Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, December 24, 2009
But common sense often hides a great many unquestioned assumptions. This is certainly true with regard to the commonplaces about democracy and voting. I hope that by explaining why I don’t vote, I will expose some of these assumptions and raise a few questions.
If my refusal to vote sprang from apathy, obviously I wouldn’t take the time to write this. In fact my refusal to vote stems from a desire to live in a certain way, a way that requires a radical change in the social structure of our lives and the world. As far as possible, I try to confront the world in which we live in terms of these desires, acting toward their realization.
Put briefly, I want to live in a world in which I can be the creator of my life, acting in free association with others with whom I feel some kinship and whose presence I enjoy in order to make our lives together on our own terms. The existing social order consists of a global network of institutions that stands in the way of the realization of this desire. This network includes economic institutions, not just the corporations as such, but also the entire system of economic exchange, private and state property, and wage labor – the institutions of capitalism. It also includes government, law, the police, the military and the social bureaucracy – the institutions of the state. These institutions define the conditions of our social life, forcing us into roles that uphold and reproduce the institutional order. My desire to create my life on my own terms places me in rebellion against these institutions. If I find others with a similar desire and we join together in collective struggle for its realization, that is potentially revolutionary.
In order for the ruling institutions to exist at all, they have to take away our capacity to create our lives for ourselves. They do so precisely by directing our energy into activity that reproduces the institutions, and selling some of the product of this activity back to us. This theft of our life’s energy means that the social order and those who hold power in it are objectively our enemies, because they have made themselves our masters. This is why class struggle is an inevitable part of this social order. But subjectively, we become the enemies of this society when we decide to take our lives back as our own and begin to act on our decision.
Having made this decision, what would voting mean to me? First of all, let’s consider the kinds of choices that appear on the ballot. All of these choices can be reduced to two questions: 1) who do we want to rule us? and 2) with what rules do we want to be ruled? These questions themselves already assume that we should not or cannot be the creators of our own lives, that we should give our ability to decide and act over to others who will determine the conditions of our lives (or uphold those long since determined by the global social order) on the basis of pre-existing rules. But a ballot doesn’t even present these two questions in an open way that allows the voter to choose freely. This would be impossible since election officials couldn’t possibly manage to go through a series of essays in which people described what they wanted even within the limited framework of these questions. So instead we are given a few candidates to choose between for the various elected offices – individuals who want to exercise power over other people, whether for “the common good” or out of crass self-interest –and ballot measures on which to vote yes or no. The candidates and ballot measures are presented to us by professional politicians, people who have the time and money to determine the questions that they are willing to let us vote on. None of this will ever call the ruling order into question, since the electoral process itself assumes the necessity of this order.
So voting is nothing more than choosing which of the masters among the few on the ballot that the voter would prefer to be ruled by and deciding which of the potential rules presented on the ballot for managing this master/slave relationship s/he would like to see them use. Since the democratic process is based on majority rule (with a few notable exceptions, such as the use of the electoral college to choose the president), one’s individual “choices” will not, in fact, determine what sort of servitude s/he will experience. Instead, the “choices” of the majority (as determined by election officials) will determine this for everyone.
In short, voting is not taking action, nor is it taking responsibility for one’s life. It is the very opposite of this. When people vote, they are saying that they accept the idea that others should determine the conditions of their life and their world. They are saying that others should determine the limits of the choices that they make, preferably simplifying these choices into mere either/or decisions, quickly dealt with by a simple momentary gesture. They are saying that they would leave the responsibility of taking decisive action to others. In other words, those who vote are saying that they are content to leave their lives in the hands of others, to refuse the responsibility of creating the life they desire, to avoid the task of finding ways to directly make decisions and take action with others of their choosing that could lead to a real transformation of social reality. So every voter would do well to ask themselves if this is what they mean to say.
I want to make my life my own. I want to find others with whom to create ways to freely act together to directly determine the conditions of our lives on our own terms, without rulers or institutional structures defining our activity. In other words, I want to live in a world without masters or slaves. Therefore, I do not vote. Such desires could never fit in a ballot box. Instead I do my best to create my life in revolt against the ruling order. I talk with others around me about our lives and about what is happening in the world in order to find a few accomplices in the crime called freedom. And I act, alone when necessary and with others when possible, towards the realization of the life and world I desire and against the ruling order and the misery it imposes on life everywhere.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
1. Among the Undead
Today, very few people truly live.
Very few few people experience the vitality of their becoming in the present moment.
Very few people reach out to grasp the energy of their desire in order to create that becoming...
Instead, they work.
I may dream of a world through which unique beings gracefully wend their way, every move, every passage through the streets, the gardens, the wilds,
a dance, a game , a voyage in an endless adventure.
But this daydream itself is belied by reality as my wandering mind is shocked back into my lurching body just in time to avoid crashing into some other distracted sleepwalker.
Such a graceless, joyless world, this world of work.
Not the world of a dance or an elegant game or a voyage into the unknown,
but of bouncing atoms and grinding gears and lock-step marches toward death.
Not lives created joyfully in complicity and conflict, with spontaneous intent,
but survival acted out habitually, in roles already set, where somnambulists thoughtlessly fall into place,
gears in a machine whose purpose eludes them.
But all that really matters is that it works...
that you work...
that I work...
3. My Revolution
And so my revolution--
any anarchist revolution--
any revolution that intends to take back life here and now--
requires the destruction of work...
4. Revolutionary Work?!?
No revolution to date has managed to eradicate work,
because even the revolutionaries most hostile to work have failed to imagine a revolution free from its logic...
Working against work, their efforts are doomed.
So it is necessary to know what work is and how its logic operates.
5. The Work Ethic
"Those who do not work shall not eat."
This hellish christian motto sums up the work ethic perfectly.
Small-minded and small-hearted, pathetic and miserly,
it is the feeble morality of the shopkeeper frightened of the clever thief or daring robber.
It is the threat of the police--the slave driver's whip of our times...
And it is easy to reject this self-serving ethic of grasping, narrow-minded bigots.
Far more difficult is seeing through to work's logic,
beyond the bigots, to their masters...
6. Undercover Slavery
The logic of work remains hidden, veiled, operating undercover, because it functions through alienated activity.
When you and I act out of habit,
without thinking for ourselves,
repeating the same banal motions,
we are sleepwalkers,
When you and I sell our activity for a cause we do not know,
we are slaves...
This is alienation, where the aims, the goals, the products of our activities are strangers to us.
And this is why the logic of work remains well-hidden,
through the judgments of the work ethic.
7. A Limited Attack
And perhaps this is also why the enemies of work have mostly just attacked the work ethic.
In this limited attack, all that is opposed to work is leisure,
the time of idleness,
of inconsequential activity.
The battle is then merely quantitative--
a reduction of work-hours,
an increase in leisure time--
a withering away of work,
perhaps even to zerowork...
but still within the framework of the world of work and its logic.
