Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Summer Chill (3)

The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day."

Every act of desperation calls into question the category of adequacy.  The problem of social transformation has radically shifted from the order of the prescriptive (what is to be done?) to the forensic (what has been done?) and correlates with a slippage in ideology from motifs of attack to those of defensiveness.

It is a convention in the theorisation of driven acts that the subject only finds its true character where it has been forced to take matters into its own hands. Violent means are intuited as a recapitulation of social forces and social tensions become discernible only within the occurrence of violent means. The ideological constraints of this intuition ensure its reproduction as a stress response across the political spectrum: by deploying violent means, the subject formation brings otherwise underlying tensions to the surface and thus present's the gorgon's head with a reflection of its own gaze. The rationale of the desperate act assumes that the more extreme its violence, the purer its adequacy to its moment. 

The driven act is realised by that particular actant who it is assumed could not have acted otherwise. But where does such an intuition come from? Those with military training seem compelled to present their own situation within a military frame. Whilst they have appropriated to themselves the rationale of the impelled agent (they also wish to be understood as the autonomous subject standing up for themselves), the adequacy of military means remains a pre-programmed stress-response that is compulsively reproduced by revolutionary and reactionary alike.

Any critique of the defence of the desperate act will begin both from a rejection of the content of the act itself, as no act that is not also abhorrent is ever called 'desperate' (there are no arguments in defence of desperate generosity) and from the presentation of the act's inevitable adequacy to its moment, as if there were no others there who are equally set in motion but who are also acting otherwise. How are all those not wearing bomb belts to be explained? Ideology emerges at the point in representation where a proprietorial element is retrospectively asserted, this event both expresses its moment and also represents it - social forces both elevate the event as an enclosure of what has gone and also carry it forward as an apparatus for expropriating what shall be. In practice, populations are pacified where those members who have committed most, are also elevated to the status of those most qualified to speak - it is a warrior structure that abolishes the function of the elder. Then, the hypothesis of the desperate act, which rehearses the conventional metaphor of the moth to the flame, is well suited to the discourse of historical materialism where relatively isolated events are assigned a compulsive character and employed as a narrative function, becoming portals to the otherwise indiscernible tumult of general relations. 

The moral defence of the desperate act is situated in the category of desperation rather than in any quality of the act itself. Nobody defends an atrocity qua atrocity - nobody claims degrading violence is necessary on its own terms. Instead, the argument is drawn from mitigating contextual factors - it proceeds through relativising the measures taken by presenting them in the context of other and worse crimes: 1. Men cannot help desiring to resemble their times more than they desire the mortality of their fathers; 2. Men are deranged by the derangement of their circumstances, and it is no great surprise that the wretches must behave wretchedly. 

The overriding fear that drives the apologetics form, or rather, the representation it makes of the risks incurred by not defending the indefensible, every vile potential carried by the oppressed, is that the state will then evade its responsibility for the production of both general conditions and the particularly conditioned. If the violence of the oppressed is not explicitly causally related to the violence of the state, where the magnitudes of force are set out in appropriate sequence, then the generality of oppression escapes consciousness. In the struggle to keep oppression foremost in mind, all other priorities, including sensitivity to oppression, are relinquished. The fear is well-founded, it is the case that the received ideological structure of argumentation puts the obvious in jeopardy wherever it is not openly defended - opponents of state power have yet to find a means of sustaining the refutation of the desperate act without, by omission, also denying the reality of the desperation. At every point, that which is spoken of silences everything else, this is how the mechanism of representation at the heart of ideology operates, it cannot be escaped by act of will.

As a consequence, the specific task of anti-fascism, the disintegration of the authoritarian personality from the institutional mechanisms that maintain it, has become too burdensome, and has long since been abandoned for the simple form rituals of counter-parades and the externalising conjuring of cartoon enemies. As a practice, the conventions of which are reproduced throughout its subsets, anti-fascism is reduced to assigning significances within its narrative presentation: amplifying fascist violence, attenuating the violences of 'resistance'. 

Those familiar with the conventions of hierarchical command structures conceive of the possibility of asserting the self only in terms of a military intervention. Whilst acting out has a therapeutic significance, the personification of social antagonism serves no substantive transformative purpose.  In a situation of perpetual environmental crisis, the pressure to immediately and summarily articulate that crisis (and thus sketch out the necessary form of a response to it) is experienced as an overwhelming compulsion. In a state of crisis, the most rationalised systems engender the greatest irrationalities - reproduction impacts upon individuals as their own repetition compulsions. Those life forms constrained systemically are employed to discharge the energy of the impacts that they are unable to metabolise: the soldier releases the pressure of the forces that have disciplined him by releasing it as disruption of the enemy's discipline. 

