“From Street Fight to State Right
The mass of individuals that the smallest military unit offers the eye, united in a common voyage.
In every revolution there is the paradoxical presence of circulation. Engels remarks in June 1848: “The first assemblies take place on the large boulevards, where Parisian life circulates with the greatest intensity.” Less than a century later, Weber says of the disappearance of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (as if he were talking about the results of a car crash) that “they called to the streets, and the streets killed them.” The masses are not a population, a society, but the multitude of passersby. The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal from not in the place of production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of attack), in other words a producer of speed.
For the mass of unemployed, demobilized workers without an occupation, Paris is a tapestry of trajectories, a series of streets and avenues in which they roam, for the most part, with neither goal nor destination, subject to a police repression intended to control their wanderings. For the various revolutionary groups, as for the Apaches and other shady populations of the city’s outskirts, it will be less a matter, when the time comes, of occupying a given building than of holding the streets. In 1931, during the National Socialists’ struggle against the Marxist parties in Berlin, Joseph Goebbels notes, “Whoever can conquer the streets also conquers the State!”
Can asphalt be a political territory? Is the bourgeois State and its power the street, or in the street? Are its political force and expanse in the places of intense circulation, on the path of rapid transportation?
As Goebbels again writes about the battles for Berlin, “The ideal militant is the political combatant in the Brown Army as a movement…obeying a law that he sometimes doesn’t know, but that he could recite in his sleep…Thus we have set these fanatical beings in motion…”
He then scientifically compares the transcripts of his various speeches, made first in the provinces and then later in Berlin, and notices that the “amorphous sociological conglomerate” of the capital required the invention of a “new language for the masses”: “The rhythm of the metropolis with its four million souls throbs like a burning wind through declarations of propagandists…Here a new and modern language was spoken, one that has nothing to do with the archaic forms of so-called popular expression. This is the beginning of an original artistic style, the first form of expression to be truly animated and galvanizing.”
Mob riots reform the mob (the original mob of hunter-raiders). To lead the bands of “lost soldiers” of the workers’ army – its dromomaniacs – that is, for the leader, to incite them, “lead them to the attack like a pack of dogs,” as Saint-Just said. It means giving rhythm to the mobile mass’s trajectory through vulgar stimulation, a polemical symphony, transmitted far and wide, from one to the other, polyphonic and multicolored like the road signals and traffic directions meant to accelerate the telescoping, the shock of the accident. This is the ultimate goal of street demonstrations, of urban disorder. “Propaganda must be made directly by words and images, not by writing,” states Goebbels, who was himself a great promoter of audiovisuals in Germany. Reading implies time for reflection, a slowing down that destroys the mass’s dynamic efficiency. If a monument should be penetrated by the mob, it will be rapidly transformed into a place of passage, where everyone enters and exits, brings to and takes away. It’s the free-for-all, plunder for plundering’s sake, as we saw even in 1975 at the fall of Saigon.”
Speed and Politics
Published in 1977 by Virilio, Speed and Politics prophetically foresaw through a careful analysis of the Nazi rise to power in Germany in the 1930’s the technological machinery of the Internet mobilized mob movement of the 21st-century. Today the social networks of the Internet are flooded by “words and images, not by writing.” Internet memes, Tweets, Facebook status updates, Google search hits, and website pages flood the mind of people wired to each other by machines of increasing sophistication and accessibility. Organically connected to each other like neurons in the brain by the smartphone and personal computer the new generation coming up has not known a time without the Internet. The Internet wires are like the streets of Engel’s 19th century Paris: “The first assemblies take place on the large boulevards, where Parisian life circulates with the greatest intensity.” Replace large boulevards with Internet wires and connections and Parisian life with Facebook and you have the 21st century for many. For most people, the information flood of the 21st century is impossible to comprehend. As a coping mechanism, most revert back to preconditioned instinctual responses to the words and images.
