From the 2005 French riots in the suburbs of Paris and all over France until the Greek social revolt from 2008 to 2012, from the Tunisian and Libyan social explosions, the Tahrir square revolt, the indignados movement in Spain and Gezi Park in Turkey, from the panamerican Occupy movement to the riots of Ferguson and Baltimore none of these revolts led to a revolutionary change of organisation of the economy and social life.
A series of insurrections prepares and brings us closer to a revolutionary change. But we have yet to answer the questions: What could revolution in the 21st century be? How can we create a common ground so to prepare it?
Personally speaking, I don’t see a revolution coming in the near future and I wonder why, especially in this historical period of savage capitalism. All of us—men and women, intersexes and transexuals, gays and lesbians, don’t want to hazard the comfort and safety that capitalism offers us. Why? Because we are afraid of radical change in our lives. There are limitations, dividing lines in the society – and the individual persons who compose society refuse to overcome the economic, the social and the cultural web of the current societies. These limitations are solid and massive constraints as they have been constructed from the 16th century – the era of agrarian capitalism – until today’s neoliberalism. It is difficult to smash them, to dream even that we can smash them as inside these limitations many of our dreams and desires have taken a form—unfortunately a form which is produced only by the means of money and hierarchy, work and repression.
What are these limitations? The acceptance of the established reality. The established reality of the neoliberal society, its comforts, its anxieties and its misery. The established reality of a society where inequality is important and useful for its economical development. The established reality of the conservative way of thinking and living where freedom is welcome in shop therapy, in short holidays in the Alps, in a drunk Saturday, in a concert of a new band for hipster bourgeois kids uninterested in the political becoming.
It is easier to support the dominant absurdity of commercialized human life. You know what it is, you know your place inside this world, even if you are not satisfied you know how to move around, how to get what you need, how to find what you are searching for.You are searching for normality.
The revolts of our era need to deny the putrid feelings that prevent and embarrass our deepest desires for freedom and celebration of life. The presupposed predetermination of austerity, unhappiness, anxiety, self-destruction and wickedness, weakens the people’s dream to be happy and self-complete or manipulate the human desires into already established exploitative forms. The pursuit of happiness that is claimed by everyone must destroy the spectacle, the plastic needs, the synthetic misery and the stupid world of hobbies and obligations.
There are thousands of people watching the decay of happiness in terms of a lack of healthy relationships, lack of social solidarity, mutuality, freedom of expression, and even a lack of every-day existential experience of human love. People watch the abysmal darkness of obligatory monogamy creating relationships based on lies and doubts, the lust for money and the lust for authority that drive society to debt, austerity, enslavement, depression and pessimism. The same persons who desire revolution and social justice, the people who cry for the dead Palestinians, for the poor people in Africa, for the homeless people in Athens and New York or who feel angry about the economic exploitation by the IMF, still they believe that nothing can happen, nothing can really change. They believe that the big demonstrations, the riots, the counter-propaganda cannot influence the political decisions or even reach the rest of the society, that all the strategies of the radicals and the methodologies of the insurgents are dead ends unable to bring any serious improvement to our daily life. This contradistinction inside each one of us restores and re-establishes normality.
The domination of the state and established economy functions deeply inside the human mind. On the other hand, the desire for freedom is hidden everywhere in the mind and in the human body. How can we energize this desire and metamorphose it into a war machine?
There are people who are working and living as uniformed robots without wondering about the meaning of existence and how neoliberalism and capitalism function in their own lives. They are satisfied with their lives even if for the last 4-5 years they have been obliged to drag the banking debt of all Europe inside their sleeping pills and their anti-psychotic medication. The antidote of life’s deficit is to explore and discover life’s real wealth, the wealth of enjoyment, of creativity, of sharing, of love, of emancipated relations beyond and without property, money and success. What are we going to say to all these people? How will these people gather in the streets and how will they find answers for their questions? How have they chosen this life? There is also one more question. Which ethos and morality inspire life? I don’t refer to the bourgeois habits and be haviours. The wave of the insurrection will swallow them.
All these people are socially isolated. The people blame themselves for their psychological and economical situation without understanding the social causes of these problems and they feel inadequate because the difficulties that they face in everyday life are visible at an individual, psychological level – then – they behave as contemporary slaves who are working hard, helping the system to function because they believe that they owe the system – they owe the government- their own life. People feel alone and unable to live their lives based on self-organized structures, revolutionary plans, egalitarian social projects and propositions. People around us deny the possibilities of success of self-organization and our propositions for abolishing the state – state and capital became the only possible mechanisms of human progress, social evolution and human life. We need a new social – political spirit, an existential power that is capable of cultivating and expanding our thoughts and practices. How can we re-appropriate the scientific conclusions and the tools of technology to transform our curiosity, our ignorance, and our fears into liberated desires and new forms of living experiences?
