-8,000 in Paris], while at the same time claiming the 80,000 cops deployed to “protect property” had been “extremely stretched”). [Now that Macron can no longer pretend the protests don’t exist, he is proposing to prohibit them.] Following Friday’s Climate Strike action, the day after the Ides of March saw the largest popular protests in France since Mai ’68, yet all the mainstream media could bring themselves to report was the destruction of Fouquet’s & the “sangfroid & determination” of “law enforcement officers.” Twitter, meanwhile, was swamped with images of BAC irregulars & hooligans in cop uniforms once more cold-bloodedly beating protestors & street medics. As of now there have been 12 fatalities, with over 100 seriously injured: 5 having lost hands, 22 having lost an eye.
IN THE KINGDOM OF THE BLIND, THE PROLETARIAT NEEDS ONLY ONE EYE
The Corporate-State is raising up a Cyclops army against itself, the better to point its finger at those who oppose it & scream MONSTER! The people – children, women, men – the indignant, are branded “nihilists,” “anti-social elements,” “rioters,” “extremists,” “terrorists.” Disfigured by the Corporate-State, the people have indeed become a monster, yet no longer as a rhetorical nicety for those in Power to fling about, but as Power’s disenchanted mirror-image. Its opposite. Its monstrous negation. Despite the Corporate-State’s shrill cries of alarm, the monster it has created doesn’t covet the world of its creator, but the very contrary. It has no use for the Corporate-State’s priceless junk. Its Versailleses, its Mar-a-Lagos, its super-yachts, its villas in Davos, its ghettos for the 1%. No more than for its Kenzos, its Longchamps, its Zaras, its SS-brand Hugo Bosses. It doesn’t want its factories, its nuclear weapons silos, its unemployment “benefits.” It couldn’t give a shit about “looting” its well-protected privileges. Its patrimony. Just to breathe freely, it wouldn’t be enough to abolish the Corporate-State, still it would be necessary to #trashtag its mountains of garbage. What else is there to do with all the kitsch of Power, other than burn it?
THE FUTURE IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR
History, so they say, is catching up with us. In fact it already has. It’s left the future far behind, with the tailings, effluent, outfall. The present’s just the air left to breathe in a junked fallout shelter, from a time when ideology still had others it could blame for its suicide. In the meantime, the fascists have re-mobilised. Mass shootings, police shootings, media suppression, border walls, coups-in-progress, climate denial… The mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, are unfortunately merely the latest in a series of proxy actions by supposedly isolated individuals, who in reality are united in a Worldwide Fascist Conspiracy legitimised in the political “mainstream” by the likes of Fraser Anning, Viktor Orbán & Donald Trump, among a throng of fellow-travellers. But the slaughter in Christchurch will be only a temporary embarrassment for those who’ve come to power on the back of a manufactured immigration crisis, fuelled & spread by Rupert Murdoch’s global hate-speech lobby.
NO CRIME & COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
On 11 September 2001, 31 people identified as “Muslims” were killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. At the time, the Western media expressed surprise & incomprehension that “Islamic terrorists” would kill their “own people.” No-one, however, was surprised that “Islamic terrorists” had attacked the World Trade Center in the first place – other than the fact of the magnitude of it, the seeming lack of warning, the unprecedented logistics, the “success” of the attempt. The reason for the media’s “incomprehension” was that, to Western eyes, all Muslims are the same. The media exploited this for the purpose of their preferred “clash of civilisations” narrative, in which a clear line is drawn between “us” & the enemy: the Western World pitted against the Islamic World. In this there was an insistence that the 9/11 attacks could not be permitted, on any level, to be treated as indiscriminate. Just as 9/11 was viewed as an “attack on America,” an “attack upon freedom,” an “attack upon democracy,” so too each individual victim was subsumed into a collective identity. But to do this required excluding the “Muslim” casualties from the “non-Muslim” casualties: the “real” victims. It refused to acknowledge that the ideological profiling of Al-Qaeda – like Daesh in its wake – included all its victims.
SHOOTING RANDOMLY INTO A CROWD
There’s a reason why André Breton’s notorious “simplest surrealist act” – to go down into the street, revolver in hand, & fire randomly into the crowd – persists in causing controversy. But this controversy has nothing to do with the sanctity of human life. By 1929, when Breton issued this provocation, no educated European could be under any illusions about the sanctity of human life in the eyes of a Corporate-State apparatus that’d killed 20 million people during World War 1 & would go on to impoverish & starve many thousands during the Great Depression. The real provocation of Breton’s acte gratuit, was the claim of pure randomness: the shot metaphorically to be fired into the street was the shock of randomness itself, undisguised by the occult significations of ideological conspiracy. If we are prepared to suggest that Breton’s provocation may be other than simply an offence to good taste, or violation of reason, or an insult to the victims of “senseless” violence, it is because it nevertheless brings into view what is too often disavowed: that, in reality, the victims of terrorism are forced to abide in an ideological limbo – of the politicising of individual innocence & the imputation of collective guilt – & so they become for a second time the victims of an abstract collective punishment. Far from being paradoxical, this is the very stuff of that “righteous indignation” in which the clash of civilisations is rooted, since to be deemed innocent also requires the individual to be a kind of tacit “collaborator.” A collaborator in the violence of the tribal myth – in the moral majority – in the illicit fruits of stolen labour. Everything in its place. The World Order. Were it possible, an act of sheer randomness would abolish in an instant the entire armature of this idea.