8. The Logic of Work
The logic of work can be summed up in this way:
All activity of consequence must have a goal, an end.
And so every activity is to be judged and valued in terms of its end product.
This product takes precedence over the creative process,
causing the non-existent future to dominate the present.
Immediate satisfaction in the joy of creating has no value,
only success or failure count...
and counting is what value's all about.
Winners or losers, but not a free creator in the lot.
It should come as no surprise that in the world of this logic, efficiency is valued for itself.
Regardless of the end, what works most efficiently to bring it about successfully is what counts...
penny by penny...
dollar by dollar...
And this is why you have to work...
This is why I have to work...
Or be counted among the worthless...
the zeroes in society's accounting book.
9. The Theft of Life
Always aimed toward ends,
life in the present disappears.
The aimless, end-less becoming of each unique individual
is sacrificed to the goal of production and social reproduction.
The flux of interweaving relationships is dammed up
and channeled into roles which are nothing more than gears in the social machine.
This is alienation,
the theft of my activity,
the theft of your activity,
the theft of my life
and of your life.
Not even the products we make are ours.
Not even the successes are ours.
Only the failures,
above all, the failure to live...
10. Revolution in the Logic of Work
Within work's logic, revolution is a task with an aim...
to produce the perfectly functioning society.
It has a beginning and an end.
It succeeds or fails, is won or lost.
it comes to an end.
Within this logic, there is only revolutionary work
or revolutionary idleness.
Anti-work revolutionaries can embrace the task of activists or militants,
defeating themselves from the beginning
by working for the end of work...
Or they can idly wait for an abstract History
or an equally abstract "objective" or "essential" revolutionary subject
to make the revolution in their place...
Once again defeating themselves...
choosing to let their lives slip through their hands
waiting for their savior to appear.
Failing to escape the logic of work,
every revolution to date has failed...
even the ones that were victorious...
especially the ones that were victorious.
They have failed from the beginning,
because within the logic of winners and losers,
of success and failure,
the revolution has already ceased,
because the past has fixed the future,
guaranteeing the defeat.
And so with their victory these revolutions ended
and the "liberated" people...
went back to work...
11. Breaking with the Logic of Work
So why not break completely with the logic of work?
Why not conceive of activity that is of consequence, not because of its end product,
but because of what it is here and now?
Why not embrace RESOLUTE PLAYFULNESS?
To conceive of revolution in this way is to conceive of it in a way that is fundamentally different,
than the ways that it has generally been conceived by revolutionaries...
Revolution not as a task,
but as a form of play,
as a game, but only in the broadest sense...
As an exploration,
with no beginning and no end...
Rather an endless opening out into new explorations, new experiments, new adventures.
A kind of alchemy or magic of continual transformation...
Putting our lives at stake in each moment for the sheer joy of living...
Here there can be no failure...
Here there can be no defeat...
because there is no aim, no goal, no end...
just the ongoing adventure of conflict and complicity,
destruction and creation,
that is life lived to the full.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Militancy is mistaken for passion and intensity, when in fact it is just an armored straightjacket closing in one's nakedness, stiffening and limiting one's movements. Seriousness is mistaken for resoluteness, when in fact it is enslavement to the abstract, to the future, to the cause, to the past, another sort of self-imprisonment. And isn't this precisely what we resolutely need to refuse as we fight to make our lives our own in each moment?
Perhaps the problem is that so many of those involved in social conflict do not see themselves as free individuals creating their lives, encountering obstacles to this self-creative process and fighting to destroy these obstacles, but rather as oppressed people resisting their oppression.
It is not necessary to ignore the reality of oppression to recognize that when our project becomes resistance to oppression, we become centered on our oppressors. We lose our own lives, and with them the capacity to destroy what stands in our way. Since resitance focusses on the enemy's projects, it keeps us on the defensive and guarantees our defeat (even in victory) by stealing our projects from us.
If, on the other hand, we start from our own project of self-creation, insisting upon moving through the world as free and aimless beings, we will encounter rulers, exploiters, cops, priests, judges, etc., not essentially as oppressors, but as obstacles in our paths, to be destroyed rather than resisted.
It is only in this context that destruction takes on its insurgent, poetic, revolutionary meaning, as a truly gratuitous act that defies the logic of work and opens reality to the marvelous, to surprise. Only then does destruction become playful.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One of the most harmful prevailing prejudices of our times is the belief in Nature as a unified being separate from, and even opposed to Humanity (also perceived as a unified being). In the context of this doctrine, what is specifically Human – what is created by conscious human activity – is called Artificial as opposed to Natural.
The concept of Nature (that is the concept that all beings, things, relationships and activities not created by human beings constitute a unified whole that stands in contrast to all the things, beings, relationships and activities consciously created by human beings) is itself a product of conscious human activity and, thus, artificial.
Etymologically, “nature” simply refers to what is born into something, what is inherent to it; “artifice” refers to something that is made through consciously applied skill. Considered in this way, there is no necessary (“natural” if you will) opposition between “nature” and “artifice”, since what is consciously and skillfully created can only be made by natural beings (at least as of now) with an inborn capacity to learn to act consciously and with skill.
This does not mean that all or even most “artificial” creations are desirable. Just as there are certain “natural” realities that may cause us harm, so there are many “artificial” realities that are detrimental to us. Furthermore, while “natural” harms are usually temporary events that we can endure and get beyond, artificial creations that cause us harm are often meant to be permanent and even expansive. Thus, the only way to put an end to their harmfulness is to dismantle or destroy them. For example, institutions, large-scale structures and technological systems are all created through conscious human activity. They form a network that defines and limits the possibilities of our lives. They harm us socially and psychologically through these limitations that cripple imagination and creative capacity. They harm us physically by causing or enhancing disasters, illness, poverty, pollution, etc. Getting beyond them requires not endurance, but rather conscious human activity aimed at destruction…
In addition, there are aspects of the reality in which we live that are neither “natural” or “artificial”, neither inborn nor consciously created, I am speaking here of the vast array of historical, social and cultural contingencies that develop out of the continuous, fluid interweaving of human relations amongst themselves and with non-human beings and things. Though they develop from human activity, they are not conscious creations, but rather reflect the meeting of chance and necessity in living in the world. For this reason, they often reflect the absurdity of the attempt to institutionally rationalize the world. But they also often provide the opportunities for challenging this institutional rationalization. Thus, in order to attack the civilized ruling order, we need to see beyond the “natural”-“artificial” dichotomy and explore this realm of historical, social and cultural contingency in order to grasp what we can as weapons for our revolt.
The conception of Nature as a unified entity is the basis for two apparently contradictory, but in fact complementary, ideologies that serve the ruling order by enforcing control over our lives: the moral ideology that ascribes goodness to the Natural and evil to the Unnatural and the metaphysical ideology of inherent alienation that sees Nature as a force hostile to Humanity and its development, a force that must be conquered and brought under control.