The age-old prejudices of culture are translated into emotional digital flow. Love and hate flow in 0’s and 1’s across the wires of the Internet. For example on the negative side, hate on the extremist White Supremacy site Stormfront inspired the Charleston mass shooting. In the Middle East and in the greater Muslim world images of torture in Abu Ghraib inspire disenfranchised, poor young men and women to join the Islamic State in Syria from around the world. The exact opposite pole of the War on Terror followed the exact same human pattern. Incessant images of the World Trade Center towers being attacked by airplanes fueled in American support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000’s. Anti-Western sentiments and Islamophobia are two sides of the same coin, a globalized connected mass of humanity that is polarized by wealth into a small ultra rich minority and a large impoverished mass. A humanity that has not grown up and learned to share and integrate the information constructively. Humanity has not learned how to read much less write together constructively.
Most of the Western intellectual elite fail to understand this phenomenon. Distracted by esoteric slivers of minutia in an educational system atomized into a myriad of disciplines that do not talk to each other. The elite frivol away studying their favorite atom of nature as the poor waste away in misery. As long as the financial system is stable and the money is flowing in then they remain content and do not apply their intellectual gifts to helping the poor. They are like the ready-to-hand mode in Heidegger’s Being and Time, hammering away at their favorite problems publishing papers and moving the system along. However, financial instability can shut off this flow of money forcing the elite to consider the system they operate in. Forced to adopt the present-at-hand mode, they introspect as a matter of survival and gradually realize they are working in a Capitalist system. To keep the money flowing in they have to adapt. They might think about the larger system of production of knowledge and learn how to work in the new world productively. This type of situation is the beginnings of a consciousness love revolution. Without intellectuals to think and theorize the masses have no brain, no way to organize effectively to enact change. This is where I see hope.
I see financial austerity as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to step outside the box and work with the real world. As there is a dark side to life, there is also the Light. There is hope. In the darkness the Light has new meaning. One learns what is really important in life not in heaven. One learns what is important in hell. At least that is how it has been for me. As the Chinese poet Gu Cheng states,
“The dark night gave me dark eyes,
I use these eyes to look for Light.”
The past few year I have met several young men who are going to join the American military over continuing to study in the academy. A world war is brewing I feel and secular learning is less glamorous than the battlefield. I try to say to my friends that war is wrong and that their decision is dangerous and unproductive, but they are realists and I am an idealist. I would rather fight the war nonviolently with esoteric, obscure dissident poetry and philosophy that points to the saints and prophets veiled in the subjective as most scripture is too raw without the right heart orientation. I see no military solution to the Middle East war. It has been a proxy war between the West and the old Communist bloc all along and this move by Russia just made it overt. War is on the horizon, and I pray for my brothers headed for something we have not seen yet. I have a bad feeling about this, and need to work with other idealists to express the nonviolent message of Jesus is new relevant ways. I see the Baha’i writings as a path forward in this work. Book 1 study session is Friday. The secular academy is hollow to many spiritually, and this is probably why the military has appeal. I am not perfect, not a good person sometimes. Flawed. I feel there is a higher path of peace though and wonder how to walk it better. I hope my brothers headed to the war find something in the hell they are likely headed into that helps them find a path to peace. Anti-war idealism is not cool now, God help us all for what is to come.
Maybe poetry can be adapted to inspire the masses to live in the Light in harmony and love. I see this as an important goal. Writing poetry that incorporates science, religion, and humanity to bring the common person to a higher place beyond the base animal instinct. Poetry is an ancient vehicle for meaning and emotion. It reaches the heart and mind. It is free to produce requiring only a pen and paper. Recitation is oral. The scriptures are poetry. The authors of the Psalms were poets. Muhammad was a gifted poet. It is the same with all scriptures. Poetry so beautiful and True it is no longer poetry, it is Revelation from God. This may sound like heresy, but think about it. Open a holy book and read a passage. Do you feel something? Go out, try it! Start reading and writing verse to teach humanity to collectively read and write. As masses of individuals that the smallest military unit offers the eye can be united in a common voyage they can also be united in a congregation to build something peaceful and loving. In that way, humanity might survive past the global infancy stage of collective consciousness.
Gaia is growing a big brain, humans the soma, Internet wires the axons and dendrites. I predict the loving synapses will be preserved and the hateful synapse will be selected against by evolution.
So, in summary:
“Propaganda must be made directly by words and images, not by writing.”
Counter anti-fascist propaganda must be made with the same strategy inspired by solid peaceful and loving writing.
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