DISCRIMINATION IS THE ALGORITHM OF POWER
When the Corporate-State Apparatus goes out into the street & fires into a crowd, it doesn’t murder a random cross-section of humanity. It murders only those who are, by implication, guilty before the fact. It is not indiscriminate; it discriminates very precisely.
When the police go out on a killing spree in America, there’s nothing random in the fact that their victims are predominantly black.
And when Daesh went into the streets of Paris on the night of 13 November 2015, the 130 people they murdered were not chosen at random, but with the exact same degree of intent as the WW2 “strategic” revenge-bombing of civilians in Warsaw, London, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima.
With the same degree of intent as Guernica & Guatemala City.
With the same degree of intent as Laos & Cambodia.
Etc. – etc. – etc.
And when white supremacists live-streamed their attack on two mosques in Christchurch last Friday, it was not a random act of terror: the 50 people who died, died because they were Muslims. As individuals their deaths would only be allowed to appear “arbitrary.” None of them “deserved” to die, they’d committed no capital offence. Yet as Fraser Anning, the unelected Australian Senator’s racist screed proclaimed – & which the Murdoch press duly amplified – they were all nonetheless guilty. Guilty by the most spurious narcissistic “reasoning.” As the powerless everywhere are guilty. Like the “witches” of Salem, guilty of magic, yet helplessly burned at the stake. And the “secret overlords” of the global Jewish “cabal,” defencelessly murdered in their ghettos by Nazi hooligans.
Thus are the victims presented as the real murderers, while those who perpetrate violence upon them are presented as its true victims (the front page of a UK scandal rag described one of the Christchurch killers as an “angelic boy” – no doubt because he selflessly gave others to die for whiteman’s sins, in a country still under the yoke of European colonialism).
POWER IS ITS OWN PREDESTINATION
Industrialisation may be said to have subverted the everyday realism of atrocity – reduced to statistical computations on a cybernetic scale – but monuments to the banal & all-too-human rationality behind them can readily be found in such places as Auschwitz.
Yet Breton’s “surrealist” provocation is in no way diminished by simple statistics, because its premise is that of a revolutionary thought. This revolutionary thought dares to imagine a world in which such things could happen randomly. It seems absurd. God was invented by humans to protect them against precisely such a world, in which guilt may not in fact be apportioned for every act.
Randomness is the great abomination of all ideologues: it suggests we are not responsible for our punishment, or at least blameable for it. (“God,” Einstein complained, “doesn’t play dice” – yet neither are dice random, but probabilistically determined.) To the Christian mind, chained to the dogma of “original sin,” randomness is the ultimate heresy.
It is for exactly this reason that it also represents the most radical & terrifying emancipation from a dogmatic view of the universe. It is as if Breton were reformulating the old proposition, passed down via Nietzsche to Bataille: that if God is really dead, why do we not behave as if we truly believe that to be the case? Why do we still obey the God that comes in the form of the State, of Society, of the Oedipus Complex? Why do we not assume responsibility for a world that is without intentions towards us, even as we are collaborating in its murder?
COMMODIFICATION TRANSFORMS A MYSTICAL SYMBOLIC MEANING ON A HIGHER PLANE INTO A UNIVERSAL ABSTRACTION ON THE ONLY PLANE
Breton’s “surrealism” wasn’t an escape from reality, but an attempt, however flawed, however tentative, at a revolutionary encounter with the real on the level of ideology: (1) by attacking those hypocritical pieties of the Corporate-State embellished by the “sanctity of human life”: pieties that have always been used to mystify collective persecution as justice deserved by collective guilt – of punishment, oppression, exploitation justified by “progress” & the pseudo-sovereignty of “individual will”; (2) by abolishing all claims to manifest destiny: the solipsistic belief that we are not products of randomness, but of some greater divine plan, & that we are the chosen agents of that plan. For only those enchained to predictability can be easily governed. Surrealism’s “simple act” is like a signpost to the apocalyptic event-horizon beyond the domain of the Commodity Fetish: that point at which the power of the Logos ceases to command & resolves through contingency into complexity, weirdness & chance. It doesn’t simply indicate a direction but itself constitutes a path: the negation of socalled “individualism,” of eugenic “moralisation,” of fear at the service of tyranny disguised as the public good. The question is not simply to act, but to demand nothing, beg nothing, justify nothing & offer nothing in return for Power’s false benevolence. The demands, the justifications, are written already in the streets, in garbage heaps, in the mines, in the polluted oceans, in the worthless trickledown of debt-bondage. To mourn the violence of the Corporate-State & its deranged avatars mustn’t provide a spectacle of gratification to those who profit from it. Mourning, too, must be a form of revolt. And revolt must be in a language that is irrecuperable – beyond any aesthetic stance or counter-stance – refusing to be entrapped by senseless “dialogue” & “grand debates.” If Power understands what we mean, we have failed.
17 March 2019