The moral ideology is applied most widely to in the sexual realm, but has also been used against magical and alchemical experimentation as well as any activity that is looked upon as a challenge to god’s rule (hubris). In our times, it is used against a variety of sexual acts as well as against abortion. Sexual minorities interested in assimilating often try to prove the naturalness of their sexuality (for example, by claiming it is genetic) as opposed to the unnaturalness of certain other forms of sexuality (pedophilia, whose definition has been expanded in recently years to mean the sexual attraction of an adult for anyone under the legal age of consent1, and to a lesser extent bestiality are the prime contemporary examples of “unnatural” desire). But whether used against the hubris of alleged sorcerers, alchemists or courageous infidels, or against specific sexual or reproductive acts, this moral Nature serves as a tool for keeping passion and desire in check and thus for keeping us under control.
The ideology that views Nature as a hostile force which Humanity must conquer in order to meet its needs occurs to some extent within all civilizations, but only seems to have become the dominant conception within western civilization in the past five or six hundred years. Its rise to dominance, in fact corresponds with the rise of capitalism and the beginnings of industrialism. It was necessary to begin to channel human creative endeavors into activity that would maximally exploit all potential economic resources – natural and human – and this ideology provided a justification for just such an exploitative development. It makes use of disease, storms, floods, droughts, earthquakes and other so-called natural difficulties and catastrophes to back up this perspective and justify the most intrusive and controlling technological interventions. More than the moral ideology, this perspective is the modern justification for domination and control.
Civilization is a network of institutions that materially and practically alienate us from our own lives and creativity and, at the same time, from the myriad of relationships with the infinite variety of beings and things that make up the world in which we live. This alienation is what transforms the variety of beings and things into the unity of Nature. This unity mirrors the imposed unity of civilization.
Overcoming alienation could thus be seen as a process of decivilizing. But what does this mean? It does not mean rewilding, going back to the primitive, going back to Nature. All these ideas imply a return to a way of being that is in reality a conceptual model (the Wild, the Primitive, the Natural) and thus a civilized ideal. Decivilizing is not a return to anything. The flow of relationships between ever-changing individuals that is existence outside of the Civilization-Nature dichotomy is never repeatable. So decivilizing has to be understood and explored without models, without any concept of a return.
A process of decivilizing would instead be a process of destruction and dismantling. Of material and social institutions and structures, of course. But also of the ideological structures, the false conceptual unities (Stirner’s “spooks”) which channel thinking to such an extent that most of us don’t even notice these chains on our thoughts. The oneness of Nature, the oneness of Life, the oneness of the Earth are all civilized ideological constructions that guarantee that we continue to view our relationship with the rest of the world through the lens of alienation.
In this light, the desire to attack and destroy the institutions, structures and people that enforce the rule of the civilized regime becomes meaningful only when we are experimenting with ways of grasping our lives as our own and encountering other beings as individuals striving to create their lives – i.e., when we are practically attacking the ideological structure that channel our thoughts and desires. This does not mean rejecting all categorization, but rather recognizing its limits as a specific tool. Categorization can, for example, help us to distinguish poisonous from edible plants. But it cannot tell us the reality or even the most significant aspects of another being: their desires, their aspirations, their dreams…
By recognizing and encountering the uniqueness of each being in each moment, we find the basis for determining how to carry out our desires, for recognizing where complicity and mutuality are appropriate, where conflict is inevitable or desirable, where passionate encounter might flare up and where indifference makes sense. Thus, we are able to focus on what we need to realize desire, what place other beings and things and the relationships we build with them have in this creative process.
In terms of attacking civilization, this means rejecting any monolithic conception of it, without losing sight of its nature as an intertwining network of interdependent institutions and structures. These institutions and fundamental structures can only exist through the alienation of individuals from their lives. That alienation is their basis. This is why we can never make these institutions and basic structures our own, and there is no use in trying to grasp them as such. Rather they need to be destroyed, removed from our path.
But the development of civilization has created a great many byproducts of all sorts: materials, tools, buildings, gathering spaces, ideas, skills, etc. If we view civilization simplistically, as a solid monolith, then we can only bemoan our need to continue to use some of these byproducts as we dream of a distant future when we will live in a paradise where every trace of this monolith is gone.
If, on the other hand, we can distinguish what is essential to civilization from its byproducts and encounter the latter immediately in terms of our needs and desires (i.e., in a decivilized manner), new possibilities open for exploring how to live on our own terms.
This is how outlaws, the so-called “dangerous classes”, tend to encounter the world. Everything that isn’t nailed down is there for the taking to create life with. As anarchists who recognize civilization as the institutionalization of relationships of domination and exploitation, we would also encounter these byproducts in terms of how they can be used to attack, destroy and dismantle civilization.
But how does the idea of relating to each individual being in its uniqueness affect the human need to consciously and skillfully create? If we conceive of the ever-changing myriads of relationships around us as a monolithic Nature that is basically hostile toward us, the techniques methods and structures we develop will aim to conquer, control and dominate this hostile force (perhaps even to destroy it). If, instead, we see ourselves and all the beings around us as unique individuals in an ever-changing interaction with each other, we would still use skill and artifice, but not to conquer a monolith. Instead, we would use them to weave our way through a wonderful dance of relationships – destroying the calcifying institutions that block this dance – in a way that brings the greatest enjoyment to our lives.
A practice of this sort requires a vital and active imagination and a resolute playfulness.
By imagination, I mean the capacity to “see beyond” what is, to see possibilities that challenge and attack the current reality rather than extending it. I am not talking here of an adherence to a single utopian vision – which would tend to create authoritarian monstrosities in search of adherents to devour – but of a capacity for ongoing utopian exploration without a destination, without a goal.
Perhaps this is what distinguishes anarchists from other outlaws. Imagination has moved their conception of the enjoyment of life beyond mere consumption to playful creation. Certainly, the ways in which outlaws have often historically consumed – the squandering of all they gained through their wits and daring in excesses of debauched feasting and immediate enjoyment of luxuries – runs counter to the capitalist value of accumulation, but it still equates wealth with things, reflecting the alienation of current relationships. Active, practical imagination can show us the real wealth that can spring from free relationships as creative activity.
By resolute playfulness, I mean the refusal to compromise oneself by taking on an identity that pins one down, the refusal to take seriously precisely those things to which this society gives importance, the insistence upon experimenting with one’s life in each moment without worrying about a future that does not exist. The world is full of toys, games and challenges that can heighten the intensity of living. They are often hidden, buried beneath the institutional seriousness or the necessities of survival imposed by the ruling order. The insurgent and outlaw grasping of life involves breaking through these barriers.
So, a process of decivilization, of freeing ourselves from the constraints and obligations imposed by the network of institutions that we call civilization, is not a return to anything. It does not center around learning certain skills and techniques or applying certain utilitarian measures. It is rather a matter of refusing the domination of the utilitarian, the domination of survival over life, of insisting upon going out into the world to play on our own terms, taking hold of what gives us pleasure, and destroying what stands in our way.
