2016 comes to an end and along with it some of our hopes. Within the general contempt that the West has for itself, cynicism proclaims itself as a supreme form of political intelligence, and nihilism as the last shade of the political horizon. Language comes apart and words lose their power in a grand power play where nothing but the anguished desire to persist reigns.
All this has not prevented a reader to send us a few end of the year words. Lessons from 2016.
“Revolution, and its historical existence and meaning, which still dominates over present-day civilization, manifests before our eyes as a mute world fearful of the sudden explosion of riots without end. Due to revolution, divine authority ceases to be the foundation of power: power no longer belongs to God but to the exuberant, free times which bring kings to their deaths, to the times now incarnated by the explosive tumult created by peoples. Even within fascism, authority has been reduced to basing itself on a feigned revolution, hypocritical homage and constrained to only the authority which can impose itself: catastrophic change.”
“All took place as though every day was compelled by a force, towards days irregular, by an ever more numerous and woesome lot, which viewed themselves lost if they were to submit to this order and at the same time condemned to an existence of mud if they did not submit to it.”
– Maurice Blanchot, Le Très-Haut
Does there exist a more formal proof illumanting the fact that catastrophe is never enough to arise some kind of desire for revolution in the present moment…than that revolution, rather, finds itself quite tied to this desolate landscape, offering the ruined memory of our current world? An omnipresent and mundane landscape in which, sullen, we will still find a certain beauty, echo, strength — read, a potentiality for the most arid of landscapes.
The physical time of my writing, dead within a polyphony of narrations, has seen come to pass and depart the most powerful social movement of the last thirty years. The interlaced mesh of reasons explaining its failure, the very definition of its failure – or not – is the favored object of hundreds of petty butchers and analysts. But this is despite the point. There is only one thing must we keep in mind: the absence of hope with traversed this movement.
Fifty years ago, Adorno wrote: “What happens at work, in the factory, or in the office can only be escaped from by approximation to it in one’s leisure time.” And what is the word of leisure time but the promise of an improvement and of an ever larger happiness? For as long as the world of leisure, of free time – and more generally the whole of the world – is so devoid of meaning, how could we escape from it but in ceasing in believing in it, as well as ceasing to try to extract any hope from it? A “lack of hope” thus becomes a poor definition of our times: one must speak of absence, of non-hope, in a descriptive mind not implying that hope should be present, as a sort of legacy that each generation inherits from the world. No more inheritance except emptiness, delusion and disillusion. A void not be filled-up, but to be emptied-out.
Who expects nothing more from the world, bears nothing of the world and the world, our world, like a vengeance, no longer becomes responsible for anything, and has nothing more to respond to than itself. It replies, by reflex, to its facts and broken promises while there is indeed nothing more to be broken. To longer expect anything from the world seems the most reasonable attitude, and is at the same time, a nihilist position. But without this, how could we seriously explain that in France there exists a “youth” that finds no other way to be present than within the riot and the staging of power in the streets.
The powerless still await a small redemptive act, the nihilists no longer hope for salvation. Present with the sole objective of being, of being there, in this radical opposition, a full and promise-less negativity of dialectical reversal. The imperial necessity of an irreconcilable negativity has called more people into the streets than all the unions gathered.
Nuit Debout? In attempt at redemption, at another Reform, this time constitutional, many of the brave saw the edge of the cliff of nihilism with terror and brilliant eyes of envy. The end of promises, from any government, was seen as equivalent to the abolition of salvation within the function of the Church. We have scarcely begun to believe that the whole apparatus is eroding. Why continue to be led, when those who pretend to lead do not even guarantee better times?
No constitution could erase the dozens, hundreds of years of accumulation of emptiness, of rot. Do not believe that this negativity can be reduced to dressing in black and radical navel-gazing distributing the good and bad points of anti-authoritarianism. Not at all. No one is the great guarantor of this negativity. Even less those who claim an unpredictable form, minutely indexed by a play of identities and moralities. No curia defines the form.
This concerns a metaphysical fold.
The strength of Nuit Debout, of its square, precisely resided in its geographical, statistical capacity to accumulate a multitude of people available for an immediate action or refusal; though in their availability, they are thus frozen in waiting. Every day, waiting, with no other goal than to reinforce a refusal of this world. But this was not enough.
This concerns a metaphysical phenomena: a democracy, which on one hand carries a universal injunction for freedom, for care, for the Other, and on the other hand, functions as a vast terrain of control and regulation by force and organized influence. A democracy which, in truth, bears no choice. In times of tranquility, gap years, positive and experimental revivals, as well as subversive and monstrous injunctions, are possible. In times of emergency, ruptures, we must move onto a quasi-dualist refusal of this world.
We are constantly told, in an effort for us to repeat these catch-phrases, of a “second breath.” We are told of a “new generation,” a “new hope,” “the shift in politics,” of “recovery,” and other abstract techno-expressions to cover over what we feel at first: refusal. There’s not much hope if many attach themselves to this phoenix, which became a national symbol by way of a video [reference to a papier-mâché phoenix, screen-captured below, recorded in of one of the marches in Paris last year]. We must burn completely, before being able to take on a stable and familiar form.
The image functions in both directions: ash has become the standard of fire. We have retained from the phoenix the notion of rebirth. This was done without taking into consideration prerequisite its burning, the very injury which brought it into this world: to expect nothing else from it. As I write this, we can see them get activate, scratch, clear themselves, seek out promises to make but those promises are always the most terrible of buffooneries. And if we lend our ear to that, it is certainly due to a lack of being able to shut off all those taps of the world that drip for one last (long) time.
In France, in Europe, an ever-growing fraction of the social body is falling into nihilism.
Nietzsche said of nihilism: “A nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. According to this view, our existence (action, suffering, willing, feeling) has no meaning: the pathos of ‘in vain’ is the nihilists’ pathos — at the same time, as pathos, an inconsistency on the part of the nihilists.”
To reproduce a world which you expect nothing of is the essence of nihilism.
Quite simply and soberly, we continue to do what we have always done: produce worthless shit, return home, leave home, work, fuck, get money, survive, study, sell our labor-power, fall into hard times. But we do so with this subtle [nihilist] shift, so subtle that it has been the blindspot and ruin of empires every single time: the only thing we expect from this world is its end. And each one joining in on this truth finds themselves within this whisper: “let’s be done with it.”
And a happy new year!
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