VIII

 

"We also lack that generosity, that indifference to fate, which, if it doesn't give any great joy, does give one a familiarity with the worst of degradations, and will be granted us by the world to come."

Roger Caillois

 

"The Imaginary pays an ever higher price for its strength, while from beyond its screen the possible Real shines through.  What we have today, doubtless, is but the domination of the Imaginary, having made itself totalitarian.   But this is precisely its dialectical and 'natural' limit.  Either, even desire itself and its subject, the process of attaining corporeality of the latent Gemeinwesen, will be burnt away at the final stake, or all simulacra will be dispelled: the extreme struggle of the species rages on against the managers of alienation and, in the bloody sunset of all these 'suns of the future' a truly possible future will at last begin to dawn.  Mankind, in order to truly Be, now only needs to make a definitive break with all 'concrete utopias.'

Giorgio Cesarano, Survival Manual, 1975

 

 

All individuals, groups, all lifestyles/forms-of-life, cannot fit into the feedback loop.  There are some that are just too fragile.  That threaten to snap.  And there are some that are just too strong... that threaten to break shit. 

These temporal evolutions,

as an instance of breakage,

suppose that at a given moment of lived experience, bodies go through the acute feeling that it can all abruptly come to an end,

from one moment to the next,

that the nothingness,

that silence,

that death are suddenly within reach of bodies and gestures.

It can end.

The threat.

 

Defeating the process of cybernetization, toppling the empire, will take place through opening up a breach for panic.  Because the Empire is an ensemble of devices that aim to ward off all events, a process of control and rationalization, its fall will be perceived by its agents and its control apparatus as the most irrational of phenomena.  The lines that follow here give a cursory view of what such a cybernetic view of panic might be, and indicate a contrario its effective power: "panic is thus an inefficient collective behavior because it is not properly adapted for danger (real or supposed); it is characterized by the regression of mentalities to an archaic, gregarious level, and gives rise to primitive, desperate flight reactions, disordered agitation, physical violence, and general acts of self- or hetero-aggressivity: panic reactions show the characteristics of the collective soul in a altered state of perception and judgment; alignment on the basis of the most unsophisticated behaviors; suggestibility; participation in violence without any idea of individual responsibility."

 

Panic makes the cyberneticians panic. It represents absolute risk, the permanent potential threat that the intensification of relations between lifestyles/forms-of-life presents.  Because of this, it should be made as terrifying as the appointed cybernetician himself endeavors to show it being: "panic is dangerous for populations; it increases the number of victims resulting from an accident by causing inappropriate flight reactions, which may indeed be the only real reason for deaths and injuries; every time it's the same scenario: acts of blind rage, trampling, crushing..." the lie in that description of course is that it imagines panic phenomena exclusively from a sealed environment: as a liberation of bodies, panic self-destructs because everyone tries to get out through an exit that's too narrow.   

 

But it is possible to envision that there could be, as happened in Genoa in July 2001, panic to a degree sufficient to fuck up the cybernetic programming and pass through various social groups/milieus, panic that would go beyond the annihilation stage, as Canetti suggests in Mass and Power
: "If we weren't in a theater we could all run away together like a flock of threatened animals, and increase the energy of our escape with our movement in the same direction.  An active mass fear of this kind is the great collective event lived by all herd animals and who save themselves together because they are good runners."  In this sense I see as political fact of the greatest importance the panic involving more than a million persons that Orson Welles provoked in 1938 when he made his announcement over the airwaves in New Jersey, at a time when radiophonics were still in early enough a state that people gave its broadcasts a certain truth value.  Because "the more we fight for our own lives the more it becomes obvious that we are fighting against the others hemming us in on all sides," and alongside an unheard of and uncontrollable expenditure, panic also reveals the naked civil war going on: it is "a disintegration of the mass within the mass."

 

In panic situations, communities break off from the social body, designed as a totality, and attempt to escape it.  But since they are still physically and socially captive to it, they are obliged to attack it.  Panic shows, more than any other phenomenon, the plural and non-organic body of the species.  Sloterdijk, that last man of philosophy, extends this positive concept of panic: "from a historical perspective, the fringe elements are probably the first to develop a non hysterical relationship with the possible apocalypse. ...Today's fringe consciousness is characterize by something that might be called a pragmatic relationship with catastrophe."  To the question: "doesn't civilization have as a precondition the absence or even exclusion of the panic element, to the extent that it must be built on the basis of expectations, repetitions, security and institutions?" Sloterdijk counters that "it is only thanks to the proximity of panic experiences that living civilizations are possible."  They can thus ward off the potential catastrophes of the era by rediscovering a primordial familiarity with them.  They offer the possibility of converting these energies into "a rational ecstasy through which the individual opens up to the intuitive idea: 'I am the world'."  What really busts the levees and turns panic in into a positive potential charge, a confused intuition (in con-fusion) of its transcendence, is that each person, when in a panic situation, is like the living foundation of his own crisis, instead of undergoing it like some kind of exterior inevitability.  The quest after active panic - the "panic experience of the world" - is thus a technique for assuming the risk of disintegration that each person represents for society, as a risk dividual.  It is the end of hope and of all concrete utopias, forming like a bridge crossing over to a state of waiting for/expecting nothing anymore, of having nothing more to lose.  And this is a way of reintroducing -- through a particular sensibility to the possibilities of lived situations, to their possibilities of collapse, to the extreme fragility of their organization-- a serene relationship with the flight forward movement of cybernetic capitalism.  In the twilight of nihilism, fear must become as extravagant as hope.