1 It original meant the sexual attraction of an adult for prepubescent children.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We have a tendency to overvalue words. We put so much time into producing them, as if they were the source of life itself. We believe that there are words and ways of using words that are inherent sources of oppression and spend vast amounts of time trying to suppress these words, impoverishing our language in the process. In the meantime, the real practices of oppression go on, often carefully using the correct words to hide the practical reality. At the same time, we think that if we find the right combination of words, this will spark rebellion. So we make flyer after flyer, zine after zine, blog after blog, with an evangelistic zeal, forgetting our own lives, our own desire for freedom, joy and the intensity of existence. By giving words such great value, we forget our own purpose in using them. They become our masters. This becomes evident in the attempt to evangelize, where our words become means for winning others over to a position, assuming that when enough people believe the right thing, they will rise up. But have those who rise up for words, and not for their lives, really risen up at all, or are they just embracing a new master? If my aim is to take back my life, to create my desire, my joy, my passion, then how can I turn my words into tools for a position? They would cease to be my own words. For me, words can only be a tool (or toy) for expressing and communicating my desire, my project, my life; one of the many tools I use to find accomplices, to create my enjoyment and to express the intensity of my passions, the wildness of my dreams. But disconnected from life, from practice, they are empty. And any word in the service of a cause, any evangelistic word, any word intended to draw followers to a position, has been disconnected from life, separated from the immediate practice of freedom, and so is empty. Thus, in overvaluing words, we drain them of meaning, because their meaning comes precisely from our lives and our choices.
One of the greatest constraints of this world, of course, is money. A mediation that is not a bridge, but rather a fence between us and what we need to create our lives. It is money that compels us to work (or else to depend on the work of others) and so to sacrifice our lives for survival. The real attack on money must necessarily be an attack on work – that is on the society of work and commodity exchange. This attack starts with a decision to live on one’s own terms. Now once this decision is made (and preferably with a few good friends) the first task is to gather resources, to bring together the tools that are necessary for projecting one’s life as one sees fit. Here there can be no moralizing, no external rules for acceptable methods for gathering tools; there is only the principle of autonomy, of self-determination. The gathering of theoretical and material tools, along with the development of relationships of affinity, provides the basis for the creation of projected lives, and once these tools are gathered, who knows where a small group dedicated to living out their lives in revolt could go? And who knows how widely such passionate fire could spread?
Monday, September 14, 2009
My mind has been racing with thoughts tonight, and I am hoping to catch a few within a net of words – first of all for myself, to wrestle further with the ideas – and secondly for you, because I think perhaps (despite the limits of words), you may appreciate them. Sadly, not knowing where you are, I am capturing what I can of these ideas on this contemptible machine (that I believe – I hope? – is dying….).
I was playing with an Italian translation of the words of a beautiful man (his photo – from the late 19th century – on the back of a book made me smile and dream of kissing his pointy beard and waxed moustache) and drinking nectar brewed from grains and hops… Then a dance began in my brain …
I realized that if we are pessimistic (and nearly all anarchists I know – except the few who are delusionally optimistic – are, even if they try to hide it behind some quasi-deterministic “vision” of the future), it is because we are still too much of this world, the social reality we claim to hate. This reality is one in which our dreams are always in the future, always yet to come, something for which we must strive. The very talk of ends and means – discussed in oh so many ways within our own milieus – is itself a reflection of this… It assumes a future toward which we strive. And inevitably, particularly in times like these, if one is not delusional (regardless of one’s political or anti-political views), it is nearly impossible not to be a pessimist. But what if anarchy, rather than being an end for which we strive, is a way we confront the world? What if insurrection and revolution are not means to achieve an end, but ways of living in the world? What if utopia is not a destiny, but an endless journey elsewhere for the immediate joy of it, an endless stretching beyond (more the “no place” of endless exploration and experimentation than the “good place” where you settle, plant roots and vegetate)? This is the difference between Nietzsche and Hegel (and thus also Marx). Hegel’s dialectic was a journey down a single path toward a specific end. Nietzsche’s “stretching beyond”(? – there is no accurate English translation) has no end; it is an intense urge to perpetually encompass all that is possible and more – now, immediately. In any case, there is no place for either hope or despair, optimism or pessimism in any of this, simply the joy of the immediate challenge and conflict.
Yes, the thoughts are dissipating, but that isn’t important. Do I have dreams of the world I would like to live in? Yes, but they are constantly changing – unique in their place and time, like the one who dreams them… And they are of less importance than my immediate confrontation with the world. They simply provide it with energy.
Pessimism (but also optimism in a different way) eats away at creative imagination. I refuse it.
When I speak of poetry, I am not talking about versifying or wordsmithing. I am speaking about creating lives of passion, intensity and wonder. I call those people poets who go into the world with the creative intention of living life to the full. They may then choose to express the wonder, the intensity, the passion – the marvelous – that they discover in words, but the words are not their poetry – their lives are.
Those who try to pass themselves off as poets at most “poetry” readings have little to do with real poetry. The sonorous, pontificating voices with which they choose to read their banal verses prove that they have more in common with papish priests and sleazy televangelists, those buzzards voyeuristically feeding off the corpse of the marvelous banalized. A true poet in the midst of these slimy ghouls can only have the lycanthropic urge to rip out throats in order to stop the insipid babblings of these sentimental saps.
Reality is not a transcendent truth, but a historical configuration, a multi-dimensional process that can take place in individuals who desire, think, act and change together. Fading illusions are so many targets ranged around those of us enraged by our cramped existence; so many delicious inducements to unleash the weapons of mockery and laughter. Let a few people meet who are resolved on the lightning of violence rather than the long agony of survival; from this moment despair ends and tactics begin. Everywhere where domestication comes into play there can be no free space. Look at architecture – another lovely mask covering the boredom of an insipid society. But the new does exist apart from the consideration of progress. It is implied in surprise. It is to be noted, however, that there are those whose lives center around lost and vapid fairy tales. They need an ancient dream to justify the breaths they steal – their crime of being alive. But for this crime there can be no forgiveness. It can only be the act of ultimate defiance, spitting in authority’s face, shouting, “I AM!” against every constraint society has invented. I wish to state, once and for all, I do not want to be civilized.
Insurgent illegality is not to be mistaken for criminality. Yes, the insurgent outlaw does commit crimes and may do well to have some peripheral underworld connections...But the professional criminal is using crime to make a living, whereas the insurgent outlaw is consciously trying to undermine the mores, laws and manners of society. The intelligent criminal will have friends among the enforcers of the law, because this is good business; the insurgent outlaw will avoid such connections, because her desire is the creation of a life that recognizes no law...Any connection with the enforcers of law endangers such a life. There are outlaws whose rejection of law is based on a moral principle - usually an abstract conception of "anarchy" or "freedom" or "individuality." But these outlaws only wish to replace state law with moral law. The insurgent outlaw is amoral - he rejects law in all its forms, because it restricts her life and limits his possibilities. An insurgent outlaw may destroy a stolen item, sell it on the black market, keep it or share it among friends - as it pleases her. He may rob a bank and use the money for a project, squander it on friends, take a trip or burn it. But moral outlaws will feel obliged to use all stolen goods for their chosen cause.