The political anarchist movements, the anarchist collectives, the autonomous political and social organizations and the individual anarchists should be very careful and serious in front of the open eyes of the society. The people are not stupid, the people are feeling fear of change but societies are always in search of new practical solutions and open possibilities. Many arguments between activists and people who participate in various social movements open a discussion about the lack of a clear and concrete goal of the anarchists and practical ways to achieve that. We can’t change a society by pursuing goals that are vague or abstract. “Freedom” by itself cannot serve as a goal, because different people have different conceptions of what constitutes freedom and of the relative importance of different aspects of freedom. The same is true of other abstract ideas such as equality, mutuality and self-organization. The movement needs clear and concrete goals, so that everyone involved will have approximately the same understanding of what our goals and solutions actually are. It seems that the movement’s original goals may become blurred if not completed perverted. The unique solid base is everyday human life as we imagine it, as we want it and as it is. This is the unique criterion that can be used to orient us and to prevent emancipatory concepts from becoming abstract meanings cut off from the existential experience of our every-day life.
Once a revolt becomes powerful enough to achieve its objectives, it should achieve its objectives as soon as possible before the participants get tired and return to their standard lives and their safe apartments. When an objective is vague or abstract, it is too easy to pretend that the objective has been achieved or that progress toward it is being made, when real achievements are minimal, when nothing really changed. The building of a new society and its social structures is endless. We need to devote our personal time to build new structures through mutuality and non-hierarchy. Which are these structures – specifically which are these “counter-structures”? And why do we need “counter-structures” rather than abstract ideas? Because it is a matter of common, everyday experience to change people’s behavior – people’s habits. Did the revolts of our era produce important, lasting changes in human behavior and experience of every-day life?
The power-structure of modern society stabilizes and changes human behavior through the mass media with the help of police, academics and skilled professional propagandists. A kind of information via mass media has been used to besot the youth to crawl with a sentiment of resignation. The ambiguity of corporate information and commercial massive entertainment events deceive and usurp the richness of knowledge. The revolts of our era are also against these personas that the society of the spectacle produces endlessly, against the ethos of the spectacle and against the celebrities of pop culture, the commerce and the businesses of capitalism. The aim of this endless process of assimilation of any kind of human activity by the spectacle is to praise the absence of personal cultivation, to ostracise literature and poetry, to manipulate emotional education, to bury the willingness for adventure under the violence of social vagrancy, to turn love into porn, revolt into hooliganism, spirituality into religion, psychotropic experimentation into drug addiction, creativity into art industry, desire for knowledge into academic authority, need for participation into the apathy of representation. Personal cultivation is worthless to the market.
A self-determined group of committed and intelligent revolutionaries outside the established power structures can transform human ambitions through counter-culture , counter-propaganda and actions but only if that group is powerful enough to undertake a massive propagation of a real transformation of needs and desires, a transformation of the meaning of life and of what living is worth.
Even where human life is constructed and controlled by professional propagandists of established reality, however, that conditioning in not permanent. The established conditioning is reversed when the capitalist propaganda ceases in moments of social crises or when the established manipulation of opinion is replaced by massive counter-culture and counter-propaganda that promotes contrary ideas and practices which can be attractive simultaneously to adventurers and shy people, to intellectuals and hooligans, to sexy girls and digi-nerds, to unemployed and workaholics, ideas and practices that brings life much further than the limitations of established reality and humans much further than the limitations of established social identities. Destroy the established reality! This is always possible. Don’t be afraid to take this step!
The changes that we want to create will sustain and develop with further effort on the part of the movement. This effort emanates from a philosophical search and arrives at a solid social structure of real life solidarity, total freedom, critical thought, constant free distribution of products, education, health care. While both ideas and organization for practical action are necessary components of any rational and successful effort to change a society, the people who fight for practical action need to be the same individuals as the theorists who develop and propagate the ideas. Both the theory and action should walk together so that the “theoretician” and “activist” live together in the same body. We must break the established separations.
Sometimes people are afraid of revolution, even those who consider themselves revolutionaries. Because they are going to lose something. Because during the time of a big revolution, they think that they are going to lose the stability of their everyday life – their houses, their money, their jobs, their small little worlds, their secret private normalities. If we look back at history, the big revolts and the revolutions happened because the people did not have something to lose, or it had already been taken from them. There is inside all of us a whole world of necessities and certainties that we have to demolish and bring down for the grace of the emancipated humanity. There is a wall around us and in between us that is covered with advertisements, luxuries, fashion and celebrities that we have to bring down. Bring down the wall of the spectacle!
Inspired by the article “Eight Theses on the Affective Structure of the Present Conjuncture” by the Institute for Precarious Consciousness published in Anarchy: A Journal of Desired Armed no.75 we can affirm that the dominant system has a dominant way to answer the resistances of each era. So, this time the resistance needs strategies to dissolve the assimilation of the dominant system. The first wave of social movement was a blow against misery. Working conditions became better and capitalism offered a rich life with open possibilities and access to merchandises. Many cars, many shampoos, many loans, many credit cards. The movement’s tactic of the sixties and seventies or even up to the present days are based on ways to escape from capitalistic normality. Situationists pioneered a whole series of tactics directed against boredom.