In a situation where every victory secures only the qualification to participate in the next war, the military mindset has convinced itself of the necessity of the quid pro quo as both its means and end. From Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the militaristic standpoint has overseen the status of battle-as-event subsumed by the function of battle-as-process. The immediacy of the spoils of victory, the treasure, the territory, the slaves, has become nothing beside the achievement of an improvement in strategic position by which are secured the logistics for the coming war.

Napoleon's war has not finished. It continues the project of its own realisation, and works endless upon the perfection of its own self-regulating life-world. In the face of war's unstoppable momentum, the militarist perceives that no terms will ever be acceptable, and cessation has become untenable. War is not a policy pursued in the service of realising the objectives of 'production', war has long since become its own production and as such is impelled to reinvest its victories and thus expand its forces in readiness for the hostilities that commence at the point the peace treaty is signed.  

The tendency to reproduce the motif of endless struggle, and its correlate strategic rationalisation for any and every claimed action, fixes the militarised mindset at the heart of social praxis. The military fantasy of cleaning the ground of all complexity and beginning again from parade ground principles saturates the narrative conventions of mass culture, where the tectonic plates of entertainment and military force converge upon each other's territories. A shared reliance on hierarchical command chains coupled to the narrative-form problem solving that is found in the radical simplifications of both the culture and war industries amplifies the interchangeability of technique: war is aestheticised, communications weaponised. 

The conception of trauma, both inflicted and experienced, as a lever upon social inertia relies upon the cultural internalisation of the Crucifix as organising principle for human experience. The institutionalisation of the cross has facilitated the widespread implicit, if staged, assumption that not only are the treasures of the world out of reach, and if they were attainable they would be worthless, but that the significance of any true prize is proportionately indexed to the quantity of suffering incurred in securing it. Every reiteration of the representational formality of the difficult path to liberation seems like wisdom, but there are also always other framings. Struggle itself is fatally integrated into the reproductive process. 

The ideological mechanisms of commitment and affliction mutually condition each other within the psychological networks of repressive consciousness, and are deployed in tandem as a basic structuring of, and defence mechanism for, the ontological centrality of labour. The now fabled ten thousand hours of voluntary 'practice' necessary to achieve technical proficiency places a very precise figure on the intuitive valuation of consciously directed activity that Marx famously distinguishes from the work of animals. The relatedness of commitment and suffering is perpetually returned to for its explanatory power and as a source of radical, multifaceted, truth: commitment because of suffering; suffering because of commitment. 

The ideological adequacy of this relatedness emerges from the most simple of contextualisations: where suffering is foundational, it is discovered to have meaning, and those committed to that meaning may utilise this suffering for their own ends; where commitment is foundational, it is discovered that suffering is the inevitable cost incurred in the defence of what is committed to. From spirituality to war, from sport to revolution - the same blocks of meaning and activity are employed in constructing narratives of becoming. The long march, the difficult path. The partisan, by definition is sufficiently committed to the cause to either undergo, or inflict, proportionate suffering as a means of exchanging affliction with the significance of the object committed to: If for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid in a child's face -- are you prepared to do that?

'Jam to-morrow' orientates the individual within civilisation's temporalities, and as an organising principle it may also serve as a short hand for conceptualising the future in terms of payment. It is possible that the future can appear on no other terms than as a deferred reward as perceived from the present. The future is nothing but the temporality purchased through the combination of past suffering and present labours. What purpose would a future serve to consciousness if not as a looked-for release -  a weaver's escape as from one of Marx's spider webs? If suffering is a traffic between the experiences of past and present, then commitment becomes that form of consciousness, a type of credit, which bridges present labour to next month's payday.  

The representations that are generated at the productive core of world transformation, that imaginative step in the process of realisation separating architects from bees, also generate the difficulty of the subject's 'adequacy' as it contests the possible forms of socialisation.  The knotted heart of representation at the constricted heart of production generates a world that is unrecognised, and unknowable, to those wishing to know and thereby change it. The soldier of whatever cause, of reaction and of resistance, of revolt and of counter-revolt, are compelled to reproduce the archaic outcomes, and are brought there always by the archaic means. The soldier, the revolutionary, has responded across eternity to the prepared apparatus for triggering the same violence by the same representational motifs: the flag, the espirit de corps, the enemy's atrocities. The soldier, the revolutionary is imprinted, and socialised, by images to which he responds immediately as to environmental prompts.