Professional criminals are not outlaws. They dance with the law and twist it to their own ends. They break laws not out of defiance, but for economic reasons. Within their subculture, they have quasi-laws and methods of enforcing them. But their illegal jobs are better than most legal jobs because they involve elements of risk: the thrill of outwitting the heat. It may be wise for the professional criminal to stay in one place, to create established connections. But for the insurgent outlaw? No, never in one place for very long. The insurgent outlaw no more wants to be integrated into the criminal subculture than into mainstream culture or any alternative subculture...
Settled places and settled lives seem stranger and stranger to me. There’s something too ordered about most places and most lives. They make me a bit crazy - I want to fuck ‘em up. This is why I appreciate every individual who actually breaks out of this and why I get anxious when I’m feeling too settled. I start feeling like I don’t belong - then I remember that the concept of belonging is absurd. Instead, I need to make each place through which I pass my own as I go through it, until I am done with it.
Confronting separate annoying incidents without confronting the mini-social context from which they spring in its totality is no different then protesting issues instead of contesting the larger social context in its totality. Nothing essential changes. Failure of imagination, despair, feeling overwhelmed by circumstances: these are evidence of interactions gone awry.
Ruins are playgrounds whether Zapotec or Mayan, Egyptian or modern. Rather than preserve them, why not play with them ’til they wear away into nothing, and forget the cultures that created them? The memory of culture is the preservation of culture - and culture is merely the sacred limit placed on creativity and play. Insurgents destroy sacred limits.
The consensus process subjects the individual to the group. It subjects the immediate to the process of mediation. It is conservative by nature since it only allows change when the entire group agrees to it...It is internalized control, not anarchy.
For society to function, desire has to be tamed. It has to be colonized by the economy - turned into lack/need, the fulfillment of which is attributed to the commodities offered by society. To so direct desire requires restrictions and structures. As these increase, desire fades into a mere ghost of itself. The restrictions and structures gradually come to exist only for themselves.
My interest in ruins stems, in part, from attempts to develop strategies for deconstructing cities playfully, through active, conscious encouragement of unconstrained rebellion. This requires extensive explorations of cities to learn secrets which can be used against them.
There is more than one way to create an elite. Ruling classes, intellectual classes and aesthetic classes create an artificial inaccessibility of their power, knowledge and skills to "the rabble" to reinforce their position. On the other hand, self-proclaimed "class-conscious" radical activists deny themselves access to knowledge, vocabulary and well-honed analytical skills which are readily accessible, in order to prove their "class purity" or some such nonsense, and, by their absurd self-denial, create an involuntary elite of those radicals who are unwilling to impoverish themselves in this way.
Many...anarchists are actually leftist or liberal libertarians or, in some cases, simply angry people who still "think" in terms of the images created by the social context, trapping their thought within society’s discourse. Until one gets beyond this discourse, thinking outside of its categories, one’s rebellion remains part of the structures of authority. Most anarchists are quite content with society’s discourse, happily creating an "anarchy" that is thoroughly unchallenging, mild-mannered, tame and palatable - all in the name of "education" and "action."
Cybernetic technology is dependent upon industrial technology for its existence. So much for the pipe-dreams of cyber-utopia.
Barter is still economic exchange. Money allows for a more efficient flow of economic exchange. Why not just get rid of economy altogether?
Often "health" opposes vitality. Those who value "health" often pursue it in an ascetic and passive manner - by giving up something. Their longing for health is not a vital, intense desire-trajectory - it is a business transaction or a manufacturing process - an attempt to achieve an end - but such a process is never satisfactory, because it is the nature of a longing to perpetually reproduce the void that is its origin. Vitality, intensity - these are the only reasons to have health - and living them creates health or makes it irrelevant.
The best of post-modernism fails because it removes the drift to the realm of the intellect - static lives moved by random thoughts rather than ecstatic lives created by the dialect of active conscious thinking and ec-static doing?
Farmers possess land and work it. Possession and work are the farmer’s basic defining activities. Vagabonds traverse space and transform it through play - moving and playing are the vagabond’s basic activities. Farmers need habit, ritual, consistency, unity. Vagabonds break habit, transform, fluctuate, diversify. Farmers deify order. Vagabonds create chaos.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A world of disaster… this is all that capital offers, all that it has ever really offered, but now it can’t even hide this behind the apparent abundance of goods. The world falls apart as it becomes one huge poisonous supermarket. Desperation abounds in its many guises. The loss of values, of principles, a desperation that is willing to take any action, and so mostly acts in ways that reinforce the current order of things. The apocalyptic visions of collapse, the dreams of the hopeless, replace revolutionary desire. If joy can’t ever be ours, if wonder and the festival of revolt are beyond our reach, at least we can imagine the collapse of our misery, the fall of the horror, even if it must take us down with it (all but the elect few who will somehow survive in its poisonous ruins). So the “dream” of some is nothing more than the belief that this sad, impoverished vision is the only possibility, because the other possibilities that they imagine, variations on the continuation of the present desolate survival, seem so much worse.
But isn’t the worst aspect of our current desolation precisely the impoverishment of imagination, the death of every utopian dream that is not a program, a scheme, i.e., a conception of how to continue the present existence? Certainly, at this point, our hatred of the present reality requires the strength of dreams, of desire, of the utopian journey that is the opposite of every utopian program, of the utopian experiment that rejects all schemes. Capital can only provide the final answer, the final solution. But final solutions only bring death. Life is continual questioning, experimentation, exploration. So as everything closes down around us, we cannot follow suit, letting our dreams drown in the misery of realism, pragmatism and utility. Now, more than ever, we need to grasp all the marvelous force of impossible dreams expressed in the fiercest of insurgent principles, in the refusal of compromise, with the fullness of our passion and our reason. Not out of a desire for purity (which is always an illusion), but from the realization that dreams of freedom can only be realized in freedom, that dreams of a life lived fully as our own can only be realized by living our struggle here and now as our own without any willing compromise with the institutions of domination. Disaster surrounds us, but our lives must not be defined by it. In its midst we must continue to dream and to grasp our dreams, transforming them into our reasons for revolt.
It is clear that we are living in a world moving further and further into horror and misery. Sometimes in the name of great ideals, more often nowadays quite blatantly in the name of naked power, the rulers of this world pursue policies that homogenize and impoverish existence, spreading disaster everywhere. But this is not really so new. Didn’t Columbus begin to spread this process (already well under way in Europe) when he brought a religion that gloried in death and an economy with an insatiable appetite, eating everything in its path to produce shit, to a world already thriving with human life, as well as that of plants and animals unknown in Europe? Thus, a process euphemistically called colonialism, more accurately described as genocide, began to spread throughout the world, slaughtering and enslaving people everywhere, kidnapping black Africans to enslave them in the Americas, all after having dispossessed the peasants of Europe, forcing them into destitution and survival by any means necessary. This process of dispossession has advanced to the point that now our language diminishes and it often seems that even our thoughts are not our own.