 

Within the framework of the cybernetic hypothesis, panic is understood as a status change in the self-regulating system.  For a cybernetician, any disorder can only come from there having been a discrepancy between the pre-set behaviors and the real behaviors of the system's elements.  A behavior that escapes control while remaining indifferent to the system is called "noise," which consequently cannot be handled by a binary machine, reduced to a 0 or a 1.  Such noises are the lines of flight, the wanderings of desires that have still not gone back into the valorization circuit, the non-enrolled.  What we call "the Imaginary Party" is the heterogeneous ensemble of noises which proliferate beneath the Empire, without however reversing its unstable equilibrium, without modifying its state, solitude for instance being the most widespread form of these passages to the side of the Imaginary Party.  Wiener, when he laid the foundation for the cybernetic hypothesis, imagined the existence of systems - called "closed reverberating circuits" - where the discrepancies between the behaviors desired by the whole and the real behaviors of those elements would proliferate.  He envisaged that these noises could then brutally increase in series, like when a driver/pilot's panicked reactions make him wreck his vehicle after he's driven onto an icy road or hit a slippery spot on the highway.   The overproduction of bad feedbacks that distort what they're supposed to signal and amplify what they're supposed to contain -- such situations point the way to a pure reverberatory power.  The present practice of bombarding certain nodal points on the Internet network with information - spamming - aims to produce such situations.  All revolt under and against Empire can only be conceived in starting to amplify such "noises," capable of comprising what Prigogine and Stengers - who here call up an analogy between the physical world and the social world - have called "bifurcation points," critical thresholds from which a new system status becomes possible.

 

The shared error of Marx and Bataille with all their categories of "labor power" or "expenditure" was to have situated the power to overturn the system outside of the circulation of commodity flows, in a pre-systemic exteriority set before and after capitalism, in nature for the one, and in a founding sacrifice for the other, which were the springboards from which one could think through the endless metamorphosis of the capitalist system.  In issue number one of the Great Game [Le Grand Jeu], the problem of equilibrium-rupture is posed in more immanent, if still somewhat ambiguous, terms: "This force that exists, cannot remain unemployed in a cosmos which is full like an egg and within which everything acts on and reacts to everything.  So then there must be some kind of trigger or lever that will suddenly turn the course of this current of violence in another direction.  Or rather in a parallel direction, but on another plane thanks to a sudden shift.  Its revolt must become the Invisible Revolt."  It is not simply a matter of the "invisible insurrection of a million minds" as the celestial Trocchi put it.  The force that we call ecstatic politics does not come from any substantial outsideness, but from the discrepancy, the small variation, the whirling motion that, moving outward starting from the interior of the system, push it locally to its breaking point and thus pull up in it the intensities that still pass between the various lifestyles/forms-of-life, in spite of the attenuation of intensities that those lifestyles effectuate.  To put it more precisely, ecstatic politics comes from desires that exceed the flux insofar as the flux nourishes them without their being trackable therein, where desires pass beneath the tracking radar, and occasionally establish themselves, instantiating themselves among lifestyles that in a given situation are playing the role of attractors.  It is known that it is in the nature of desire to leave no trace wherever it goes.  Let's go back to that moment when a system at equilibrium can topple: "in proximity to bifurcation points," write Prigogine and Stengers, "where the system has a 'choice' between two operating regimes/modes, and is, in proper terms, neither in the one nor the other, deviation from the general law is total:  the fluctuations can attain to the same heights of grandeur that the average macroscopic values can... Regions separated by macroscopic distances correlate together: the speed of the reactions produced there regulate one another, and local events thus reverberate through the whole system.  This is when we truly see a paradoxical state, which defies all our 'intuition' regarding the behavior of populations, a state where the smallest differences, far from canceling each other out, succeed one another and propagate incessantly.  The indifferent chaos of equilibrium is thus replaced by a creative chaos, as was evoked by the ancients, a fecund chaos from which different structures can arise."

 

It would be naive to directly deduce, in this scientific description of the potential for disorder, a new political art.  The error of the philosophers and of all thought that deploys itself without recognizing in itself, in its very pronouncement, what it owes to desire, is that it situates itself artificially above the processes that it is aiming to discuss, even when it is based on experience; something Prigogne and Stengers are not themselves immune to, by the way.  Experimentation, which does not consist in completed experiences but in the process of completing them, is located within fluctuation, in the heart of the noise, lying in wait for the bifurcation.  The events that take place within the social, on a level significant enough to influence fates in general, are comprised of more than just a simple sum of individual behaviors.  Inversely, individual behaviors can no longer have, alone, an influence on fates in general.  There remain, however, three stages, which are really one, and which, even though they are not represented, are felt by bodies anyway as immediately political problems: I'm talking about the amplification of non-conforming acts, the intensification of desires and their rhythmic accord; the arrangement of territory, even if "fluctuations cannot invade the whole system all at once.  They must first take place within a particular region.  Depending on whether this initial region has smaller than critical dimensions or not... the fluctuation will either regress, or, contrarily, it will invade and overtake the whole system."  So there are three questions, then, which require investigation in view of an offensive against the Empire: a question of force, a question of rhythm, and a question of momentum. 

 

 


changed April 27, 2010