Then, self-separation from the image apparatus involves a de-escalation of the tendency towards the desperate act - the epiphenomenon of which just now seems to conform to the pattern of the 'Werther effect', more the shallow romanticism of narcissistic 'copy cats' rather than individual abreactions of primal contradiction (and all the more tragic for the abject conventionality of means that are brought into play). Those who would shrink from putting on street theatre are prepared to commit random murder. 

Given that the reproductive apparatus cannot be represented, and thus is not vulnerable to direct attack, it is also probable that the socialising process as a whole is only truly engaged within its own constraints - the negation must emerge through an exhaustion of terms rather than by 'supersession'. Revolt must refuse to release new energy into the system, there should be no new productive forces, no new energies - revolt must refuse to engage as revolt. Where the eruption of serial crises indicates systemic stabilisation, it is probable that there are now only two points of contradiction between the subject and the reproductive apparatus, both of which are also necessarily subsumed by the system: the wage and free time. 

The tendency to slip into the image repertoire of desperate acts is countered only by direct improvements to the quality of life, that is through the mundane game of increasing wage rates (without at the same time permitting a corresponding increase in productivity), and by the self-expansion of free time outside of work. The wage is the only objective measure of presence permitted in the world, and to subjectively increase it is to literally expand the self's implication with world production but expand it from a reversed perspective. The productive environment seeks to cut the cost of variable capital, and supplant it by machinery, but it also fetishise the ontology of work. As wages fall relative to the potential for independent wealth (the 'millennial' cannot buy land or retirement, retreat from the world has become increasingly difficult but entertainment, food, consumer technology are all relatively cheap) the potential for individual autonomy declines, and the moral status of work rises as an end in itself. 

No acts of revolt, or 'communising measures', trapped as they are in the realm of the particular, will ever decisively impact upon this general trend - for this reason, there is no option but to explore the project of self-realisation objectively within the system of value, and by the only measure that the system itself recognises. Only the subjective increase of the objective cost of the reproduction of labour (literally, wages forced to the level at which land becomes affordable) will push the system's internal contradictions to crisis beyond crisis. The alternative, the expansion of labour and the fall in the purchasing power of wages results in a continual diminution of existence: cramped rooms, house shares, and a virtual live lived as the refutation and relinquishment of dimensionality itself. Where accelerationism seeks the objective expulsion of labour, subjective expansion of the wage form as a cost of production seeks disintegration from the hold of dead labour. It almost passes without mentioning that the character of socialisation expressed by the wage form, as a measure of presence in the world, diverges from that of the sociability generated by images, even though the wage is representation in its perfected form. Because the wage is integral to the system of production, and thus to the apparatus of labour's reproduction: there can be no subjective increase in wages that is not also radically socialised. In practice, there are no individual wage increases but only general fluctuations. 

The mechanism of desublimation that releases desperate acts of individual violence into the world is itself triggered where image-socialisation has supplanted collective activity around the wage, this is also the point at which the ideal of autonomy centred on material wealth is thwarted and replaced by a digital representation. The re-discovery of free time situated in material space, and away from the hold of screens, is a basic condition for any attempt at subjectively instigating the struggle to increase wages in general. Where free time is expanded, its nature must be separated from dead time, those polluted lacunae, dreary browsings, the lassitude of distractions, which induce in the individual a compensational desire for the purposeful energetics of work tasks for their own sake. In its self-separations, free time is only experienced in those moments of true darkness, where consciousness is severed from digital communications, and the subject begins to make out other constellations in the night sky.  Those who exist at the point of giving way to ideological literalism and becoming subsumed, for whatever cause, within the seeming imperative of the desperate act, should consider instead setting other terms and expanding the domain of their free time. Life circumstances are improved only by improving life circumstances - the monotheistic fetish of suffering and struggle, where liberation is accessed only by the narrow path, and at a high cost, functions as an impediment to life improvement. The study of moths for example as expanded free time is incompatible with acting out and shooting strangers, and therefore a handy alternative to it. Better yet, free time should conform to those patterns upon which weavers may devolve to spiders, and architects defer to bees.


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