The masters of this world tell us that we cannot go back. And they are right as far as they go. We cannot go back. The world has changed too much and we have changed too much. But though we can’t go back, this does not mean we must go forward. If the path we are on can only lead to a drab and lifeless horror and if the passage back is blocked, then we must go elsewhere, the elsewhere of the unknown that is insurrection, the utopian dream. If Columbus helped to forge a path that meant misery for nearly all of humanity, then we must diverge absolutely from all known paths, to enter into the marvelous of wild, uncharted desires.
“I am in love with a dream, and the moisture between my thighs is utopia.” So spoke the dark eyes of a woman whose beauty was a mist that drew me into its marvelous obscurity. Her earlobes sang of insurrections exploding through her nipples caressed by silken fingers and the wings of butterflies.
The poetry of true utopia rests within the heart of desire. It is at war with the schemes that would define every moment of life. The bureaucrat’s vision of paradise where everything is perfect and nothing is human, where love is forgotten and dreams are ignored, this is the enemy of poetry.
Where are the fiery-eyed utopians, those whose passions have no patience, those whose hearts burn so hot that their eyes flash flames of madness, the madness of utopia and love that has not divorced itself from lust? It has been far too long since I danced naked on a wild, barren hilltop that rises from a singing forest with other wild dreamers, leaping to kiss the moon.
Here is the difference between utopias: Those of dreams glimmer in the moments that spark revolt, that move us toward insurrection. Those of schemes are never seen in the present except in the form of holocausts and genocides, the holy wars of true believers, because schemes must rid themselves of the unpredictable. Dreams, on the contrary, depend on the unpredictable, thus on the passion of love, the erotic spark of lust. It is not by chance that revolt is a lover seen backwards through a cup of (mushroom?) tea.
Dark shining eyes
like an octopus dreaming
caress the cavity of my mind,
plunging into caverns
where the flowers of desire
glow in iridescent midnight blue
like the thorax of a tree frog
whose marvelous tongue
engorges the flattening flies of
the midnight sun.
Once again the dances find
a universe within the spreading thorax
of a hummingbird
who sings of dreams
that scamper past the limited
utopias of those who accept
the measurement of rulers.
I have clothed myself
in vaginal splendor
in those times when insurrection
spread its aphrodisiac face
across the horizon
and the wombats found their pleasure
in a cup of minstrel wine
left by the eyeless girl
whose lovely dreams went far
beyond the world of drawers.
For hours we danced within
midnight flowers licking the petals
of our skin which was the paper
of a manifesto of lust
that spread its seed throughout
the continent of daydreams
and found the land of silver-backed
gorillas laughing at the amber fluid
of a lovely dreamer of symptomatic beams,
and the days flourished through the vibrancy
of beer and love.
One day we would find our dream
and it would not be an Eden
but a voyage to unknown places.
It is a delightful paradox that utopian dreamers are so often accused by utopian schemers of only being negative – always criticizing but never making positive proposals. Such accusations have been flung at anarchists, surrealists, libertarian communists and so many others. Yet when these vibrant dreamers choose to become schemers, their schemes always seem to fall short of the critique offered by their dreams. This is no accident. When one rejects all hierarchy, all domination, all representation, then one cannot present a completed vision of the world that one desires. Rather it would be a world that transform in every moment with the desires, needs and aspirations of those who live in this world freely interacting coming together in love or common interest, separating when conflict of desires moves them in different directions. It would be no paradise, but a constant, adventurous journey without end full of loves and hatreds, joys and sorrows, real conflicts as well as joyful intercourse of all sorts. And those who strive to impose their schemes of a perfect world, a paradise, who strive to force this journey to a predetermined end, are as much my enemies as the current institutions of domination that impose so many barriers to this journey. So, indeed, like all utopian dreamers, I am a great negator – I seek to destroy every barrier to the marvelous journey of a free existence.
A death in which one is completely overcome by a natural force too great for one to fight...
But what deaths do not involve such a force?
I think drowning has its special significance because the force surrounds the victim, encompasses her, ingests and plays with him. Particularly in the sea, it is as if infinity has swallowed the one who has drowned, has taken him in and turned her into a part of itself. While there are similarities to death by fire, which also consumes its victims, fire lacks the apparent infinity of the sea, and the victim has freedom of motion limited only by her own fear, at least until asphyxiation causes him to lose consciousness. But one who drowns finds himself to be the plaything of the sea, forced to partake in its fluidity of motion. Certainly the drowning one will struggle against the power of the sea. But to what avail? Her motions are conformed to the desires of the sea; his struggles merely lead to exhaustion and limpid acceptance. The motions, the currents, the fluid tidal dance possess one's body and take it where they will. I imagine one's mind is also slowly possessed by the aqueous dream and slowly drifts along toward inevitable oblivion. Who does not imagine the drowning victim dreamy-eyed and languid? Do not forget that we are mostly water. Doesn't it make sense then that such a death would seem, in our imaginations, to simply be a return to our source? Maybe this is why we attribute calm and peace to the last moments of one who drowns. I have heard people speak of this as if it were a known established truth, even a scientific fact. But of course, no one knows. The drowned do not return to tell the tale of their last moments. So such a "truth" must be understood poetically, as a reflection of our view of the sea and of our own unperceived fluidity.
We are strange creatures. We desire...we need...to separate ourselves from the infinity, to find our own uniqueness and color all the infinite worlds with it, in this way making them our own. But such a task is daunting. And more so as social constructs developed by those in power in their attempts to dominate this process channel our endeavors into mere reproduction of this social system which drains the infinity of color and of its infinitude, leaving us with lifeless matter and lifeless lives.