On the other hand the millennium is an era of global anxiety. We fight boredom with sabotage, reclaim public space, DIY culture, free festivals, hacker culture, lessons of collective orgasm. Contemporary savage capitalism offered us an escape from boredom – The Anxiety – “I am too busy”, “I don’t have time to meet with my friends”, “Ι don’t know what will happen to me tomorrow”, people cannot make longterm plans anymore, they avoid making commitments and promises, everything is ephemeral and instability is the new social contract. All forms of intensity, self-expression, emotional connection, enjoyment are now laced with anxiety.
Wherever you stand in every place on earth, you are a receiver or a transmitter of a universal anxiety. Anxiety to be successful, to be beautiful, to be thin, to pay the house loans, to not be fired from your job, to sustain your family and your marriage, to avoid having a certain future because of the austerity measure, to survive day by day in a social environment of instability, intense antagonism and insecurity.
Our desires are stretched and manipulated by capitalism. Our desires are lead into stupidity.
The mass media, the amusement industry and mass culture turn all our needs and all our desires into merchandise. The different forms of conservatism of established religion are selling psychological stability through different forms of delusion. Catholicism, Puritanism, Protestantism, Orthodox church, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism destroy our spirituality.
In a period of social instability all forms of established reality (state, market, academia, religion, law, banking system, mass culture) are re-appearing as guarantors of normality promising social stability even though they are the causes of global anxiety.
The luxury of stupidity creates apathy, loneliness, dominant behavior, jealousy, hate, possessiveness, ignorance, attachment, greed, aversion and exploitation. The stupidity is seen in the absence of critical thought: you are living somewhere that you didn’t choose in a way you don’t understand the workings of, nor the reasons for the things that are happening to you. The stupidity is seen in the mechanical re-production of the same personalities, the same choices and the same decisions.
There is an increase of unimportance that spreads all around the world through anxiety and constructs the established authority. The exaltation of modesty is always a privilege of the ruling class. Modesty and resentfulness are best friends in our days. The repressed desires, the depressed hidden feelings, your personal guilt for the failure of not being rich and famous and rich, the compulsion of work, the power of the verb “having” instead of “being” are millennium stars sparkling in the mud of apathy, coldness, hysteria and disappointment.
The revolutionary powers are the powers of Eros. The power of the state is the death of the anarchist desires for freedom of mankind. The path from controlled to uncontrolled desires is the situation where the people can experience their passions at their Zenith.
In the era of contemporary totalitarianism, the passions can endanger or destroy the relationships even of emancipated persons. Sex, drugs, free love, enjoyment, dancing, travelling, poetry, art, insurrection, creativity, refusal of wage slavery, BDSM, gender experimentation, neo-nomadism, collective life, polygamy, squatting, guerrilla struggle, political agitation, group sex or riot can be emancipatory and in the same moment psychologically and existentially destructive for the person.
But there is always the possibility of situations where these same passions would not destroy the person but emancipate him or her from the morality of Christianity, the morality of conservatism, the morality of capitalism. We must be aware of both the limitations and the powers of our own passions.
The I, the self, is already designed to function inside a specific social organization. This social structure reproduces itself through the internalization of the order that created the structure.
Situations where the passions expand and revolt against the establishment are also bound themselves to the existing order. The people who create and participate in the revolutionary situations need to be able to create their own orders far from the dominant civilization.
The revolutionary passions ought to stem from a whole social -political movement that includes all the human activities in everyday life.
Society is always pushing you to turn into something other than what you want to be. Society attempts to make you someone else, a copy, a simulacrum. It is necessary to realize that we are not here to fulfill the expectations of anyone else. It is safer to follow society, the priests, the politicians, the teachers because society does not create problems for you when you ‘re with it. But it is dangerous to follow yourself because society will not be there to support you.We need to search, to understand, to analyze the social conditions in order to offer the benefit of Anarchy to humanity. The imposed obligations constitute a strategy of priests, teachers, politicians, economists, bankers, businessmen and policemen in order to control your desires, in order to keep humanity enslaved forever. They destroy your capacity to live, to love, to delight. There is a secret. If you can make humanity feel guilty, you remain strong. The culprit is always ready to serve the strong . The culprit does not have enough courage and passion to be a rebel, that’s the secret. Only a passionate human being can be revolutionary. As member of Void Network I can say that we want to create spaces of emancipation, situations of revolt, events of personal and collective enthusiasm so that the people feel empowered to collectively question their personal lives and fight to change the social relationships. We want to share the amazing passionate moments where the common people become revolutionary beings. Our uprisings need to find a ground that can be a way against and beyond Western thinking, its anxieties and its comforts. We fight for radical social change, transformation of everyday life and the liberation of the existential experience of human being.
Sissy Doutsiou / Void Network – Athens
Sissy Doutsiou is a poet, actress and activist. She is co-founder of the Institute for Experimental Arts and member of Void Network from 2004. Read also “The Limitations of Antisexism”, another essay of her that you can find at the book “We Are an Image from the Future- The Greek Revolt of December 2008” (AK Press 2010) You can read the essay here: https://voidnetwork.gr/wp-admin/post.php?post=5917&action=edit