Then the appeal of losing ourselves once more in the infinite, of drowning ourselves, comes to the fore – the appeal of religion. Surely by this time, the absurdity of religion has been exposed a million times over, both practically and through intellectual argument. Yet in these desolate and dreamless times, its appeal is on the rise. The anguish of living as a unique individual without the possibility of creating the universe in one's own image, of coloring the infinite marvelous from which one has extracted oneself, with a beauty that enhances the world and one's own life, makes oblivion attractive. And the oblivion offered by religion, drowning in the waters of baptism, is far less frightening to most people than the absolute and final oblivion of suicide. But those who choose the oblivion of religion are not merely cowards, but traitors to themselves and to all who strive for self-realization, because religion-however soft and malleable its form (even in the guise of spirituality, that insidious thief which steals the marvelous from the physical world and encrusts it with belief, destroying its fluid and convulsive beauty)-is part of the social system that stole our creativity from us to construct the monstrous, gray nightmare that surrounds, this mad civilization that replaces creativity with production, free activity with work, vibrant living interactions with technological and bureaucratic mediation. This explains how religion is an opiate: it makes us oblivious to the anguish of our suppressed uniqueness and creativity, allowing us to forget the damage without curing it. It numbs us to the point where we accept the damage and its cause, civilization in its totality. One can see how certain forms of atheism-its stalinist and maoist forms as well as the 19th century rationalist forms touted by the American Atheist followers of Madelyn Murray O'Hare-can be religions. Atheism only avoids religiosity by having an existential as opposed to a dogmatic basis-that is as a willful decision to refuse god rather than a belief in no god. And the willful refusal of god has its basis precisely in the decision to extract ourselves from the infinite-that is the mass-and to live to the full the singularity of our being, drawing the universe into ourselves as our own and, thus, creating the marvelous in all its poetic beauty...the decision to pull ourselves from the sea so that we may come to know and love it with the fullness of our own unique being as only those who refuse to drown can.
The night is young and will be long. This strange world of waiting…
waiting to be transported…
transported back to…
When one feels unsettled, when one’s firm decisions, one’s willful resolve, seem on the verge of disintegration in the fog of precarious affinities…
…but the dream, this is the realm of the night, especially a night such as this—in an unreal reality, a monstrous, barren landscape of commerce and transport, lit palely yet glaringly with fluorescence—after a day in transit and a night of restless half-sleep. But there is no place here for sleep and reverie replaces dreams, but not pleasant reverie, green and flickering, the sun dancing through wind blown leaves, but the dark reverie that has wrestled with my wish to sleep for nights. I am not a peaceful man, a man content and willing to accept the will of the gods. No, I am a man at war—with the world and with society, indeed, but also with myself and those I love the most. Such a monstrosity, a nightmare. Yet apparently so calm…
Where is our failing? In the fear of conflict, of disorder. In the desire to keep our lives calm and orderly, peaceful and easy. We claim that we want to wreak havoc on society, on every authority, all rule; we claim that we want the upheaval of revolution, of anarchy. Yet we fear the entry of these wild forces into our own lives; we seek the easy way out, the way of diplomacy and tact, of suppression and self-censoring. Our own passions and desires scare the fucking shit out of us. We wish that we could achieve the shallowness of those who are content with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, the Simpsons and their own mediocre relationships: a tepid “love” partnership, friendships based on the camaraderie of mutual humiliation and disrespectful tolerance and the daily encounters of no substance that create our banal survival. And we do lower ourselves to this level in practise in our daily lives. It is safer, easier…
But inside we still burn and in our burning suffer in anguish. We become morose and irritable, depressed and prone to rages. In drunken fits, the passions that we’ve bound up in straight-jackets in order to maintain our own “peace” break out from this imprisonment, deformed and monstrous. And in the morning, we find ourselves apologizing and picking up the pieces of the ruins we have left in the wake of these monstrous passions. And the passions are locked down once more to further deform. We regret these little disorders, these little upheavals, yet claim to want the great upheavals. Do we really know what we want? Do we really have any clarity, any concept of projectuality as an immersion into life as a self-creative storm? Can those who fear and apologize for small upheavals destroy the present social order; can they destroy the totality of that which keeps the fullness of our lives as a wondrous chaos that we create for ourselves from us?
Fluctuating, vagabond lives are what we will create. If society makes us rigid, we will relax.... If society makes us armored, we will strip down to the berserker's bearskin shirt.... If we have become structured, we will make ruins of these structures and play among the ruins as a jungle growing through in lush beauty. There is much to be destroyed so that much can be created. There is much to be silent about so that much can be sung. For the range of colors that can paint the music of what our lives could be has not begun to be heard—or is heard only in the distance—a faint and beautiful cacophony that skims the edges of our present existence. Misheard by many as a call to other worlds, mis-seen as visions of heaven... The colonization of imagination that turns it into fantasy, destroying creative intelligence... But a few of us hear these colors more clearly...as part of ourselves—a part not yet existent (except in moments) because it is the selves we could create if freed from the constraints of the social context. Selves created consciously out of nothing, not constructed by social relationships in which our interactions are determined within limits that we could live far beyond. No language now exists to describe this way of being, this intensity and passion that is intentional and conscious, because such a language would have to be perpetually created and destroyed and re-created as each moment is created. All language as we know it is a social construction created to define the parameters of thought and perception—and so of creation—to limit possibilities to those that will reproduce society, extending the past forever.... Everywhere one sees this—in the papers, in pop songs, in books, on TV—language that manipulates our thoughts into a simplistic, limited range of choices. It is our strategy to use language against this, to subvert it, to undermine it. Always a difficult, uncertain, and experimental project, but also a game, a form of play in which mistakes are part of the adventure. To use language this way is to seek to make a ruin, a shamble, of language.
We are bound to be misunderstood, and we laugh at the idiots who misunderstand us! Kindly mockery toward the well-intentioned and unfettered cruelty toward all dogmatists and would-be prison guards of possibilities. In this way we learn to revel as much in misunderstanding as in understanding and take pleasure in worthy opponents. Making language fluid, flowing like a river, yet precise and pointed as a dirk, contradicts the social purpose of language and makes for a wonderful dance—a martial art with constant parries that hone the weapon of subversive language.... All of this said, we recognize that there is no radical language, only the intentional radical (ab)use of language aimed at undermining it and destroying it in order to create free and unconstrained expression. But unless one believes in the superstition of the apocalypse, in a sudden and miraculous transformation just around the corner, this process involves the dialectic use/abuse of language and other social modes of communication in antisocial ways. We are talking about the social modes of daily life interaction—the entire network of social codes and roles and relationships that have come to define daily life, everywhere, in societies—that are what compose a society. These are what Futurist AtTACK, as insurgent individuals, tries to subvert, to undermine, through intelligent, passionate play.
(The following text was written when I was madly in love with someone who did not feel the same way toward me. It is an expression of my feelings at the time and should be read as such and not as a final statement on the nature of love.)
When one is in love, a fiery storm rages within, a storm of intense desire that is a form of madness. This vast, expansive passion is belittled in this society. What is called “romantic love” (a misnomer and an abuse of the term “romantic” if this term can also be applied to one such as Byron) is sentimentalized pablum for mediocre saps. It lacks the intensity and cruelty that give true passionate love its edge.
Since the cruelty of this passion is a loving cruelty, it doesn’t want to hurt simply for the sake of hurting. Rather it is cruel in its determination to fulfill itself if that is at all possible. Thus, just as this love is not sentimentally romantic, this cruelty is not Sadean. Sade* portrayed a cruelty that was sexual and aimed at the realization of desire, but this desire and, thus, this cruelty were loveless. While some of the characters in Sade’s novels were portrayed as unique individuals, they did not treat their victims as such or seem particularly interested in knowing any other person as such in any deep, intense way. They are portrayed as wanting only two things from others: first and foremost, sexual gratification, and secondarily, material gain which makes the pursuit of the former easier. The idea that the Other may also be an entire individual who one may wish to encounter and enjoy in her fullness is lacking in Sade. The closest Sade comes to this is friendships of mutual self-interest between individuals who recognize the same sort of cruel, loveless sexuality in each other and realize that they can help each other fulfill these desires. It is interesting to note that this ultra-egoist, loveless sexuality ends up at times becoming a quasi-communist sexuality (though only within the circle of those who share this form of sexuality – those outside this circle can only be its victims) as in the Sodality in Juliette or in Madame de Sainte-Ange’s advice to Eugenie to fuck anyone who wishes to fuck her regardless of who they are.
The egoism of passionate love is a different sort of egoism. It desires the Other as a total being, as a singular individual. While such desire certainly cannot fit well into capitalist society, it also cannot be communized, because its basis is in individuals as unique beings. Its cruelty refuses to damage the beloved because it wants to have the beloved in her entirety, not just a part of the beloved. This is no less cruel than Sadean lust – possibly it is more so – because such passion wants to consume the loved one completely and to be consumed by her. But this cruelty does not dehumanize like that of Sadean lust (the victims in Sade’s novels are never presented as human individuals), but rather is the determination to fully take the uniqueness of the Other into oneself…
My own present passion shows another aspect of the cruelty of passionate love. I don’t see how I can fulfill this passion, how I can bring it to completion. Yet I so desire this intensity, this fiery storm that can be more beautiful and frightening than the most intense of psychedelic experiences, that I am willing, in fact, determined to put myself through whatever is necessary to keep this passion alive. Thus, I am cruel to myself due to passionate love.
Some will fear the association of love with cruelty just as some fear the association of play with violence. But passionate sexual love differs from friendship because it is based in difference and a poetic form of conflictuality. Friendship arises out of a recognition of similarities, of mutual interests. Of course, friends also enjoy each other’s uniqueness, the differences between them, but this is not the basis of friendship. In love, on the other hand, it is precisely the difference that fascinates, this unique other that is what one is not. This is why this passion takes on the form of a desire to ingest, to consume the other and to be consumed by her. It is a desire to increase the wealth of one’s being. But, at the same time, each tries to keep himself or herself distinct from the other. And each desires that the other maintain their distinctness as well… So the lover is his own adversary as well as that of the beloved. It is this conflict inherent in passionate love – this conflict within and between lovers – that is the source of its unique form of joy and pleasure.
When a lover loses himself in the other, this conflict ends. The love loses its passion and becomes mainly a habit of comfort and laziness. This is very different from the situation in which lovers also become friends (or friends become lovers).In this latter situation, a new dimension is brought into play. The passionate enjoyment of difference, of otherness, dances with the more reasonable enjoyment of mutual interests, shared projects, the pleasures of lives shared; a dialectic of intensity and ease, fiery passion and tenderness. All of the cruelty is still there, but blended with camaraderie.
To deny the cruelty is to reject the passion, the intensity of being in love. The act of physical love itself reflects this cruelty and the conflict that is its basis. Making love resembles wrestling or grappling. The more passionate it is, the more violent it becomes. Grabbing, pinching, scratching, biting all come into play in the physical attempt to ingest the other. But compare this to sex as portrayed in pornography: bodies barely touch except to the extent necessary for genital-orifice contact. This isn’t about passion; it is simply about getting one’s rocks off – the other is just a means of masturbating. In Sade, there is passionate cruelty, but it is loveless. If the other is a victim, he is simply raped and tortured to death – no conflict, just total domination. If the other is a peer, then each in turn submits himself to the other’s whims, but still without the conflict, the wonder, the storm, of love. Sadean cruelty and passion are thus so self-interested, in a contractive and solipsistic way that they express themselves in only the coldest, most calculated manner. As monstrous as Sadean lust may be, its violence cannot compare to that of passionate love. Sadean lust may destroy the passive, the weak and the self-sacrificial, but it does not destroy civilizations, devour galaxies or turn minds into flaming tornadoes of desire. Sade writes of the civilized expression of animal lust. The cold calculation is the civilized aspect; the cruel wantonness is the animal aspect. Sade is right to point out that human beings are animals and that, therefore, our sexuality is animal sexuality. But it is equally important to recognize that we are not essentially instinctual animals. Our relationships and interactions are not genetically determined. This is what makes all of the bizarre sexual permutations described by Sade, as well as the various forms that fill the pages of pornography magazines possible. It is also what makes the explosive battle of passionate love possible and even desirable. We can go beyond simply getting our rocks off and also beyond the cruelty of Sadean lust; we can learn to desire the utter unapproachable difference, the untouchable uniqueness, of another with such intensity and passion that we will strive to touch this uniqueness, to take this other into ourself and to penetrate ourself into this other. This desire is what I feel as passionate, erotic love. It is a madness, a wildness that puts one on the edge. And it is a joy without which life would not be worth living.
It is in terms of the conflictual nature of passionate love that the pleasure found in unrequited love can best be understood. When love is not (or cannot be) mutual, the conflict between the lover and the beloved is at a peak which may, for the lover, add more fuel to the fire than mutual passion would. One is confronted with the impossible, with what cannot be, and this is precisely what one wants. A kind of madness prevails, an inner conflict which tears the lover to shreds, but which the lover would not give up at any price. To be contented, happy, satisfied… but without the passion, the intensity, the conflict… without the beloved… This the lover could not tolerate, because a mind and heart so inflamed would find the mediocrity of feeling brought on by quenching the flame unbearable. Better the anguished joy of loving this marvelous Other.
When I speak of difference as the basis of passionate love, I want to be clear that I am not talking about gender. It is true that the one I love is a woman and this plays a part in my attraction, but it is not the cause of my passionate love for her. After all, I am not attracted to all, or even most, women (and I have been attracted to certain men). If the difference I have been talking about were that shallow, I would fall in love with categories, not individuals. The difference of which I speak is the singularity of the beloved, what she is that no one else could be. This is impossible to describe in words – only poetic language can begin to flirt with an understanding of this difference, just as only poetic language can come close to expressing the actual feelings of this marvelous passion, this beautiful adversarial relationship we know as love. The poetic use of language has a uselessness about it that is comparable to the uselessness of love. One cannot write contracts poetically just as one cannot contract to be in love. This is why marriage and other formalizations of love are absurd. What they try to formalize cannot be formalized, because it is a passion, a storm that strikes suddenly and may end just as suddenly. It is true that one’s conscious will can affect one’s passions and even, to some extent, direct them, but it cannot fully control them, and unpredictability remains a part of the marvel of passionate love. In the intensity of desire found in passionate love, the fire of human wildness burns brightly.
*This is not completely true. In fact, in Juliette, a genuine and egoistic love does seem to exist between certain characters. However, most of the sexual relationships in his books do not involve such love.